A Dazzling Show

Newly inducted Chinooks and Apaches, and Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman make the 87th Air Force Day parade special

Yunus Dar

The Indian Air Force (IAF) celebrated its 87th birthday by putting up a spectacular air show on 8 October 2019. The dazzling air stunts were executed by the IAF’s vintage and modern transport aircraft along with the frontline fighters. The newly inducted aircraft – Chinooks and Apaches – impressed the audience with their presence in the air display.

ACM RKS Bhadauria at the IAF Day celebrations

Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria was the chief guest at the celebrations held at the Hindon Air Base in Ghaziabad. Army Chief General Bipin Rawat and Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh were also present along with other armed forces dignitaries.

The IAF parade started with the flag-bearing sky divers of the daring Akash Ganga team, who dropped out of the AN-32 aircraft, landing right in front of the podium. Soon after, the mighty C-17 Globemaster III, Hercules aircraft, Jaguar and Mirage 2000 took to the skies in their quintessential manoeuvres. The Russian-origin Sukhoi-30MKI was also part of the air show.

Indian Air Force personnel during parade on IAF Day, while the Mi-17 helicopters fly above

The audience was in for a pleasant surprise when Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman emerged from the front side of the podium, leading a group of three MiG-21 Bison fighter jets in avenger formation. The aerial manoeuvre was greeted with non-stop cheering from the crowd which had assembled to witness the parade. He was conferred with Vir Chakra medal on Independence Day 2019 for his performance in Balakot strikes against Pakistan in February 2019.

Group Captain Saumitra Tamaskar, who spearheaded the Balakot air strikes, also commanded a formation of three Jaguar fighter jets, executing multiple manoeuvres until vanishing into the skies. Another Balakot hero, Group Captain Hemant Kumar, led a trio of three Mirage 2000 aircraft. Other notable pilots included Squadron Leader Pankaj Bhujade and Wing Commander Rahul Basoya, who flew past in Mirage 2000 aircraft.

Chinook helicopters flying at the IAF Day parade

The stunning air manoeuvres executed by Sarang helicopter team – well-known for its aerobatic performances – and the death-defying stunts by the IAF left the audience mesmerised. The team also executed its quintessential ‘Bravura’ aerobatic display at the parade. Surya Kiran aircraft teams also put up a commendable show at the IAF Day 2019 celebrations.

The indigenously-built Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas executed some spectacular manoeuvres at the power-packed air show. Some of impressive performances included flypast Globe formation by C-17 aircraft, flanked by two Su-30 MKI jets, and an aerial display by two Dorniers and a Dakota aircraft.

The 51 Squadron (Sword Arms) was presented with a citation by the IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria at the end of the air show. Wing Commander Abhinandan belongs to the Sword Arms Squadron. The citation was received by the Squadron Commanding Officer, Group Captain Satish Pawar. The 9 Squadron of the IAF, the Wolfpack, which operates the Mirage 2000 jets involved in the airstrikes in Balakot, also received a unit citation from the air force Chief. A citation was also presented to the 601 Signal Unit of the IAF that played an instrumental role during the February 2019 stand-off with Pakistan. The Squadron had identified the package of 30 aircraft sent to India by Pakistan on February 27. The Squadron’s Commanding Officer, Group Captain Abhijit Nene, received the citation.


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