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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

127) 75 Years (Platinum Jubilee) of the Indian Air Force celebrated in 2007: Commemorative coins released on the occasion:

127) 75 Years (Platinum Jubilee) of the Indian Air Force celebrated in 2007:
Commemorative coins released on the occasion:

Brief Introduction:

From the days of World War I, when adversary pilots waved out to each other, while on bombing and combat missions and shot down Aircraft meant almost certainly a brush with death, as there were no parachutes or similar mechanisms to bale out , and enemy pilots rarely attacked a pilot of a shot aircraft who had successfully made ground, and, then again,  in World War II, particular pilots marked one another for “dogfights” in order to show who was the better one of the two for brownie points during de-briefing sessions and drawing room conversations. Dogfights were fought at close quarters and pilots could visually recognize their adversary’s faces,  as well as the markings on the adversary’s propeller aircraft mentioning names, number of “kills”, and the nickname given to his/their aeroplane(s). (Period movies like “Flyboys” dramatically bring out these features).

The days of “visual” contact are long since gone. New standard communication and attack technologies have rendered the days of dogfights, at best, a glorious piece of flying history. Today, satellites link ships, helicopters, tanks, unmanned drones and “operations” are controlled from control panels on the ground.
Flight operations today require highly computer savvy pilots and aircraft, systems and weapons that enable acquisition and engaging/destruction of targets located several miles away so as to neutralise potential threats swiftly and effectively.

The Indian Air Force’s glorious history:
On 08.10.1932, the Indian Air Force was established when its formation was announced in the Gazette of India as an auxiliary Air Force of the British Empire, as a part of the Royal Air Force (RAF). No. 1 Squadron was formed at Drigh Road in Karachi on 01.04.1933 comprising six Indian officers under the command of a British officer. The Squadron had at its disposal four Westland Wapiti biplanes.

Image of a Westland Wapiti aircraft:

During 1939-45, the Indian Air Force took active part in Burma and Thailand against the Japanese army and also underwent an expansion with US built Vultee Vengeance, Douglas DC-3 and British Hawker Hurricane, Supermarine Spitfire and Westland Lysander aircraft being added to its Air-fleet.

In 1945, the prefix “Royal” was added as recognition of the Indian Air Force’s services during World War II.

In 1947, upon the Partition of India and Pakistan, out of the 10 operational squadrons, 3 were transferred to Pakistan and seven were retained by India, still operating under the designation “Royal Indian Air Force” (RIAF).

In 1947-48, the first test came for Independent India’s Royal Indian Air Force, when for the first time Transport Aircraft of the Indian Air Force saw full time deployment in operations over the control of the princely State of Jammu & Kashmir, which was in the nature of an “undeclared war” between India and Pakistan. Fighter Aircraft also saw action operating in extremely difficult mountainous terrain. The scale of operations during the one and a half years of operations was very intense and 32 officers and airmen made the ultimate sacrifice. The RIAF was awarded 4 Maha Vir Chakras and 29 Vir Chakras.

In 1950, when India became a Republic, the term “Royal” was dropped from the designation and it was, thereafter, called the “Indian Air Force” (IAF).

In 1960-1966, when Belgium’s rule in the Congo ended, utter chaos and lawlessness set in, with the prosperous province of Katanga breaking away from the Congo and efforts were being made to reunite Katanga with the Congo, as well as to restore law and order. When these failed, by 1961,the situation had deteriorated so much that the United Nations had to intervene and Indian troops and military Aircraft were sent by India as part of the UN Peace keeping Force to maintain law and order (Canberras were sent for this purpose). The Indian Aircraft, operating from Leopoldville and Kamina  made several successful sorties over Katanga’s Airfield at Kolwezi, effectively immobilised the rebel Air Force  and helped to contain a massive build-up of the Katangese Army in other areas (which also included several foreign mercenaries) and acquitted themselves with credit.

