Indian Air Force: Aircraft

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Aircrafts with the Indian Air Force, 2007-17; The Times of India, Feb 23, 2017

This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.


Combat power

2017: problems and plans

India's Air Combat Power, problems and plans, as in October 2017
From The Times of India, October 6, 2017

See graphic, India's Air Combat Power, problems and plans, as in October 2017


Alarmingly high crash rate

Rajat Pandit, Sukhoi-30MKI fighter, Chetak chopper crash, March 16, 2017: The Times of India

With a frontline Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jet and a Chetak helicopter crashing in different parts of the country, the IAF continues to record an alarmingly high crash rate. Fortunately , the pilots in both the crashes managed to escape safely .

The armed forces have lost over 60 aircraft and helicopters in crashes, which have killed over 80 people, since 2011. With the two primary reasons being technical defects and human error, the combination of ageing machines, inadequate training to rookie pilots, shoddy maintenance and poor quality of spares continues to be a deadly mix and exacts a heavy toll.

On Wednesday , the Chetak helicopter developed engine failure on a routine sortie from the Bamrauli airfield near Allahabad around 7am.“The two pilots tried to land on an uneven field nearby but the helicopter toppled over,“ said an officer.

Seven hours later, the Sukhoi-30MKI took off on a training sortie from the forward Utarlai airbase, in Barmer area of Rajasthan, but it also developed a technical snag soon after. The two pilots then went in for a “planned ejection“ to parachute down safely at about 2.15pm, but three villagers were left injured on the ground.

While the armed forces are still forced to fly the ageing single-engine CheetahChetak helicopters due to failure of successive governments in taking timely decisions, the crash of the twin-seat Sukhoi “air dominance“ fighter is more worrisome. IAF has now lost at least seven of the 240 Sukhoi-30MKI jets it has inducted till now. In all, India has contracted 272 Sukhois from Russia for over $12 billion, with the bulk of them being “produced under licence“ by Hindustan Aeronautics. The Sukhoi fleet is now likely to be grounded for systematic precautionary checks before they can take to the skies again, like it happened after crashes in April 2009 and December 2011.

IAF lost 24 aircraft, 5 choppers since 2014

HIGH-CRASH RATE - IAF has lost 24 aircraft & 5 copters since 2014, August 2, 2017: The Times of India

The IAF continues to be dogged by a high crash rate, with the force losing as many as 24 aircraft, five helicopters and nine pilots in accidents since 2014-2015.

Overall, the armed forces have recorded crashes of 65 aircraft and helicopters, which have killed over 80 people, since 2011. There are over 30 fighters, including at least five twin-engine Sukhoi-30MKIs, the country's latest and the most potent jets, among these crash figures.

Officials say the two major reasons identified for the crashes are “technical defects“ and “human error“. In other words, ageing aircraft and poor maintenance, coupled with inadequate pilot training, contribute to the high crash rate.

The defence ministry says preventive measures are being taken to avoid accidents. “These include invigoration of the Aviation Safety Organisation, streamlining of the accident reporting procedure, analytical studies and quality audits of the aircraft fleets to identify vulnerable areas,“ said minister of state for defence Subhash Bhamre, in a reply to Rajya Sabha


The rebirth of a Dakota

February 13, 2018: The Times of India

Douglas DC-3 aircraft (Photo courtesy- IAF)
From: February 13, 2018: The Times of India


Douglas DC3 aircraft, better known as the Dakota, carried the troops of the Army's 1 Sikh Regiment to Srinagar on Oct 27, 1947, during the 1st Indo-Pak War.

The Dakota will bear the tail number VP 905, the same as the 1st such aircraft in the Indian service that transported the troops during the 1947 war to J&K.

A fully-refurbished World War II-era Dakota, belonging to the vintage of the iconic military transport aircraft that played a crucial role in the 1947 India-Pakistan War, is all set to be flown to India next month, to become a proud possession of the IAF.

The plane, which underwent a six-year-long restoration in the UK, will join the vintage fleet at the Hindon Air Base in Uttar Pradesh.

The aircraft is a gift from Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekar to the India Air Force, and at a function held here today, the Bengaluru lawmaker ceremonially handed over the papers and deeds to Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa.

Hailing the qualities of the aircraft, the Chief of Air Staff, said, "They were introduced in the 1930s... As part of the 12th Squadron of the then Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF), Dakotas were the main workhorse in Ladakh and Northeast region. And, they intervened in time to save the Valley of Kashmir (in 1947)."

"Military historian Pushpindar Singh had said that Dakota is the reason why Poonch is still with us. They helped in hastening the fall of Dhaka and liberation of Bangladesh. And, in 2014, we had given a shell on the Dakota to the Bangladesh Air Force," Dhanoa said.

Douglas DC-3 aircraft, better known as the Dakota, carried the troops of the Army's 1 Sikh Regiment to Srinagar on October 27, 1947, during the first India-Pak War, besides carrying supplies and refugees.

