Indian Air Force in focus
Abdul Zahoor Khan Marwat


The Indian Air Force is massive and so are the problems it faces.

The BJP chief whip in Lok Sabha, Arjun Ram Meghwal, admitted recently that Indian women were afraid of flying the MiG-21 fighters due to its high accident rate. On a supplementary to defence minister Manohar Parrikar on induction of women in the IAF’s combat stream, Meghwal said women were afraid of flying the MiG-21s due to their high accident rate. However, the Indian defence minister said since the MiG 21 is a single-engine fighter jet, any problem in the machine means the pilot has to bail out. He said the government had stressed on improved maintenance of the aircraft and India had achieved a very low accident rate in the last decade, including the lowest in 2013. The Indian defence minister was not truthful.

Not so long ago, the Indian Air Force had lost 29 fighter aircraft in a three-year period, including 12 MiG-21s, in crashes in which six pilots had lost their lives. As per Indian official records, more than 170 IAF pilots have been killed in MiG-21 accidents since 1970, a huge figure. The Russian Ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin said that spare parts of MiG-21s acquired by the IAF were fake. “For MiG and other planes, you need authentic parts. And then you are surprised why your planes fall because spare parts are bought from unauthorised sources.”

Meanwhile, soon after the attack at the Pathankot Airbase, a mock drill at the Hindon airbase near New Delhi has created a lot of confusion. Indian officials claim that Jaish-e-Mohammed sympathizers may now be planning to target the Hindon airbase in Ghaziabad. Earlier, in the light of the Pathankot attack, the Indian Air Force had issued shoot-at-sight orders to secure more than 20 key bases in the western sector. Security personnel were ordered to shoot down intruders without issuing the standard warning.

According to reports, in a special audit by the IAF, 54 IAF bases were identified where security was to be upgraded at a cost of more than Rs8,000 crore. The IAF has planned to mount smart fences, vibration detection systems, mini drones, thermal cameras and night vision equipment to detect possible intruders. Some of the air bases were Halwara in Indian Punjab, home to IAF’s Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter planes, Ambala in Haryana, home to Jaguar and upgraded MiG-21 fighter planes, Hindon, UP, home to C-130J Super Hercules special operations planes, Pathankot in Punjab, home to MiG-21 fighters and a mix of Mi-25 and Mi-35 attack helicopters, Chandigarh, home to IL-76 heavy-lifters and AN-32 medium lift cargo planes, Avantipur, J&K, home to MiG-21s, Srinagar, occupied J&K, home to MiG-21 fighters, Leh, occupied J&K, hub of IAF’s transport and helicopter operations and Sarsawa, UP, a helicopter base.

It should be noted that recent reports in the Pakistani media, both print and electronic, have predicted another stage-managed operation by the Indian establishment, perhaps at a military facility, anytime soon.