In 1961, the Indian Armed Forces carried out a military operation to liberate Goa, Daman and Diu from Portuguese rule. The War for Goa was over in three days, while the War for Daman & Diu lasted only one day, resulting in the Portuguese completely withdrawing from these territories. My uncle was then a lieutenant in the Indian Army and participated in the Goa liberation on the ground. I remember seeing a couple of Portuguese Flags/Coat of Arms, which he had brought back as souvenirs. The Indian Air Force participated effectively in this operation by attacking and destroying specific targets in support of the Indian Army’s advance and employed their Jet power for the first time on a massive scale.

During the Chinese War in July 1962, the first aircraft ever to land and then again take-off from an airstrip at Daulat Beg Oldie, on the Chinese border, at the height of 17000 feet was an American supplied Fairfield Packet (Fixed Wing) Aircraft, flown by Squadron Leader CKS Raje, who set a record for the World's highest landing at that time, which created history in the annals of aviation. Thereafter the Airstrip was routinely used from 1962-1965, when it was abandoned due to damage by an earthquake. Despite its battle-preparedness, the Indian military planners failed to deploy and effectively use the Indian Air Force against the invading Chinese forces, resulting in India losing significant advantage/territory to the Chinese.

In 1965, Pakistan launched “Operation Gibraltar”, which was a surprise invasion into India and is also termed the “Second Kashmir War” by some analysts. This was the first time that the Indian Air Force actively engaged an enemy Air force and carried out independent raids against Pakistani Air bases. The Pakistan Air Force had much superior technological superiority over the Indian Air Force and achieved substantial strategic and tactical advantage due to the sudden attack and full support from the USA and Britain. However, despite the fact that the IAF was restrained from attacking the PAF in the Western Sector as  a substantial part of the IAF was deployed in the Eastern Sector, for fear of a simultaneous attack from China, the IAF effectively prevented the PAF from gaining any Air superiority over the conflict zones.

Although, India’s Aircraft losses in the War were higher than Pakistan’s, the small, but nimble IAF “Folland Gnats” were highly effective against the F-86 Sabres” of the PAF, earning it the nickname “Sabre slayers”.

In 1966, a Para Commandos regiment was created and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) laid stress on manufacturing effective fighter aircraft.

In 1971, The Indian Air Force participated in the “Bangladesh Liberation War. On 22.11.1971, 10 days before the start of a full scale war with Pakistan, four Pakistan Air Force (PAF) F-86 Sabre Jets attacked Indian and Mukti Bahini positions at Garibpur, near the International border. Two of the four attacking jets were shot down and one of them severely crippled by the Indian Air force’s Folland Gnats.
I remember that I was studying in La Martiniere College, Lucknow and the first day of the “air battles” are etched in every student’s memory when the first Sabre shot down by a Folland Gnat, went to the credit of one of the Keelor brothers from our College. Our “proud” English teacher was a class-mate of the distinguished IAF pilot and we spent the whole day celebrating the achievement.

Stung badly by this humiliation, once again, the PAF attacked several Indian Air force installations, but the IAF struck several crippling retaliatory blows to the PAF, whereafter, the PAF stuck to mostly defensive sorties. The IAF carried out more than 6000 sorties in East & West Pakistan and strategic bombings in West Pakistan. During the Battle of Longewala more than 29 Pakistani tanks, 29 APCs and a Railway train were knocked out of action by the IAF and oil installations at Karachi and a dam and gas plant in Sindh et al. In all almost 100 PAF Aircraft were shot down out of which more than 50% were Sabres. Almost 100000 Pakistani troops surrendered in the then East Pakistan to the combined efforts of the IAF and Indian Army.
I remember that my uncle, then a Major in the Infantry commanded a Prisoner of War (POW) Train to the POW Camp in Agra and my grandparents arranged for food for the entire train when it halted at Lucknow, when we all went to meet him during the halt. The escorting Indian soldiers only had food after all the Pakistani POWs on board the train were fed, in true Indian hospitality!!

In 1984, India launched Operation Meghdoot to capture the Siachen Glacier in the contested Kashmir region. Once again IAF Helicopters airlifted hundreds of troops to Siachen. The Indian Forces facing little opposition took control over most of the heights on the Glacier.

