Established in 1932 to play a purely supportive tactical role to the army, the Indian Air Force has grown into a strategic strike force that is changing the nature and outcome of India’s wars.
The IAF’s primary roles are air defence and air dominance during war as well as deterrence and power projection in peace time. Over the decades the service has grappled with obsolescence, American-led sanctions, spare parts problems with Russia and dwindling squadrons, and yet it has performed its duties admirably. When asked to deliver, the IAF has taken the war into the enemy’s heartland while keeping the homeland safe.
The impact of air power in warfare can be measured by the IAF’s contributions in India’s major conflicts. Almost immediately after independence, the IAF was instrumental in stopping the Pakistani advance on Jammu & Kashmir when it airlifted troops to Srinagar on October 27, 1947. Besides airlifting field guns to the mountains, the IAF launched fighter aircraft and bombers on the invading army.
In the 1965 war, although it had antiquated WW II aircraft, the IAF never allowed the Pakistan Air Force to dominate the skies over the theatre of war. This allowed the Indian Army to penetrate all the way to Lahore and Sialkot without the fear of enemy air strikes.
In the 1971 War, the IAF went into action within hours of Pakistan’s preemptive strikes during the night of December 3. Counter air sorties in the eas