Indian Air Force’s Strength and Interesting Facts (2020)



The Air Force has the following branches:

  1. Flying Branch – Flying
  2. Technical Branch – Engineering
  3. Ground Duties Branch
  4. Administration
  5. Logistic
  6. Accounts
  7. Education
  8. Meteorological
  9. Medical and Dental Branch

Motto of the Indian Air Force

Nabha Sparsham Deeptam ‘ means – Touch the Sky with Glory.

Indian Air Force Day – 8 Oct every year

With strength of 170,000 personnel and 1700 aircrafts, including 852 combat aircrafts in active service, the IAF is the world’s fourth largest organization. Of late, the IAF has undertaken and expansion and modernization programme to replace its aging soviet era fighter jets. The chief of the Air Staff with the rank of Air Chief Marshal is the Commander of the IAF.

Commands and Structure

Operational Commands

Command Headquartered
Central Air Command Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh
Eastern Command Shillong, Meghalaya
Southern Air Command Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
South Western Air Command Gandhinagar, Gujarat
Western Air Command Delhi

Functional Commands

Training Command Bangalore, Karnataka
Maintenance Command Nagpur, Maharashtra


A wing is an intermediate structure between the control and a squadron. It generally consists of two or three IAF squadrons and helicopters units, along with Forward Base Support Units.


Squadrons are the units and groups of fields attached to static areas. Therefore, a flying squadron is a sub-unit of an air force station which performs the primary task of the IAF. All fighter squadrons are headed by a commanding officer with the rank of Wing Commander.


Flights are sub-divisions of squadrons, commanded by a Squadron Leader. Each Flight consists of two sections.


The smallest unit is the squadron, led by Flight Lieutenant. Each section consists of three aircrafts.

Garud Commando Force

The IAF set up its own Garud Commando Force in September 2004, a special operation unit consisting of approximately 1500 personnel.

Motto – “Defence by Offence”.

The security of vital infrastructure is the responsibility of Garud. The Garuds are carrying out military investigations and rescues during hostilities, rescuing downed airmen and other forces behind enemy lines, suppressing enemy air defence, radar busting, fighting, missile and Guidance on missiles and ammunition (“lashing” of targets) and other missions in support of air operations. They also undertake an offensive role including raids on enemy air bases, during times of war. Including defending air bases from sabotage and commando raids, they also have the duty of sealing off weapons systems, fighter hangars and other major structures during intrusions and conflicts and disaster relief during calamities.

Display Teams

  • Surya Kiran – Trainer Aircraft display team. They use HJT – 16 Kiran MK -2 trainer Aircraft.
  • Sarang – Helicopter display team. They use HAL Dhruv Helicopters.

Rank Structure

The various ranks of the Indian Air Force are listed below in descending order:

Commissioned Officers

  • Marshal of the Indian Air Force (Honorary Rank)

Marshal of the IAF Arjan Singh – He was promoted in 2002.

  • Air Chief Marshal (the rank held by Chief of Air Staff)
  • Air Marshal
  • Air Vice Marshal
  • Air Commodore
  • Group Captain
  • Wing Commander
  • Squadron Leader
  • Flight Lieutenant
  • Flying Officer

Jawans (Other Ranks – include JCOs and NCOs)

Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs)

  • Master Warrant Officer
  • Warrant Officer
  • Junior Warrant Officer

Non Commissioned Officers (NCOs)

  • Sergeant
  • Corporal
  • Leading Aircraftsmen
  • Aircraftsmen


Overseas Air Force Base

It is a military air base located near Farkhor Tajikistan. Farkhor air base is a military air base. Indian Air Force operates it in collaboration with Tajikistan Air Force. Farkhor is India’s first and only military base outside is territory.

The Farkhor air base would allow the Indian Military to play a major role within the Indian Subcontinent with the possible depth and range. The potential consequences of this base go far beyond the rivalry between India-Pakistan on the subcontinent. Pakistan fears being operationally encircled by India with the Farkhor base.


Indian Airforce Joint Military Exercises

India – U.K. Indradhanush
India – France Garuda
India – Russia Aviva Indra
Indra – USA Red Flag and Cope India
India – UAE Desert Eagle
Indian Air Force IRON FIST (The Iron Fist exercise features around 100 different fighter aircrafts in the IAF inventory, from Mirage 2000 to Sukhoi Su- 30 MKI and LCA Tejas, attack helicopters and transport aircrafts. The exercise also exhibits IAF’s operational network – centric warfare capability in day, dusk and night).


Aircrafts in the Indian Air Force

Fighter and Multi-role Combat Aircraft         

The primary role of the fighter aircraft in the Indian Air Force inventory is to achieve and maintain air supremacy over the battlefield. Air superiority fighters are fast and manoeuvrable aircrafts designed primarily for air-to-air combat with limited capability to strike ground targets. On the other hand, multi-role aircraft are capable of carrying out air to air combat attack  with equal ease, even within the same mission . The major aircrafts with IAF are:

Sukhoi Su-30 MKI Dassault Mirage 2000 HAL LCA Tejas Mikoyan MiG29
MiG-21 ‘Bison’  


Strike, Attack and Close Support Aircraft

These are military aircrafts designed to attack targets on the ground. They are often deployed as close air support for, and in proximity to, their own ground forces, requiring precision strikes from these aircrafts.