In 1987, “Operation Poomalai” (or Operation “Garland” or “Eagle”) was launched in Sri Lanka in which IAF Aircraft dropped supplies on humanitarian grounds to beleaguered Tamilians on the ground.

Sri Lanka operation in 1987-1990: The Indian involvement in Sri Lanka saw the largest air effort by the Indian Air Force in air maintenance and counter-insurgency support to the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) totalling about 70000 sorties by transport, helicopter and fighter aircraft without any losses to enemy fire. I also remember that we had dinner at a Brigadier’s bungalow at the Lucknow Cantonment and two days later, we were taken by surprise, when he appeared on International Television briefing the Press, while leading the IPKF Operations outside Jaffna Fort. This was also the last operation that my uncle participated in, this time as a Colonel.

In 1988, the Indian Air Force undertook “Operation Cactus” a special operation to airlift a parachute battalion group non-stop over 2000 Km to the remote Indian Ocean archipelago of the Maldives to help the President of the Island nation counter a threat from a mercenary invasion. The paratroopers as a result of the swift IAF response restored Government Rule at Male within a few hours.

Early in May 1999, the Indian Army discovered large scale infiltration by Pakistani soldiers across the Line of Control (LOC) into Indian Territory in the Kargil sector. The defence initiatives take by the Indian Armed Forces are now a part of history, under the name of “Operation Vijay”. The IAF Operations were code-named “Operation Safed Sagar”.

The Indian Air Force provided Battlefield close support, logistical supply and casualty evacuation along with the Army Aviation units. Three officers and two airmen made the ultimate sacrifice. The IAF for its operations with distinction earned two Vir Chakras and 23 Vayu Sena medals.

In 2009, the IAF also has raised a special Commando Force called “Garud Commando Force” (named after a divine mythical bird of Hindu Mythology) equipped to undertake combat search and rescue missions, rescue of downed airmen and other forces from behind enemy lines, suppression of enemy air defence (SEAD), radar busting, combat control, missile and munitions guidance, lasing of targets etc.

On 20.08.2013, the IAF once again performed the highest landing of a C-130J Aircraft (primarily a transport Aircraft), belonging to the Veiled Vipers squadron based at Hindon Air Force Station, at the Daulat Beg Oldie Airstrip in Ladakh, at a height of about 17000 Feet, 41 years after the first landing of the modified Packet Aircraft mentioned under the Chinese War in 1962 section above, making it a world-record for a medium-lift Aircraft landing at this altitude.

The Indian Air Force Logo/roundel:

The logo has evolved through four emblems over the years of its existence:

                                        Ensign of the Indian Air Force (IAF)

                                     The present Indian Air Force Roundel
The First roundel/logo served it from 1933-1942, the second logo was used from 1942 to 1945, the third logo was in use from 1947 to 1950 (patterned on the Ashoka Chakra) and the fourth and present logo has been used by the IAF since 1950.
                    The Indian Air Force Fin Flash

The Mission of the IAF:
“Defence of India and every part thereof including preparation for defence and all such acts as may be conducive in times of war to its prosecution and after its termination to effective demobilisation”.

Overview of the IAF Structure:
Today, the Indian Air Force has five operational Commands, each one headed by an AOC-in-C (Air Officer Commander-in-Chief) of the rank of Air Marshal. The IAF also, has two additional Commands – Training Command and Maintenance Command – to maintain a uniform standard in training and maintenance. Air Headquarters is located at New Delhi commanded by the Chief of Air Staff, which controls all administrative functions of the Indian Air Force and has overall control over the various Commands.

Indian Air Force Bases are categorised into the following types – Operational Units like Wings, Forward Base Support Units & Care and Maintenance Units, while, Non-Operations Units have Air Force Stations (like the one next to our residence in Pune), Base Repair Depots and others not categorised as Operational Units.

Squadrons and Helicopter Units The Indian Air Force has come a long way from the days of its inception in Karachi on 01.04.1933. A number of Squadrons, Flights and Units have been raised totalling over 225. With the exception of a few SA-2 Squadrons raised in the mid-sixties, all other Squadrons operate either fixed wing aircraft or helicopters. There are, in addition to the above Squadrons, several Missile Squadrons, Radar Units, Equipment Depots, and OrBATs etc.

