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New Weapon System Branch Approved on 90th Anniversary, Air Show Dazzles Chandigarh Skies

Nearly 80 military aircraft and helicopters participated in a fly-past at the Sukhna Lake complex in Chandigarh. (Image: PTI)

It is the IAF’s first annual Air Force Day parade and flypast outside the DelhiNational Capital Region, which also saw the participation Defence Minister Rajnath Singh

The Indian Air Force’s Surya Kiran and Sarang Aerobatic Teams’ performances, Rafale’s ‘vertical Charlie’ formation were some of the highlights of the stunning air show at the Sukhna Lake complex in Chandigarh where nearly 80 military aircraft and helicopters enthralled audiences including President Droupadi Murmu on the occasion of IAF’s 90th-anniversary celebrations on Saturday.

It is for the first time that the IAF decided to hold its annual Air Force Day parade and fly-past outside the Delhi-NCR.

Governors of Punjab and Haryana Banwarilal Purohit and Bandaru Dattatreya, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and Chandigarh MP Kirron Kher were present at the event. Prior to the spectacular aerial display, a ceremonial parade was held at the air force station in the morning in the presence of Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari.

Here are some of the highlights of the Air Force Day Celebrations:

  • President Draupadi Murmu was accorded the guard of honour upon her arrival in Chandigarh. This is her first visit to Chandigarh as the President of India.
  • Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari inspected the parade which was followed by the march past by parade. Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Air Command, Air Marshal Sreekumar Prabhakaran, senior officers from the three services and Ministry of Defence, veterans, were among those present on the occasion.
  • In a major announcement, Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari announced that a new weapon system has been approved. “On this historic occasion, it is my privilege to announce that the government has approved the creation of a weapon system branch for the officers in the IAF.” The new branch, he added, “will essentially be for manning of four specialised streams of surface-to-surface missiles, surface-to-air missiles, remotely piloted aircraft and weapon system operators in twin and multi crew aircraft.”
  • The Defence ministry described the creation of the Weapon Systems(WS) branch as a “historic” step for the IAF, and said it will contribute immensely by enhancing the force’s war fighting capability.
  •  The statement said the branch would encompass operators in four specialised streams of Surface-to-Surface missiles, Surface-to-Air missiles, Remotely Piloted Aircraft and Weapon System Operators in twin/multi-crew aircraft.
  • Hailing the Agniveer scheme of recruitment, the IAF Chief said, “From December 2022, Chaudhari said that 3,000 Agniveer Vayu will be inducted for initial training. A number that will go up in the subsequent years.” He also announced that women Agniveers will be inducted through the Agnipath scheme from 2023.
  • Later, there was a demonstration by the mechanical transport team of vehicle dismantling and reassembly. They first dismantled the vehicle and then reassembled it in a short time. The IAF’s air warrior drill team also displayed breathtaking rifle-handling drill manoeuvres.
  • On Indian Air Force (IAF) Day, a new combat uniform was unveiled at IAF’s annual Air Force Day parade event. Wing Commander Kunal Khanna and other Air Force officials unveiled the new combat uniform of the IAF, in which combat t-shirts were introduced for the first time. The uniform was designed by the Air Force Standing Dress Committee.
  • The recently inducted and indigenously built Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) ‘Prachand’ also showcased its aerial prowess during the fly-past in a three-aircraft formation. Developed by state-run aerospace major Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), the 5.8-tonne twin-engine LCH is armed with air-to-air missiles, 20 mm turret guns and rocket systems, and is capable of destroying enemy tanks, bunkers, drones and other assets in high-altitude regions.
  • Several other aircraft, including Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, Sukhoi, Jaguar, Rafale, IL-76, C-130J and Hawk were part of the fly-past. Among the helicopters, Advanced Light Helicopter Dhruv, Chinook, Apache and Mi-17 were part of the aerial display.
  • The fly-past began with an ‘Aakash Ganga’ team of paratroopers in an AN-32 aircraft.
  • Mi 17 V5 choppers showed their capability to undertake a fire-fighting operation using a ‘bambi bucket’, while Mi17 IV helicopters performed helocasting.
  • The US-made Chinook choppers, which are used for transporting troops, artillery etc, were also part of the spectacular display.
  • Rafale, Jaguar, Tejas and Mirage 2000 flew in ‘Sekhon’ formation, which is dedicated to IAF officer and Param Vir Chakra recipient late Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon.
  • The audience was also enthralled by ‘Ensign’ formation comprising three Mi-17 V5 helicopters. The ‘Globe’ formation comprised a C-17 heavy lift aircraft and nine Hawk-132 jets trained by the Surya Kiran display team.
  • The ‘Eklavya formation’ comprised an Mi-35 aircraft in lead with two Apache and ALH Mk IV helicopters, while the ‘Big Boy’ formation consisted of an IL-76 and two AN-32 aircraft.
  • The IAF’s vintage aircraft Harvard and Dakota also made an appearance in the air show. Dakota, a major transport aircraft, had been used by the IAF at the forefront of war operations since its induction in IAF in 1947.
  • Among the formations was ‘Vajraang’, comprising of one C-130J Super Hercules along with four Sukhoi Su-30MKI, and ‘Netra’ by the airborne early warning and control aircraft, Sukhoi-30 and MiG-29 fighter jets.
  • The city administration arranged buses from to ferry people to and back from the air show.
  • Tight security arrangements were put in place ahead of the celebrations. Air Force Day marks the official induction of the IAF in 1932. Every year, the day is celebrated in the presence of the force’s chief and senior officers among other dignitaries.

(With PTI inputs)

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