Thursday, September 3, 2009

World War II (1939-1945)

Karun Krishna "Jumbo" Majumdar was the first Indian officer to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

During World War II, the IAF played an instrumental role in blocking the advance of the Japanese army in Burma, where its first air strike was on the Japanese military base in Arakan. It also carried out strike missions against the Japanese airbases at Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai in northern Thailand.

During the war, the IAF went through a phase of steady expansion. New aircraft, including the U.S. built Vultee Vengeance and the British Hawker Hurricane and Westland Lysander, were added to its fleet.

In recognition of the services rendered by the IAF, King George VI conferred the prefix "Royal" in 1945. Thereafter the IAF was referred to as Royal Indian Air Force. In 1950, When India became a republic, the prefix was dropped and it reverted back to Indian Air Force.

Partition of India (1947)

With the partition of the Indian sub-continent into two separate nations, the Union of India and the Dominion of Pakistan, the military forces were also partitioned. This gave a reduced Royal Indian Air Force and a new Royal Pakistan Air Force in 1947.

First Kashmir War 1947

In a bid to gain control of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, Pathan tribesmen poured into Kashmir on October 20, 1947, aided by the Pakistani Army. Incapable of withstanding the armed assault in his province, the Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh, asked India for help. The Government of India made its assistance conditional upon Kashmir's accession to India. The Instrument of accession was signed on October 26, 1947 and the next day Indian troops were airlifted into Srinagar. The agreement was later ratified by the British.

Taking off from Safdarjang, then known as Willingdon Airfield, the IAF landed Indian troops at Srinagar airfield at 09:30 hours IST on October 27. This was the most instrumental action of the war as the troops saved the city from the invaders. Apart from the airlifting operations and supplying essential commodities to the ground troops, the Indian Air Force had no other major role to play in the conflict. On December 31, 1948, both nations agreed to a UN mediated cease-fire proposal marking the end of hostilities. A Line of Control has since separated Indian-held Kashmir from Pakistani-held Kashmir.

Congo Crisis (1961)

Belgium's 75-year colonial rule of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Congo ended abruptly on June 30,1960. Unable to control the deteriorating situation in its former African colony, Belgium asked for UN assistance. In India, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was quick to respond to the initial appeal for help and sent IAF Canberra aircraft as a part of the UN-led mission in Congo.

[edit] Sino-Indian War (1962)

In 1962, border disputes escalated into full-scale war between India and China. Indian military and civilian leadership failed to organise and co-ordinate the air assaults efficiently and eventually the Indian Air Force was never used during the conflict apart from occasional supply missions.

Second Kashmir War 1965

An IAF Folland Gnat being prepared for take-off after receiving orders to scramble during the 1965 war. The Gnats, despite being qualitatively inferior, inflicted heavy casualties on PAF's F-86F Sabre and earned the nickname Sabre Slayer.[1]

Three years after the Sino-Indian conflict, India went to war with Pakistan again over Kashmir. Learning from the experiences of the Sino-Indian war, India decided to use its air force extensively during the war.[citation needed] This was the first time the IAF actively engaged an enemy air force.[2] However, instead of providing close air support to the Indian Army, the IAF carried out independent raid missions against Pakistani Air Force (PAF) bases.[3] These bases were situated deep inside the Pakistani territory, making IAF fighters vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire.[4]conflict.[5]

On September 1, 1965, the IAF fighters intervened in an on-going battle between Indian and Pakistani forces in Chhamb.[6] However, it was inadequate in close air support role.[7] Initially, IAF had sent the obsolete Vampires and later Mystères to stop Pakistani advance.[7] But after incidents of friendly fire, they were not called again for close air support.[7] Two days later, IAF Folland Gnat fighters shot down a PAF F-86 Sabre over Chhamb area.[8] Despite being qualitatively inferior, the Gnats were extremely effective against the F-86, earning them the nickname Sabre Slayers.[9] According to one Western source, the Gnats accounted for at least 6 Sabre kills.[10]

During the course of the conflict, the PAF enjoyed qualitative superiority over the IAF because most of the jets in IAF's fleet were of World War II-vintage. Despite this, the IAF was able to prevent the PAF from gaining air superiority over conflict zones.[11] By the time the conflict had ended, Pakistan claimed to have shot down 113 IAF aircraft while the Indians claimed that 73 PAF aircraft were downed.[7] More than 60% of IAF's air combat losses took place during the disastrous battles over Kalaikunda and Pathankot.[12] However, the IAF lost most of its aircraft on ground and the attrition rate (losses per 100 sorties) of the IAF stood at 1.49 while PAF's attrition rate was 2.16, indicating that the IAF fared better in air-to-air combat.[3]

Bangladesh Liberation War 1971

After the 1965 War, the Indian Air Force went through an intense phase of modernisation and consolidation. With newly acquired HF-24, MiG-21 and Sukhoi Su-7BM aircraft, the IAF was able to measure up to the most powerful air forces in the world.