The Dakota, christened 'Parashurama', will bear the tail number VP 905, the same as the first such aircraft in the Indian service that transported the troops during the 1947 war to Jammu and Kashmir.

Chandrasekar's gift, will make it the first vintage Dakota for the IAF, which currently, has a Tiger Moth and a Harvard aircraft stationed at the Hindon Air Base.

"The Dakota is currently kept at Coventry airfield in the UK. It is set to fly next month. The vintage plane will traverse over 4,800 nautical miles. From the UK, the route will be through France, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Oman, in that order. In India, the first stop would be Jamnagar, from where it will fly to Hindon," he told mediapersons on the sidelines.

According to a short film screened at the function, the aircraft was acquired from scrap and underwent six years of painstaking restoration in the UK, and the IAF had technically accepted it late last month.

The IAF has helped the MP in getting the aircraft registered and in upgrade of the navigation system.

"Since it has to fly through multiple foreign airspace, we helped them in getting permission," the IAF chief said.

In his address, he had called the gifting of the Dakota to the IAF a "great gesture" for funding the acquisition, repair and eventual ferrying of the aircraft.

The MP said, "I acquired it around 2011 and this gift is a permanent way of honouring the men and their machines, who make us all proud on Tuesday as a nation," adding, "finding and restoring this bird was a huge challenge".

Chandrasekhar's father Air Commodore (retd) M K Chandrasekhar, who was present at the function, was a Dakota pilot in the IAF, and the lawmaker said, "the seeds were sown perhaps very young."

"My father is 84 now. And, I grew up seeing him flying Dakota. So, my passion for planes is natural. And, it is on behalf of my father that this gift is being made to the IAF, in dedication to the air warriors. And, I hope it will inspire future air warriors," he said.

2018: Chandrasekhar’s gift

Kai Friese , Transport of delight “India Today” 26/2/2018

While the purchase of a squadron or two of a certain multi-role fighter continues to be dogged by controversy, another old favourite of the IAF has taken flight at no cost to the exchequer. In a quiet ceremony at the Akash Mess in New Delhi on February 13, Air Chief B.S. Dhanoa signed a deed accepting the generous gift of an airworthy Douglas 'Dakota' from veteran IAF transport pilot Air Commodore (Retd) MK Chandrasekhar.

The vintage aircraft was, in fact, professionally restored over several years in the UK as a sentimental gesture by the NDA MP and tycoon Rajeev Chandrasekhar. Speaking on the occasion, he said, "The Dak was part of my childhood as my father flew it all over India and today I fulfil my dream of helping [him] donate a Dakota to the air force." It was an exciting moment for the assembled veterans, given the significance of the Dakota as a workhorse of the IAF and of civil aviation from the 1940s well into the 1970s, including active duty in the 1971 Bangladesh war.

When the 'new' (1948 vintage) plane arrives at the Hindon air base next month-after an epic journey involving six 'hops' through France, Greece, Egypt, Oman and Gujarat-it will join the IAF's 'vintage fleet' as the only Dakota still flying in Asia. Adding historical resonance, the plane will bear the tail registration, VP-905, in commemoration of the first Dakota that carried Indian troops to Srinagar on October 27, 1947, at the start of India's first war with Pakistan.

Perhaps that's gilding the lily: Nostalgia like everything else in this country is soon mired in politics. Overheard at the gifting event were conspiracy theorists invoking the old canard that VT or VP registrations are a 'colonial' mark of shame (a BJP MP has complained that 'VT' stands for 'Viceroy Territory'). Others tweeted indignation over the fact that a previous government had rejected Chandrasekhar's gift. Hopefully, such kvetching will soon be drowned out by the once familiar note of a 'gooney bird' rumbling through Indian skies again.


Chinooks, heavy-lift, inducted/ 2019

March 25, 2019: The Times of India

Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa inducted four CH47 Chinook heavy-lift choppers into the Indian Air Force in Chandigarh on Monday. India has paid close to $ 1.5 billion for 15 of these helicopters which would be also used for deploying troops and machinery at high altitude locations with India and Pakistan.

Here is a look at the salient features of the chopper.

A multi-mission heavy-left transport helicopter, Chinook will be used to move troops, artillery, ammunition, barrier materials, supplies and equipment on the battlefield.

