The Indian Air Force is a 45 squadron force that is the 4th largest Air Force in the world. To keep pace with careers in the civil, the Air Force has also revamped some of its promotion policies to make the service more attractive.
a) The Air Force presently has abolished the rank of Pilot Officer (2nd Lieutenant) and after passing out from the Air Force academy or Technical college the officers are directly commissioned as Flying Officers (Lieutenants).
However Technical officers who are engineers are given ante-date in seniority of 2 years for pay and promotion compared to other officers ofthe IAF. The reason is to attract the best possible talent in the technical field.
b) Officers after serving as Flying officers for 3 years are promoted to Flight lieutenants. This is equivalent to Captain of the other services. However to become a substantive captain the officers must pass a departmental examination referred to as Promotion Examination 'B' This examination consists of papers in General Knowledge, Staff duties and Professional subject. An officer must secure 50% to pass this examination.
c) On completion of six hears of total service an officer of the IAF is granted the substantive rank of Squadron leader or Major. This is a far cry from the earlier promotion policy when an officer became a substantive Squadron Leader after 11 years of service. Ground duty officers were earlier promoted as Squadron Leaders after 13 years of service.
d) To go further up in the hierarchy all officers must pass promotion exam C. This again consists of papers on Current affairs, Air Power, Air Force Law and General Service training. An officer becomes a substantive wing commander or Lieutenant Colonel after 12 years of commissioned service.
Promotions up to the rank of Wing Commander are referred to as time scale promotions. But above this rank all promotions are based on seniority and merit. An officer of the flying Branch will become eligible for consideration to the rank of Group captain or Colonel after completing 16 years of service. Ground duty officers who are non flyers will be considered for Group Captain Rank
No 1 promotion board is convened once every year in the month of April/May. Eligible officers after due consideration depending upon their service qualifications and annual confidential reports will be considered for the rank of Group Captain. As a rule the last 10 years ACR's (Annual Confidential reports) are considered and an average worked out on a 9 point scale.
Officers who have added service qualifications like staff college, Qualified Flying Instructors Course, Long Defense Management course are given extra weight age. The board will clear a number of officers for promotion to the rank of Group Captain depending on the number of vacancies available.
Subsequent promotions to the rank of Air Commodore and Air Vice Marshal come under the purview of the No 2 Promotion board of which the Vice Chief is the presiding officer. The AOA is in attendance. The board will consider the last 10 years ACR's as well as service qualification like command of a wing or station. All recommendations of the promotion boards (1 and 2) are put for approval to the Ministry of Defense, which has the last say in all matters of promotion.
Normally all officers are considered for promotion for 3 promotion boards, and after that face the concurrent promotion board. 25% of all vacancies are reserved for concurrent list officers. Officers who are bypassed for promotion in all boards are given the time scale rank of Group Captain after 25 years of service.
Promotion to the rank of Air Marshal as well as the Chief Marshal is approved by the Defense Minister and the Air Chief's appointment by the Prime Minister himself. This is a political decision.