The professional standards, capability and flexibility were soon put to the test in December 1971 when India and Pakistan went to war over (then) East Pakistan. At the time, the IAF was under the command of Air Chief Marshal Pratap Chandra Lal. On November 22, 10 days before the start of a full-scale war, four PAF F-86 Sabre jets attacked Indian and Mukti Bahini positions near the Indo-Bangla border in the Battle of Garibpur. In what became the first ever Dogfight over East Pakistan skies (present day Bangladesh), three of the 4 PAF Sabres were shot down by IAF Gnats, and hostilities commenced. December 3 saw the formal declaration of war following massive, but failed preemptive strikes by the Pakistan Air Force against Indian Air Force installations in the west. The PAF targets were against Indian bases in Srinagar, Ambala, Sirsa, Halwara and Jodhpur on the lines of Operation Focus. But the plan failed miserably as Indians had anticipated such a move and no major losses were suffered. The Indian response over Pakistan skies however produced severe blows to the PAF.

Within the first two weeks, the IAF had carried out more than 4,000 sorties in East Pakistan and provided successful air cover for the advancing Indian army in East Pakistan. IAF also assisted the Indian Navy in sinking several Pakistani naval vessels in the Bay of Bengal. In the west, the airforce demolished scores of tanks and armoured vehicles in a single battle - the Battle of Longewala. The IAF pursued strategic bombing by destroying oil installations in Karachi, the Mangla Dam and gas plant in Sindh. As the IAF achieved complete air superiority over the eastern wing of Pakistan within a few days,[13] the ordnance factories, runways, and other vital areas in East Pakistan were severely crippled. In the end, the IAF played a pivotal role in the victory for the Allied Forces leading to the liberation of Bangladesh. In addition to the overall strategic victory, the IAF had also claimed 94 [14] Pakistani aircraft destroyed, with some 45 of their own aircraft admitted lost. The IAF had however, flown over 7000 combat sorties on both East and West fronts and its overall sortie rate numbered over 15000. Comparatively the PAF was flowing fewer sorties by the day fearing loss of planes. Towards the end of the war, IAF's transport planes dropped leaflets over Dhaka urging the Pak forces to surrender; East Pakistani sources note that as the leaflets floated down, the morale of the Pakistani troops sunk.[15]

Operation Meghdoot 1984

Operation Meghdoot was the name given to the preemptive strike launched by the Indian Military to capture most of the Siachen Glacier, in the disputed Kashmir region. Launched on April 13, 1984, this military operation was unique as it was the first assault launched in the world's highest battlefield. The military action was quite successful as Indian troops managed to gain two-thirds of the glacier with the rest remaining under Pakistani control.

Kargil 1999

During the Kargil War with Pakistan, the Indian Air Force is said to have proved the decisive force in accelerating the end of the conflict. It successfully provided considerable air-cover for Indian troops fighting against Pakistani soldiers and also carried out air assaults against enemy forces in Kashmir. Most notable were the IAF's Mirage 2000 aircraft[17], which carried out surgical operations to assist ground troops in securing the strategically crucial Tiger Hill from its Pakistani captors. The IAF also carried out several operations to provide essential supplies to the ground troops. During the conflict, one IAF MiG-27 and an IAF MiG-21 were claimed shot down by Pakistani air defence missiles However the Indian Air Force had stated that the MiG-27 had an engine flameout in the initial stages of attacking the mountain top targets with its cannon. This is confirmed by an Unofficial Pakistan Air Force Website - PAF, maintained by a serving Air Commodore of the PAF. The MiG-21M was on a search operation to find the MiG-27s crash site, when it was shot down. Later, a Mi-17 helicopter was shot down by a shoulder-held missile with the loss of all its crew.

Atlantique Incident

On August 10, 1999, a Pakistan Navy French-built naval Breguet Atlantic was flying over the Rann of Kutch area and was shot down by two IAF MiG-21 jets killing all 16 aboard.


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