Indian Air Force now completes 80 years since it was formed as an independent component of India's armed forces. Time and again, the air force has performed magnificently even against severe odds, and built up a professional reputation that is the envy of leading air forces of the word. This volume, as the Second Edition of the earlier volume published in 2007 has been extensively revised and updated.
Air Forces are unique in the sense that they are the only national military institution exclusively devoted to military operations in the aerospace continuum. The Indian Air Force is no different. But their dominant role in modern warfare, the high costs of aerospace power, and a host of other factors demand closer attention to their role in modern defence and the protection of national interests. Air Forces don't win wars by themselves; and no one in the Indian Air Force has ever claimed it. But no war can be won without them. We learnt that seminal lesson the hard way when we did not use the potent force of the IAF's combat fleet in the Sino-Indian War of 1962.
It is from this perspective that this study-or rather an interpretative essay reflecting on the significant issues and events of the past 80 years-approaches the challenges the Indian Air Force faces in the coming decades. IAF combat force levels have slumped while its commitments are rapidly growing in consonance with our expanding economic and political interests well beyond our territorial boundaries.