There are several other training (DASI, AEB etc.) and operational establishments (Flying, Technical, Administrative and Medical etc).

The Indian Air Force also operates the “Integrated Space Cell” together with the two other branches of the Indian Armed Forces, as well as the civilian Department of Space (DOS) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to utilise India’s space-based assets for military purposes more effectively.

Names of some active Aircraft used by the Indian Air Force:

Some Fixed Wing Aircraft:
Sukhoi Su-30MKI (Air superiority fighter), Mikoyan MiG–29 (Air superiority fighter – but susceptible to several losses in peace-time crashes leading to upgrading its Air capabilities), Dassault Mirage 2000 (Multi-role combat aircraft – also under upgradation in the current decade), HAL Tejas (Multi role Aircraft), Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 (Fighter aircraft – upgraded “Bisons” to be phased out by 2025, MiG-21 FL has been phased out), Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-27 (Ground Attack aircraft to be phased out by 2017), SEPECAT Jaguar (Ground Attack aircraft), Beriev A-50 Phalcon (AEW&C), EMB-145 AEWCS (AEW&C), Gulfstream III (Reconnaissance), Ilyushin II-78 MKI (Tanker Aircraft), C-17 Globemaster (Strategic Airlift), Ilyushin II-76 Candid (Strategic Airlift), C-130J Super Hercules (Tactical Airlift), Antonov An-32 Cline (Tactical Airlift), Hawker Siddeley HS 748 (Airliner – Passenger), Boeing 737 (Airliner – Passenger), Dornier Do 228 (Utility transport), IAI Astra 1125 (VIP Transport), BAE Hawk (Advanced jet trainer), HAL HJT-16 Kiran (Jet Trainer), Pilatus PC-7 (Basic Trainer), HAL HPT-32 Deepak (Basic trainer).
Some Helicopters:
HAL Rudra (Attack Helicopter), HAL Light Combat Helicopter (Attack Helicopter), Mil Mi-35 Hind-E (Attack Helicopter – being replaced by Boeing AH-64 Apache Attack Helicopters), Mil Mi-8/Mi-17 (Transport Helicopter), Mil Mi-26 Halo (Transport helicopter), AgustaWestland  AW101 (Transport Helicopter), HAL Dhruv (Utility Helicopter), HAL Cheetah (Utility Helicopter), HAL Chetak (Utility Helicopter).

Indian Naval Air Arm:
Some Aircraft:
Mikoyan MiG-29K (Multirole combat aircraft), BAE sea Harrier (Fighter aircraft), BAE Hawk, (Trainer Aircraft), Boeing P-8 Poseidon (Maritime Patrol), Tupelev (Bomber), Ilyushin II-38 May (Maritime Patrol), Dornier Do 228 (Utility Aircraft), HAL HJT-16 Kiran (Trainer Aircraft), HAL HPT-32 Deepak (Trainer Aircraft).

Some Helicopters:
Kamov Ka-31 Helix-B (Airborne Early Warning), Westland Sea King (Anti-submarine, Search & Rescue, Utility Transport), Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King (Anti-submarine warfare Utility Helicopter), Kamov Ka-25 Hormone (Anti-submarine warfare), Kamov Ka-28 Helix-A (Anti-submarine warfare), Aerospatiale SA 316 Aloutte III (Utility Helicopter), HAL Dhruv (Utility helicopter).

Army Aviation Corps (India):
HAL Rudra (Attack Helicopter), HAL Light Combat Helicopter (Attack Helicopter), HAL Dhruv (Utility Helicopter), HAL Lancer (Light Attack Helicopter), HAL Chetak (Utility Helicopter), HAL Cheetah (Utility Helicopter), Mi-10V Hip (Transport Helicopter).

Aircraft used by the Indian Coast Guard:
HAL Dhruv (Utility Aircraft), HAL Chetak (Utility Helicopter), Dornier Do 228 (Maritime Surveillance Search and Rescue).

