Round-Up 2021: The year Indian Air Force bolstered its combat firepower
This year, the government undertook several measures to modernise the Indian Air Force and equip it to be battle-ready. Let's take a look.
Image: An IAF aircraft in action during an exercise
The year 2021 has been eventful for the Indian Air Force with the induction of the Rafale fighter aircraft, deployment of the S-400 air defence system and contract signing for the procurement of transport aircraft C295. The Narendra Modi government, ever since it came to power in 2014, has prioritised the modernisation of armed forces. This year, the government undertook several measures to modernise the Indian Air Force and equip it to be battle-ready. Let's take a look.
Image: IAF Rafale fighter aircraft
Rafale fighter aircraft
Even though France's Dassault Aviation started delivering the Rafale aircraft in 2020, the Indian Air Force operationalised its second squadron at Hasimara airbase in West Bengal in July this year. India had inked an inter-governmental agreement with France to procure 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore in 2016.
India Air Force has so far received 33 of the aircraft. As per the plan, the remaining aircraft will arrive by February next year. As per the experts, with the induction of Rafale into the force has enhanced India's defence capabilities and would act as a game-changer in a scenario if and when the country is confronted with a two-front war with neighbouring China and Pakistan.
Image: A Czech Air Force C-295M transport aircraft in flight over Ostrava, Czech Republic
C-295 transport aircraft
India has signed a contract for the procurement of 56 C-295 transport aircraft worth Rs 22,000 crore with Spain-based Airbus Defence and Space company for the Indian Air Force. As per the pact, 16 aircraft will be procured in readymade condition while the remaining 40 would be manufactured in India by a TATA-led consortium within 10 years of the signing of the agreement. However, the aircraft will be delivered in fly-away condition within 48 months from the day of signing the contract. This is considered to be one of the largest deals that any private sector firm has got.
Image: IAF Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft
Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft
In September, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-headed Cabinet Committee on Security had approved a Defence Research and Development Organisation project worth around Rs 11,000 crore to develop six new Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft.
Image: IAF Tejas Light Combat Aircraft
During the Aero India show in Bengaluru, the Indian Air Force and HAL signed a contract for 83 Light Combat Aircraft Tejas worth Rs 48,000 crore. The earlier version of the LCA Tejas aircraft is being inducted into the IAF. So far, out of 40, a total of 24 Tejas fighter aircraft have joined the service.
image: An IAF refuelling mission
In the year 2021, the Indian Air Force has participated in exercises with several friendly foreign countries to enhance interoperability. The exercises, include Desert Knight, Desert Flag, Zapad, Peace Mission, Konkan Shakti, Blue Flag, Yudh Abhyas among others.
Exercise Desert Knight
In January, the IAF and French Air and Space Force carried out their joint military exercise Ex Desert Knight 2021 at Air Force Station Jodhpur in Rajasthan. Rafale fighter jets from both countries took part in the joint exercise along with IAF's Su-30 MKI and Mirage 2000 combat jets. Besides, the IAF's combat enablers included AWACS, AEW&C as well as A400M and A330-based Medium Range Tanker and Transport aircraft of the FASF undertook complex missions, including large force engagements.
Image: IAF aircraft in action during a joint exercise
Exercise Desert Flag
Ex Desert Flag is an annual multi-national large force employment warfare exercise hosted by the United Arab Emirates Air Force. Hosted in March this year, the Indian Air Force participated for the first time in Exercise Desert Flag-VI along with air forces of UAE, US, France, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Bahrain. The IAF aircraft, which participated in the exercise, included six Sukhoi-30 MKI, two C-17 transport aircraft and one IL-78 tanker aircraft.
Image: IAF's Sukhoi-30 MKI air-superiority fighter aircraft
Integrated exercise with US Navy Ronald Reagan CSG and Indian Navy
The IAF along with the Indian Navy conducted an exercise with a US carrier strike group (CSG) in the Indian Ocean for two days in June. As part of the exercise, IAF’s fighter jets like Sukhois and Jaguars along with refuelling aircraft participated in the exercise.
The Indian Air Force along with the Indian Army participated in a multi-nation exercise Zapad this year in September, wherein the commandos from the Indian contingent carried out para jumps and other breathtaking manoeuvres in Russia.
Exercise Peace Mission
A contingent of 38 IAF personnel had taken part in the multinational counter-terrorism Exercise Peace Mission, held under the aegis of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
Image: IAF aircraft taking part in the integrated exercise with US Navy Ronald Reagan CSG and Indian Navy
Ex Konkan Shakti
The maiden bilateral tri-service exercise 'Konkan Shakti 2021' between the UK and Indian Armed Forces was commenced off the Konkan coast in the Arabian Sea in October. Sukhoi and Jaguars had participated in the tri-service exercise
Exercise Blue Flag
A total of 84 IAF troops took part in the multilateral combat exercise Blue Flag 2021, along with IAF’s Mirage 2000 aircraft squadron at Israel’s Ovda Airbase. The theme of Blue Flag 2021 was the integration of fourth and fifth-generation aircraft in complex operational scenarios.
Exercise Desert Warrior
IAF and the Egyptian Air Force conducted their two-day exercise in El Berigat airbase in Egypt in October to enhance mutual understanding and share the operational experience.