CH47 Chinook: Born in US, made in Chandigarh, all set to rule the sky

  • It is highly manoeuvrable, which makes it suitable for operating in tough, dense terrain.
  • Its 24X7, all-weather operational capabilities are crucial for India Air Force, which operates in some of the most hostile terrains in the world.
  • Apart from military operations, they can also be used for medical evacuation, disaster relief, search and recovery, fire-fighting and civil development.
  • It is capable of transporting fully-equipped infantry soldiers for specialised operations. It has fully integrated digital cockpit management system.
  • The Chinook has the capacity to carry a maximum payload capacity of 11 tonnes and 45 troops. It has an additional capacity to lift underslung load of up to 10 tonnes.
  • Once inducted, the choppers will help to lift M-777 ultra-light howitzers of the Indian armed forces.
  • The first four of the 15 CH-47F Chinooks, ordered from Boeing in the Rs 8,048 crore deal inked in September 2015, will be commissioned into IAF’s 126 Helicopter Unit at Chandigarh on Monday.
  • The entire fleet of 15 Chinooks are expected to arrive in India by March 2020. The second unit of the Chinooks will come up at Dinjan (Assam) and will fortify the eastern borders.

Chinook is one of the two helicopters other than the Apache attack choppers for which India had signed deals in 2015-16. The supplies of Apaches will also start by September this year when they start arriving at the Pathankot airbase.

2019/ Apache Guardian attack helicopters

May 11, 2019: The Times of India

In big boost, IAF gets first Apache Guardian attack helicopter NEW DELHI: The first Apache Guardian attack helicopter AH-64E (I) was formally handed over to the Indian Air Force (IAF) at Boeing production facility in Mesa, Arizona, US on Friday.

Air Marshal AS Butola, who represented the IAF, accepted the first Apache in a ceremony at Boeing production facility in the US. The IAF will induct 22 Apaches by March 2020 under the Rs 13,952 crore deal inked with the US in September 2015.

The first batch of these helicopters is scheduled to be shipped to India by July. Selected aircrew and ground crew have undergone training at the training facilities at US Army base Fort Rucker, Alabama.

The addition of Apache is an important step towards modernisation of the IAF’s helicopter fleet.

The IAF said that the Apaches have the capability to carry out precision attacks at standoff ranges and operate in hostile airspace with threats from the ground. "The ability of Apaches to transmit and receive the battlefield picture, to and from the weapon systems through data networking makes them lethal," IAF said.

The Apaches are armed with stinger air-to-air missiles, Hellfire Longbow air-to-ground missiles, guns and rockets. AH-64E Apache is one of the leading multi-role attack helicopters globally and is flown by the US Army.

Its features include joint digital operability, improved survivability and cognitive decision-aiding.

Apache Inducted At Pathankot

Ajay Sura, Sep 4, 2019: The Times of India

Apache helicopters/ 2019
From: Ajay Sura, Sep 4, 2019: The Times of India

The Indian Air Force inducted the first batch of eight Apache helicopters at the Pathankot airbase.

Codenamed AH-64E, the Apaches have a spectrum of capabilities required for any mission. The new fleet of Apache helicopters will be part of 125-Helicopter squadron, popularly called “Gladiators” of the IAF. Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa, said Apache is one of the fiercest helicopters in the world with a capability to fire and forget and launch air-toair missiles. Salil Gupte, head of Boeing India, handed over the symbolic key of the Apache helicopter to Dhanoa, who was the chief guest at the induction ceremony. Gupte said the Apaches have been customised for the operational requirements of the Indian forces.

Addressing the gathering Dhanoa said Apaches are being purchased to replace the aging Mi-35 fleet, which have been used by the IAF for over three decades. “Alongside the capability to shoot, fire and forget anti-tank guided missiles, air-to-air missiles, rockets and ammunition, Apache has modern electronic warfare capabilities to provide versatility in a network-centric aerial warfare,” he said. The new flying machines have been deployed at the Pathankot airbase. The Apaches reached India on July 27 in a semiknocked-down condition. However, the helicopters were formally handed over to the IAF on May 10, at a ceremony held in the US.

Select aircrew and ground crew have trained at the headquarters of the US Army Aviation at Fort Rucker in Alabama. These IAF personnel are now leading the operationalisation of the Apache fleet in IAF. IAF officials said the helicopter has been customised to suit IAF’s future requirement and would have significant capability in mountainous terrains. The helicopter has the capability to carry out precision attacks at standoff ranges and operate in hostile airspace with threats from ground.

“The ability of these helicopters, to transmit and receive battlefield pictures, to and from the weapon systems through data networking makes it a lethal acquisition. These attack helicopters will provide significant edge in any future joint operations in support of land forces,” said Air Marshal AS Butola, a senior IAF officer who represented the country in acquiring the Apaches from the US. The Apaches are presently being used by the US and 18 other armed forces of the world.

The induction of the Apaches will enhance the capability of IAF in providing integrated combat aviation cover to Army strike corps. IAF has signed a contract with Boeing and the US government for 22 Apache attack helicopters. The first eight helicopters have been delivered and the last batch of helicopters will be delivered by March 2020. 

Medium multi role combat aircraft/Rafale

Medium multi role combat aircraft/Rafale,The Times of India

See also

Indian Air Force

Indian Air Force: History

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