UAVs (Unmanned Air Vehicle)/UCAVs (Unmanned Combat air Vehicle) in use in the Indian Armed Forces:

IAI Harpy (UCAV – A small UCAV that homes in on enemy radar emissions destroying both itself and the enemy radar), IAI Harop (UCAV – acts similar to the IAI Harpy). Both Aircraft are used by the Indian Air Force.  IAI Heron (UAV – being used by the IAF and the Indian Navy), DRDO Lakshya (Target Drone – A small Drone in use by both the IAF and the Indian Navy), IAI Searcher (UAV – being used by the Indian Army).

Names of Aircraft used by the Indian Air Force (IAF) in the past:

Hawker Tempest, Hawker Hurricane, Supermarine Spitfire, de Havilland Vampire, Dassault Ouragan (Toofani – phased out in 1965), Dassault Mystere IV (phased out in 1973), Hawker Hunter (Trainer aircraft), Folland Gnat (built by HAL), HAL Ajeet (phased out in 1991), MiG-23 MF (phased out in 2007).

Ground Attack/Bombers:
Vultee Vengeance, Consolidated B-24J Liberator (phased out in 1967), HAL HF-24 Marut (Phased out in 1985), Sukhoi Su-7 Fitter-140, English Electric Canberra (Phased out in 2007), MiG-23BN (phased out in 2009).

Hawker Audax (Phased out in 1939), English Electric Canberra (Phased out in 2007), MiG-25 (phased out in 2006).

HAL HT-2, PZL TS-11 Iskra (Phased out by 2004), North American Harvard 4, de Havilland Tiger Moth, Percival Prentice, Fairchild PT-19.

Transport aircraft:
Douglas C-47 Dakota, de Havilland Devon, Ilyushin II-14, de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter, de Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribou, de Havilland Dragonfly, Fairchild C-119G Flying Boxcar, Lockheed Super Constellation, Tupolev Tu-124, Antonov An-12.

Sikorsky S-55 Whirlwind, Bell 47 G-2, Mil Mi-4.

General purpose:
Westland Wapiti, Westland Lysander.
Platinum Jubilee celebrations:
The 75thAnniversary of the Indian Air Force was celebrated on 08.10.2007. An Air Display by 75 Aircraft formed a part of the Indian Air Force investiture (formal installation or setting up) ceremony in Hindon and Ghaziabad. An impressive array of active IAF aircraft and men participated in the celebrations.

The flying display also included performances by a Streak Shadow microlite Aircraft, a para-motor and aero-models as well as a paradrop by 75 members of the Akash Ganga Team marking the 75th Platinum Jubilee year of the IAF. Three Mi-17 Helicopters carried the IAF ensign at the display. There was also the “Warrior Drill” team displaying Arm Drills. In Microlite Aircraft were the pilots who created a world record for flying around the World in 80 Days (akin to Jules Verne’s – Around the world in Eighty Days – An uncanny case of fact mixing with fiction). There was also drills/formations carried out by Mi-26, ALH, Cheetah, Mi-35 helicopters and Avro, An-32, Dornier, Il-78 refuelling tanker, Mirage, Jaguar, MiG Bison, MiG-23, MiG-29,Mirage-2000, Su-30 MKI, Su-30 Mki, etc and the renowned “Surya Kiran” (Sun’s Rays) team of nine aircraft (the team consists of 13 pilots operating 9 HAL HJT-16 Kiran Mk.2 trainer aircraft painted in a “day-glo orange and white colour scheme”, having the status of a Squadron based at Bidar) displaying breath-taking formations and “Sarang” (meaning “Peacock”) , the Helicopter display team of 4 IAF Helicopters (based in Coimbatore). A Searcher UAV stayed airborne throughout the entire celebrations.

Commemorating the high standards set by the Indian Air Force:

In 1972, a LP (Long Playing) Record was released by the Indian Air Force Band just after the 1971 War extolling the feats and valour of the IAF.

In 1982, a set of 12 Match Boxes in a special box were issued to commemorate the Golden Jubilee Celebrations (50th Anniversary of its Formation) of the IAF in 1982. The larger box had a brief history of the Indian Air Force mentioned on the reverse and on the 12 Match boxes there were profiles of 12 types of Aircraft flown by the Indian Air Force during its history.

