The Indian Air Force is the fourth largest in the world. It consists of modern aircraft and a well trained flying force that can safeguard the skies for the nation's security.

Role of Indian Air Force

The main role of the Indian Air Force is to secure Indian air space and protect it from intruders. The Air Force is also tasked to undertake air warfare during conflicts. They also play a vital role in deploying troops to remote areas and assisting in logistics. They provide air support to the other arms namely Navy and Army in their operations too.

From a humanitarian point of view, rescue of civilians in times of crises and disaster is also a principal role of the Indian Air Force. Air lifting or evacuating Indian nationals from other countries in times of civil war or other calamities is also performed by the IAF.

President, Vice President or Prime Minister, Defence Minister are also provided transport facilities by Indian Air Force.

Structure of the IAF

The Indian Air Force is divided into three branches namely Flying Branch, Technical Branch, and Ground Branch.

The Indian Air Force is divided into five operational commands and two functional commands. The functional commands are the Training Command at Bangalore and the Maintenance Command at Nagpur. The principal task of the Functional commands is to keep the men and machines (aircraft) ready for war. The Training includes flight training (training in operating different aircraft); specialised advanced training for MIG and other fighter aircraft; helicopter training and transport Air Craft training.

The five operational commands are:

  1. Central Air Command - HQ Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh
  2. Eastern Air Command - HQ Shillong, Meghalaya
  3. Southern Air Command - HQ Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
  4. South Western Air Command - HQ Gandhinagar, Gujarat
  5. Western Air Command - HQ Delhi

Two additional commands of the Air Force which are responsible for training and maintenance of the fleet are:

  1. Air Force Training Command, Bangalore
  2. Maintenance Command, Nagpur

The Commands have Air Force Stations or bases in a variety of locations. Each Command is headed by an Air Officer Commanding in Chief (AOC-in-C). This is held by an Air Marshal.

Organization of Indian Air Force

Similar to the army, the Indian Air Force has self sufficient fighting units. Each of these units are grouped into larger force and placed under a Command. Under each command the sub divisions are:

Section: This is the smallest unit in the Air Force. Three aircraft make a Section. It is commanded by a Flight Lieutenant.

Flight: Two sections make a Flight. A Flight is headed by a Squadron Leader.

Squadron: Squadrons are of two types - Flying Squadron and Transport Squadron. Three Flights make a Squadron. There are 18 aircraft in a fighting squadron headed by a Commanding Officer who is of the rank of a Wing Commander or Group Captain. However a Transport Squadron is headed by a Group Captain.

Wing: Two or three squadrons make a Wing. The wing is usually located at an Air Force Station. The Wing is commanded by an Group Captain or Air Commodore.

Station: One Wing and one or two squadrons make a Station. It is commanded by an Air Commodore. Larger stations are commanded by an Air Vice Marshal.

Command: An Operational Command can have nine or 16 bases or stations.