1947-2019: A Non-Exhaustive List of Successes of The Indian Air Force
In the 1965 war, IAF's Folland Gnat aircrafts were labelled ‘Sabre Slayers’ for proving effective against Pakistan’s F-86 Sabres.
The Indian Air Force, called the Royal Indian airforce before 1950, has carried out several effective operations since independence, the latest one being the strike on Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist camps in Pakistan’s Balakot following the JeM’s attack on the CRPF convoy in Pulwama that claimed the lives of 40 jawans.
The IAF’s contributions to security and peace are not limited to its combat operations. It has also participated in United Nations peacekeeping missions, has carried out rescue and relief operations during natural disasters and conducted other humanitarian missions.
Here is a look at some of the IAF’s successful missions since India’s independence.
In the annexation of Goa from Portugal in 1961, the IAF conducted several air raids on Portuguese territories. The first raid on December 18 was led by Wing Commander N.B. Menon and was conducted using 12 English Electric Canberra aircraft. 63,000 pounds of explosives were dropped over the Portuguese airport in Goa, completely destroying the runway. Two subsequent raids were carried using Canberra and Hawker Hunters. Vampire Fighters provided support to ground troops.
The IAF also ran 14 sorties in Daman, harassing Portuguese artillery positions. Similarly, air raids on Portuguese holds in Diu on December 18 managed to neutralise the other side’s ground operations in a small amount of time, compelling the Portuguese governor of Diu to surrender.
A victory was achieved within 36 hours of land, sea and air raids, ending 451 years of Portuguese rule in Goa, Daman and Diu. A civilian government was formally installed on June 8, 1962.
1965 war with Pakistan
In the Second Kashmir War, Pakistan’s attempts to destabilise the Indian rule by infiltrating Jammu and Kashmir was also thwarted by the combined efforts of the Indian Armed Forces. The IAF carried out independent raids against the Pakistan Air Force. This was the first time that the IAF engaged with an enemy air force actively.
IAF’s Folland Gnat aircraft earned the nickname ‘Sabre Slayers’ for proving effective against Pakistan’s F-86 Sabres.
The IAF was able to gain air superiority in three days. According to then Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh, “When the Pakistan Air Force attacked our bases in Pathankot and Kalaikunda, we suffered initial reverses. However, the Indian Air Force was given a go-ahead by then defence minister Yaswantrao Chavan, our great Maratha Leader, to launch the air attack. We were able to recover the operational balance quickly and later achieved complete air superiority over them within three days. The aircraft from Pathankot, Ambala and Adampur were able to strike at all the major air bases in Pakistan like Sargodha, Peshawar, Kohat and so on. The air attacks were planned in such a manner that our aircraft would fly over Kashmir valley which provided us covers against the radar detection in Pakistan. We were able to destroy the major supply lines and vital installations in almost all Pakistani cities.”
It was after the 1965 war that the IAF created the Para Commandos regiment and inducted 72 HS 748s which were built by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The stress on domestic manufacturing of aircraft resulted in the induction of the HAL HF-24 Marut in the IAF, and was followed by induction of Mach 2 capable Soviet MiG-21 and Sukhoi Su-7 fighters.
1971 war with Pakistan
Also known as the Bangladesh Liberation War, the conflict saw IAF conduct over 12,000 sorties over East Pakistan a period of two weeks. The IAF also provided air support to the Indian Army. On the western front the IAF destroyed more than 20 Pakistani tanks, 4 APCs and a supply train during the Battle of Longewala.
Additionally, the IAF carried out raids on oil installations in Karachi, the Mangla Dam and a gas plant in Sindh. Similarly in East Pakistan, the IAF destroyed Ordinance factories and runways, achieving air superiority on the Easter front. By the time Pakistan surrendered, the the IAF had carried out more than 16,000 sorties and had destroyed Pakistan’s 94 aircraft.
The Indian military operation to successfully capture the Siachen Glacier in 1984 was assisted by the IAF which airlifted Indian army soldiers as well as dropped essential supplies on high-altitude locations.
On May 11, 1999, the IAF was called in to provide air support to Indian Army soldiers when the Kargil war with Pakistan was at its peak. The IAF deployed MiG-21s, MiG-27s MiG-29s fighters and carried out offensive sorties.
Offensive strikes were abandoned after the IAF suffered fatalities when a MiG-21 and a Mig-27 were shot down by Pakistan. Following this, on May 30, Mirage 2000s were used to carry out offensive operations. By July 26, India had successfully pushed away Pakistani forces from Kargil.
According to ex-Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne, without the help of the IAF, the Kargil confrontation would have been prolonged by three months.
Besides the above, the IAF has participated in several UN peacekeeping operations and undertook Operation Poomalai in 1987 to drop humanitarian aid in besieged Jaffna during the Sri Lankan Civil War.