On the intervening night of Febraury 25 and February 26, a fleet of 12 Mirage-2000 fighter jets of the Indian Air force, entered Pakistani space and dropped 1000 kg laser-guided bombs on Jaish-e-Mohammed terror launch pads near Balakot causing significant casualties to the terrorists and those who support them’. India puts a considerable effort in securing its air space as our armed forces boast of the fourth largest air force fleet in the world. With a size of 1,27,000 active personnel and nearly 1,820 active aircraft assets, our air force strength is one of the most powerful. Besides securing our air space, the Indian Air Force (IAF) also conducts aerial welfare. Established on 8 October 1932 as Royal Indian Air Force in British India, the prefix ‘Royal’ was removed from its name three years after the Independence. Since 1950, the IAF has been involved in four wars with the neighbouring Pakistan and one with the People’s Republic of China. President of India is the supreme commander of IAF, while the Chief of Air Staff oversees the bulk of operational command of the Air Force.
Here are 10 aircrafts deployed in the Indian Air Force that bolster our armed forces:
1. MIRAGE 2000
Mirage 2000 is a French multirole, single-engine fourth-generation jet fighter manufactured by Dassault Aviation. India placed and initial order of 36 single-seater Mirage-2000 and 4 twin-seater Mirage 2000 in 1982 as an answer to Pakistan buying U.S. made F-16 fighter jets by Lockheed Martin. India has three variants of Mirage 2000 namely M2000H, M2000TH and M2000I/T. It carries two 30 mm integral cannons and two matra super 530D medium-range and two R-550 magic II close combat missiles on external stations. In 1999, when the Kargil war broke out, the Mirage 2000 performed remarkably well during the whole conflict in the high Himalayas. Armed with Paveway LGBs, the aircraft was involved in the destruction of enemy command bunkers.
2. Sukhoi Su- 30 MKI
This multi-role air superiority fighter has been developed by Russia’s Sukhoi Design Bureau and built under licence by India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for IAF. The first Russian-made Su-30MKI variant entered into the Indian Air Force in 2002, while the first indigenously assembled Su-30MKI was deployed in 2004. It’s a capable war machine which can perform precision bombing, dog fights, long range air-to-air combats and ground attacks. This twin-engine brutal war machine can not only be deployed in regular aerial warfare but is also capable of delivering nuclear payloads. The Sukhoi Su-30MKI has a top speed of Mach 2 (2120 kmph) and has a maximum takeoff weight of 38,800 kg.
3. HAL Tejas
This single-engined Delta wing light fighter jet was designed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the Air Force and the Navy. The single-seat aircraft is capable of performing multiple roles such as aerial reconnaissance, air-to-air combats, close air support, light bombing and air patrol. The next variant, with an even lesser weight, will be produced keeping in mind the naval capability of taking off from an aircraft carrier. It is capable of delivering a nuclear payload.
4. Boeing C-17 Globemaster III
Originally built by McDonnell Douglas for United States Air Force from 1980s to the early 1990s, it is one of the largest military transport aircraft in the world. IAF and Boeing entered into a MoU for the order of 10 C-17s in February 2011. IAF currently has 6 of these monster aircraft.
5. MiG-29 and MIG 29K (Naval variant)
Twin-engine, single-seater air superiority fighter aircraft of Russian origin are efficient multirole fighter jets. It is capable of attaining the max speed of 2445 km per hour (Mach 2.3). It has a combat ceiling of 17 km. It carries a 30 mm cannon along with four R-60 close combat and two R-27 R medium range radar guided missiles.
6. SEPECAT Jaguar
It’s a twin-engine single-seater deep penetration strike aircraft of British-French origin, which can attain a maximum speed of 1350 km/hr (Mach 1.3). It has a well-proven record of ground attack as well as close air support. Besides, it is also capable of delivering a nuclear payload. It has two 30mm guns and can carry two R-350 Magic CCMs (overwing) along with 4750 kg of external stores (bombs/fuel).
7. MiG 21 BISON:
This aircraft forms the backbone of Indian Air Force. This single-engine, single-seater multirole fighter/ground attack aircraft is designed by Russia’s Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau. IAF is the third largest operator of the MiG 21s with a fleet of 252. It can attain a max speed of 2230 km/hr (Mach 2.1) and carries one 23mm twin barrel cannon with four R-60 close combat missiles.
8. Mikoyan MIG 27
Originally built by the Mikoyan Design Bureau in the erstwhile Soviet Union, this single-engine, single-seater tactical strike fighter aircraft can attain a maximum speed of 1700 km/hr (Mach 1.6). However, it can’t deliver a nuclear payload. It carries one 23 mm six-barrel rotary integral cannon and can carry up to 4000 kg of other armaments externally.
9. Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules
Another transport aircraft is developed by US based manufacturer Lockheed Martin. IAF procured six of these carrier aircraft for its special operation forces in early 2008. After the delivery, IAF added some indigenously produced equipment to the aircraft. Powered by four Rolls-Royce AE 2100D3 turboprop engine with Dowty R391 6-blade composite propeller, it can gain a maximum speed of 671 km/h.
10. IL 76:
The Russia-made transport aircraft fleet of Ilyushin, or the IL-76, rechristened in India as ‘Gajraj’. It is one of the air force’s oldest transport squadrons and completed its 55th anniversary on March 31, 2016. A T-72 tank or three 6.5ton trucks can be directly driven into the four-engined IL-76 aircraft for an airlift, and a host of heavy and outsized vehicles and equipment can be carried in it over long distances
Soon to be inducted
India clinched a long-awaited deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets with French planemaker Dassault Aviation SA in September 2016. This twin-engine French aerial marvalence is a multi-role fighter which can perform the above-mentioned operations with much more precision, greater range and higher endurance. This fighter jet can also carry nuclear payload.
With such an impressive lineup of aircraft assets, IAF is looking forward to modernising its existing fleet as well as have plans to induct an additional 42 squadrons.