  • SPECAJ Jaguar
  • MIG-27 Bahadur

Airborne Early Warning Aircraft

These aircrafts are designed to detect and distinguish hostile aircraft. The system can be used to direct fighters and strike aircrafts to their targets and warn them of hostile enemy aircraft in the area.

  • EL/M – 2075 Phalcon AEW&C

Tanker Aircraft

These aircrafts are used for aerial refuelling, which allows IAF aircraft to remain airborne for longer periods, hence enhancing their effective range. Aerial refuelling also makes it possible for aircraft to take off with higher payload (by carrying lessfuel during take off). The IAF currently 6 Ilyushin II-78 MKIs for aerial refuelling roles.

  • IIyushin II-78 MKI

Transport Aircraft

Transport aircrafts are typically used to deliver troops, weapons, supplies and other military equipment to the IAF field of operations. The IAF currently operates different types of transport aircraft for different roles, which also includes evocating people during natural disasters and was also used to evacuate Indians during the rise of Islamic State crisis in Iraq, Yemen Crisis and the Nepal Earthquake.

  • IIyushin II-76s    
  • C-130J Super Hercules
  • Hawker Siddeley HS- 748
  • C- 17 Globe Master
  • Antonov AN- 32

Transport Aircraft

Transport aircrafts are typically used to deliver troops, weapons, supplies and other military equipment to the IAF field of operations. The IAF currently operates different types of transport aircraft for different roles, which also includes evocating people during natural disasters and was also used to evacuate Indians during the rise of Islamic State crisis in Iraq, Yemen Crisis and the Nepal Earthquake.

Training Aircraft

Training aircrafts are used to develop piloting and navigational skills in pilots and aircrew.

  • AL-HPT-32
  • HAL HJT – 16
  • BAE Hawk Mk- 132


     An important aim of the IAF is to support ground troops through air cover and the transportation of men and important goods across the battlefield. The air force operates a helicopter fleet for this purpose.

HAL Dhruv Light Utility/ Attack Helicopters
HAL Chetak Utility Helicopter
HAL Cheetah Utility Helicopter
Mil Mi-8 Utility/ Transport Helicopter
Mil Mi-26 Heavy Lift helicopter
Mil Mi-35 (Hind-E) Attack Helicopter


Unnamed Aerial Vehicles

The primary role of Unnamed Aerial Vehicle (UAVs) is to provide aerial surveillance and reconnaissance. UAVs can also be used as unnamed combat aircraft or pilotless target aircraft. The IAF currently uses the IAI Searcher II and IAF Heron for reconnaissance and surveillance purpose. The IAF Harpy serves as an Unnamed Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) which is designed to attack radar systems. targets The IAF also operates the Lakshya DRDO which acts as realistic towed aerial sub-targets  for live fire training.

The Principle under which a Plane takes off – Bernoulli’s Principle.

Bernoulli’s principle states that when air flows over a body, its pressure is more if the velocity is less, and pressure is less if the velocity is more. When an airplane starts moving on the runway the air flows over the wings and a lift is generated. As the airplane picks up speed, the lift goes on increasing, till a point is reached where it balances the weight of the airplane. The airplane becomes airborne at this point, and begins flying.

Defence System

Air-to-air Missile System

Astra India’s first beyond-visual-range (BVR) air-to-air missile indigenously designed and developed by DRDO. It is designed to attack and damage high manoeuvrability and supersonic speed aerial objectives. The advanced air combat capabilities of the missile allow it to engage multiple high performance targets.

Astra was planned to equip the Indian Air forces Su- 30 MKI and Mirage 2000 multi-role combat fighters, and MiG-29 Bison fighter jet platforms, as well as the Indian Navy’s Sea Harrier jet fighter. It will also be integrated with the Tejas light combat aircraft.

Surface-to-air Missile Systems

The IAF currently operates the S-125 Pechora and he 9K33 Osa as surface to air missile systems. Now IAF is also inducing the Akash medium range surface to air missile system.

  • Barak SAM
  • Trishul (Tirdent)
  • Maitri

Ballistic Missiles

The Prithvi-II short range Ballistic Missile (SRBM) is currently operated by the IAF. The Prithvi-II is an IAF-specific variant of the Prithvi ballistic missile. Also the Prithvi II surface-to-surface missile is to now equipped with high accuracy navigation and manoeuvring systems.

Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems

The S-300 SAM is an Anti-Tactical Ballistic Missile (ATBM) system of the IAF. Incoming cruise missiles and low flying aircraft can also be detected, tracked  and destructed by the S-300.

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