In the same year, various other collectibles all of them novel in conception and execution were also issued, including a special “Liquor bottle” showing the Lion Capitol emblem of the Government of India, below which was represented the emblem/logo of the Indian Air Force. Around this depiction was a formation of IAF Aircraft flying a sortie.

Several First Day covers, stamps, special covers and brochures have been issued by the Indian Postal Services under their Philately Programme from time to time.

I have in my stamp collection a miniature sheet of the Brahmos Cruise missile. The sheet shows the battle-readiness of the IAF along with the other two Wings of the Indian Armed Forces.
In 2007, to commemorate the platinum Jubilee of the  setting up of the Indian Air Force, No.4 Squadron got a Commemorative Medal/coin minted in the USA on the lines of the “Challenge Coins” available in the USA. This “coin” featured the emblem of the Oorials one side and their motto “Maan par Jaan” (in Hindi/Urdu – meaning “Ready to pay the ultimate sacrifice to defend one’s honour”).

Commemorative Coins issued by the Reserve Bank of India/India Government Mints:
In 2007, to commemorate the 75th Year of formation of the Indian Air force, a Rupees 100 and Rupees 2 coin set was issued by the Kolkata Mint both in Proof as well as Uncirculated sets. The 2 (two) rupee coin was also released for general circulation.

The above is an image of the cover of the two coin album (Proof set) issued by the India Government Mint, Kolkata . The album cover mentions “75 Years – Indian Air force Platinum Jubilee 1932-2007”.

The Back of the above coin album showing several coins issued to commemorate the occasion in the denominations of Rs.100/- and Rs.2/-.

The Obverse of the two coins displayed in the Coin Album showing the denomination of the coins – Rs.100/- and Rs.2/-, along with the Asoka Capitol emblem of the Government of India, with the words “Satyameva Jayate” (Truth always Prevails” – a slogan coined by Mahamana Madan Mohan Malaviya, the founder of the Banaras Hindu University).

The Obverse of the Rs.100 coin issued on the occasion.

The Obverse of the Rs.two coin issued on the occasion.

The Reverse of the two coins, Rupees 100/- and Rupees 2/- both showing two Aircraft. The one on the bottom is the classic Wapiti Aircraft and the one on the top is the SU-30 MKI, signifying that the Air capabilities have grown significantly of the IAF,  since the early days of its creation.

The Reverse of the Rs.100/- coin displayed individually. On the left and right periphery is the inscription “INDIAN AIR FORCE” (in English) and “Bhartiya Vayu Sena” (in Hindi) respectively. On the top and bottom periphery are the words “Platinum Jubilee”, in Hindi and Engish respectively. The years 1932-2007 are mentioned below the Wapiti Aircraft engraving.

The Reverse of the Rs.2/- coin displayed individually showing the same inscriptions as the above coin.

Coin specifications:

Rupees One Hundred (Rs.100/-) coin:

Shape & outside Diameter: Circular, 44 mm; No. of serrations: 200;

Weight: 35 gms; Metal Composition: Quaternary Alloy: Silver- 50%, Copper- 40%, Nickel- 5%, Zinc- 5%.

Rupees Two (Rs.2/-) coin:

Shape & outside Diameter: Circular, 27mm; No. of serrations:Nil;

Weight: 5.62 gms; Metal Composition: Iron- 83%, Chromium- 17%.
 A Miniature sheet of stamps issued in 2007, celebrating the Platinum Jubilee of the Indian Air Force (1932-2007), showing  a Dhruv Helicopter (stamp of 500 Paise or Rs.5/-) , A Wapiti  aircraft (stamp of 500 Paise or Rs.5/-), an AWAC (stamp of 500 Paise or Rs.5/-) and an IL-78 (stamp of 1500 Paise or Rs.15/-)


 (The above coins are from the collection of Jayant Biswas. Coins scanned and Article researched and written by Rajeev Prasad).

1 comment:

  1. My view.. as against the 100 years of civil aviation, this coin design is poor and lacks detailing..