The Indian Air Force is celebrating its 90th anniversary today by taking the celebrations outside Delhi for the first time. The celebrations, which are being held in Chandigarh, will feature a dazzling hour-long air display over the Sukhna Lake with as many as 80 aircraft. A new combat uniform was also unveiled today.
Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshall VR Chaudhary, the chief guest, reviewed the parade and announced the creation of a new operational branch of the Air Force.
“On this historic occasion, it’s my privilege to announce that the government has approved the creation of a Weapon System Branch for the officers in the IAF. This is the first time since independence that a new operational branch is being created. This will essentially be for manning of force specialised streams of surface-to-surface missiles, surface-to-air missiles, remotely piloted aircraft, and weapon system operators in twin and multi-crew aircraft,” Air chief VR Chaudhary said, adding that it will save the government more than ₹ 3,400 crore due to the reduced expenditure on flying training.
The Air Chief Marshall also said that the force is planning on induction of women Agniveers starting next year. “Creation of infrastructure is in progress and streamlining of trade structure is being finalised,” he said.
The focus of IAF Day this year is on atmanirbharta, or indigenisation. Several made-in-India platforms will feature on IAF day – including the newly inducted Prachand Light Combat Helicopters, which were inducted into service last week.
President Draupadi Murmu is the chief guest today, and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is also attending the events, which are spread over the morning and afternoon.
It started at 9 am at Chandigarh air base with a speech by the IAF Chief and the unveiling of the new combat dress. The fly-past over Sukhna Lake begins at 2:45 pm.
The Air Force Day marks the official induction of the Indian Air Force as a supporting force of the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force in 1932. Every year, the day is celebrated in the presence of the Indian Air Force chief and senior officers.
As the parade is held within his command, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief(AOC-in-C) Western Air Command was presented with the General Salute on his arrival onto the parade crowd.
“We have been at the forefront of indigenisation with the induction of light combat aircraft Tejas, Arudhra and Aslesha radar, Astra air-to-air missiles, Akash surface-to-air missile system, advanced light helicopters, integrated air command and control system and integrated material management online system,” the announcer at the event said.
ALH Mk IV chopper will fly past in Rudra formation at the parade event, officials said. There will be a demonstration by the mechanical transport team of vehicle dismantling and reassembly in a short time at the event, followed by a performance of the air warrior drill team.
Later in the afternoon, the fly-past will be held at Sukhna Lake.
Recently inducted indigenously-built Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) “Prachand” will showcase its aerial prowess during the fly-past in a three aircraft formation.
Developed by state-run aerospace major Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), the 5.8-tonne twin-engine LCH is armed with air-to-air missiles, 20 mm turret guns and rocket systems, and it is capable of destroying enemy tanks, bunkers, drones, and other assets in high-altitude regions.
Besides LCH ‘Prachand’, several other aircraft including Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, Sukhoi, Mig-29, Jaguar, Rafale, IL-76, C-130J and Hawk will be part of the fly-past.
Among helicopters, Advanced Light Helicopter Dhruv, Chinook, Apache and Mi-17 will be part of the aerial display.
The fly-past will commence with an ‘Aakash Ganga’ team of paratroopers in an AN-32 aircraft. Mi 17 V5 choppers will undertake a fire fighting operation using a ‘bambi bucket’ while Mi17 IV helicopters will perform the helo casting.
US-made Chinook choppers, which are used for transporting troops, artillery etc, will perform the Bhim formation.
Rafale, Jaguar, Tejas and Mirage 2000 will fly in ‘Sekhon’ formation. This formation is dedicated to the IAF officer and Param Vir Chakra recipient, late Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon.
The crowd will be enthralled by the ‘Ensign’ formation comprising three Mi-17 V5 helicopters after the arrival of Chief Guest President Murmu.
The Globe formation will comprise a C-17 heavy lift aircraft and nine Hawk- 132 jets trained from the Surya Kiran display team, according to the officials.
There will also be Eklavya formation which will comprise a Mi-35 aircraft in lead with two Apache and ALH Mk IV helicopters while the “Big Boy” formation will consist of an IL-76 and two AN-32 aircraft.
IAF’s vintage aircraft Harvard and Dakota will also make an appearance in the air show. The Surya Kiran team comprising nine Hawk and Sarang helicopter display team comprising four Dhruv choppers will also perform.
There will also be Vajraang formation comprising C-130 J and Sukhoi-30 and Netra formation by airborne early warning and control aircraft and Sukhoi-30 and Mig 29 fighter jets.