Air Force Equipment

The exact number of aircraft in service with the Indian Air Force [IAF] cannot be determined with precision from open sources. Apparently reliable sources provide notably divergent estimates for a variety of high-visibility aircraft.

As of mid-2000, the Air Force had in its inventory a wide array of modern aircraft and support equipment, weapon systems, communication and detection systems. This included air superiority fighter like the MiG-29 aircraft, multi-role combat aircraft like Mirage 2000 and SU-30 aircraft, strike/air defence/reconnaissance aircraft like Jaguar, MiG-21 and its variants, MiG-23, MiG-25 and MiG-27 aircraft. The sole squadron (Trisonics) of 8 MiG-25 aircraft was retired in 2006.


In February 2001 India announced an intention to acquire six II-78MK Midas air tankers, with the first plane set for delivery in 2003. The Russian/Uzbekistan-made planes would be newly built, and not from Moscow's existing inventory.

Surveillance, AWACS, etc

The Indian government spent some time negotiating for the purchase of the Israeli-made Phalcon AEW system.

A major order of 40 MI-17-1B helicopters was placed between late September and October 2000 with Rossovorozinia, a Russian state organisation - 25 helicopter gunships for the Indian Air Force and 15 helicopters for cargo-logistic role for the Indian army.

In July 2002 the United States authorized a potential sale of a Tethered Aerostat Surveillance System with L-88 (V3) and AN/APS-144 radar sensors to the Indian Ministry of Defense.

Transport Aircraft

The transport fleet consisted of IL-76, AN-32 and HAL manufactured HS-748 and Dornier 228. Boeing 737 aircraft are used for VIP transport. While the IL-76 were used to provide the Air Force with heavy lift strategic capabilities, AN-32 and HS-748 were used for training besides their operational role of air maintenance and communication.

In 2003, the Indian government signed a deal with the Brazilian aircraft manufacturere, Embraer, for 5 of its Legacy Jets for the purpose of transporting VIPs. These jets would replace the aging AVRO HS 748 planes. Four of the Legacy jets would go to the IAF and the remaining one to the MInistry of Home Affairs for use by the Border Security Force. Delivery of the jets commenced in 2005.


The IAF replaced its HT-2 primary trainers with the HPT-32 (Deepak), the new piston engined trainer being utilised at the Basic Flying Training School at Allahabad since January 1988 and at Air Force Academy at Dundigal. Flight cadets then proceed to the Air Force Academy, Dundigal for instruction on the HJT 16 Kiran, first on the Mk. I/IA and then on the armed Mk II version or the Polish origin Iskra, for tactical flying. After commissioning, pilots are streamed to various conversion units, depending on their selection and proficiency. Future fighter pilots are sent to operational conversion units (now known as the MOFTU or MIG Operational Flying Training Unit) where operational and tactical flyng is conducted on MIG 21. Thus are born the IAF's leaders and even future spacemen, like Sqn Ldr Rakesh Sharma, India's first cosmonaut who participated in a joint space flight with the Soviets in 1984.

The Indian air force agreed to buy 66 Hawk trainer fighter jets from the UK. In February 2003 India awarded a $1.7bn contract to supply the trainer fighter jets to the UK company, BAE Systems. The Hawk beat a rival bid from a state-run Czech firm. India would buy 24 Hawks outright and build the rest under BAE licence in the southern city of Bangalore. Negotiations over the possible British sale of Hawk jets to India went on for over a decade. In September 2003, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee decided to go ahead with the deal given recent MiG-21 crashes. The IAF had been asking for trainers for 20 years and had purchased 27 second-hand MiG-21 trainers from Krygystan as a temporary solution. Of the 66 trainers, it was finally decided that 22 would be delivered in "fly-away" condition and the rest would be manufactured in India under license under a technology-transfer deal. The IAF had originally wanted 160 AJTs but reduced that number to 66 due to budget constraints.


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