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India: The Air Force
Country Study > Chapter 10 > National Security > Organization and Equipment of the Armed Forces > The Air Force


The air force was established in 1932. In 1994 it had 110,000 personnel and 779 combat aircraft. The air force, which is headquartered in New Delhi, is headed by the chief of air staff, an air chief marshal. He is assisted by six principal staff officers: the vice chief of air staff, the deputy chief of air staff, the air officer in charge of administration, the air officer in charge of personnel, the air officer in charge of maintenance, and the inspector general of flight safety. The air force is deployed into five operational commands: the Western Air Command, headquartered at New Delhi; the Southwestern Air Command, headquartered at Jodhpur, Rajasthan; the Eastern Air Command, headquartered at Shillong, Meghalaya; the Central Air Command, headquartered at Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh; and the Southern Air Command, headquartered at Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), Kerala. Additionally, there are two functional commands: the Training Command at Bangalore, Karnataka, and the Maintenance Command at Nagpur, Maharashtra.

As of 1994, the air force was equipped with twenty-two squadrons of ground attack fighters. Five of these squadrons had a total of eighty-nine British Jaguar aircraft. Another five squadrons had 120 Soviet-origin MiG-27 aircraft. The air force also fielded twenty fighter squadrons, two of which were equipped with a total of thirty-five French-built Mirage 2000 H/TH aircraft. There were also twelve squadrons of transport aircraft in the inventory. Because of the large number of Soviet-origin aircraft, the air force is dependent on Russia for spare parts and equipment and weapons upgrades. In March 1995, Russia agreed to upgrade India's MiG-21 aircraft.

Aside from the Training Command at Bangalore, the center for primary flight training is located at the Air Force Academy at Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, followed by operational training at various air force schools. Advanced training is also conducted at the Defence Services Staff College; specialized advanced flight training schools are located at Bidar, Karnataka, and Hakimpet, Andhra Pradesh (also the location for helicopter training). Technical schools are found at a number of other locations.

In 1991 the government approved the induction of women into nontechnical air force officer billets, such as administration, logistics, accounting, education, and meteorology. In 1992 opportunities for "pioneer women officers" were opened in the areas of transportation, helicopters, and navigation, and the first group of thirteen women cadets entered the Air Force Academy. During their flight training, they qualified on HPT-32 and Kiran aircraft to earn their air force commissions. After completing ten months' training, five of the seven successful course graduates received further training on various transport aircraft. By 1994, there were fifty-five women officers in the air force.

Last Updated: September 1995

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for India was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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