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The Indian Air Force celebrated the 88th Air Force Day on Thursday, October 8. The day is being marked by the main event comprising a parade and flypast at Hindon Air Force Base along with events at IAF establishments across the country — this time with many restrictions due to the pandemic.
A look at why the day is celebrated, the traditions attached with it and its significance.
October 8 is celebrated as the Air Force Day because on this day, the Air Force in India was officially raised in 1932 as the supporting force of the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom. The first operational squadron came into being in April 1933. After participation in World War II, the Air Force in India came to be called the Royal Indian Air Force in the mid 1940s. In 1950, after the republic came into being it became the Indian Air Force. From six officers and 19 Hawai Sepoys back in 1933, the Air Force now is the fourth largest in the world.
For several decades until 2005-06, the Air Force Day used to be marked by the main event, parade and flypast at Palam. But due to the increasing air traffic issues, it was shifted to Hindon Air Force Base in Ghaziabad which is home to two squadrons of transport aircraft and a helicopter unit among other establishments. The flypasts and displays on the occasion have traditionally showcased the in service aircraft and systems of the Air Force.
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The main event at the Hindon Air Force Base comprises a parade by men and women air warriors. It also has an investiture ceremony where medals are pinned by the Chief of Air Staff (CAS) on uniforms of those who have been declared recipients. Every year, apart from being televised, the event is also attended by a large number of serving and retired brass, air warriors and their families and citizens. This year the number of attendees will be much less due to COVID restrictions in place. CAS Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria will review the parade on Thursday.
The day’s celebrations also traditionally include an ‘at home’ reception hosted by the CAS, which is attended by top leaders of the government and brass. Former Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal PV Naik (Retd) said, “Apart from parade, awarding of medals and flypast, one key feature of the function is speech of the Air Force Chief. Where the chief not only addresses the air warriors but also the nation. In this speech the Air Chief touches upon the existing situation and tries to present a roadmap. It’s a day when brave men and women air warriors reaffirm their resolve to protect the nation.”
The flypast consists of display of various fixed wing aircrafts and helicopters along with aerobatics display. A full dressed rehearsal of the event was held on Tuesday. This year, the Tejas LCA, Mig-29 and 21 and Sukhoi-30 along with newly inducted Rafale jets will be on show. It will also have helicopters like the Mi17V5, Chinook, Mi-35, ALH Rudra and Apache and transport aircraft like C-17 Globemaster, C-130, IL-76 Gajraj among others. Suryakiran fixed wing aerobatic team and Sarang helicopter aerobatic team will also be key attractions.
At the IAF stations across the country, the event is marked by various functions including a gathering of IAF veterans from the area and a bada khana for the personnel of units stationed. This year, while gatherings of veterans have been put on hold in most of the formations, other celebrations have also been scaled down due to pandemic.
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Apart from the importance of the day for the celebration of the history and traditions, the parade and flypast also have importance as a strategic signal. Former Vice Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Bhushan Gokhale (Retd) said, “On one hand Air Force Day is when air warriors — an apt and inclusive term coined by Air Chief Marshal AY Tipnis — look back and take stock of the situation and look ahead into the future. On the other hand, the immaculate parades and breathtaking displays are a strategic message, to the citizens of the country assuring that they are safe hands and also to the adversaries.” Air Marshal Gokhale added, “Its a day to pay tribute to countless sacrifices made by air warriors in not just in safeguarding the skies but also in numerous humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations taken up till now and in the days to come.”
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