The IAF saw the light of the day on 8 October 1932 at Karachi. It started with one squadron of the West land Wapiti. This was a single engine fighter-bomber. The IAF saw actions in Burma against the Japanese and did carry out some bombing missions on Japanese lines. But mostly it was involved in close support missions.
During the war the IAF received Hurricanes and Spitfires, but they were not bombers. In 1946 the IAF got its first transport squadron with the induction of 10 Dakotas(C-47) aircraft. The Dak was a versatile plane, but again the IAF had no
Pakistan launched the 1947 Kashmir operation with a view to annex the state to Pakistan. In the fall of 1947 the raiders reached Srinagar airfield and it was not clear whether the tribal’s had over run the airfield. The Indian government having received the instrument of accession signed by the Maharajah Hari Singh ordered the Indian armed forces into the valley. One DC 3 with 28 troops of the Sikh regiment flew into Srinagar at a tie m when the rebels were nearing the airfield. The battle thus commenced as the Sikh regiment faced the tribal’s officered by regular Pakistan Army officers.
Use of the DC-3 in War Role
But the Air Force was handicapped as it did not have a bomber. But Air Commodore Mehar Singh opined that the Dakota be used as a bomber. Thus this versatile plane was loaded with bombs which were hand dropped over the enemy. The operations were not very successful and did not give the desired results, but it brought home to the IAF the need for a bomber.
After the end of the war the Indian government scouted around for a bomber for the IAF. The United States and the English were the only countries that had surplus bombers to sell. The British offered the Lancaster bomber, a four engine piston powered aircraft that had been successfully used in bombing raids over Germany. The Americans offered the B25of which they had many. But the cost was prohibitive and some other alternatives were examined.
Some senior Air Force realized that the British (Royal Air Force) had abandoned some 70 B-24 (liberator)machines at Chakeri near Kanpur. An examination of these machines which had been made unserviceable by RAF airmen revealed that he airmen had done a half hearted job as they were eager to go home to England. These bombers were part of the famous lend lease of Roosevelt and
The lend lease stipulated that it was the responsibility of the user nation to either return the machines or make them unfit to fly. However IAF engineers in collaboration with Hindustan aeronautics was after cannibalization able to get about 42 machines on-line. Two squadrons were equipped with this bomber.
The B-24 was a piston 4 engine plane. It had a bomb bay and a gunner and needed a crew of 3. The aircraft had a range of 3000 miles and thus could move deep into China as well as cover the entire Pakistan. The liberator had a cruising sped of 300mph and had long endurance. It was basically an American plane and very comfortable to pilot. The liberator was used in the Goa operations in 1961 and served as part of the IAF arsenal for over 20 years. After the induction of the Canberra the B-24 was used for sea surveillance role in the Arabian Sea.
The IAF replaced the squadrons equipped with the Liberator with the Canberra a jet medium bomber. This was an English built plane and though subsonic had a lot of electronic and NAV equipment. But its range was only 2000 miles and its bomb loads also much less. The Canberra could carry 4 bombs of 2000 lb each. The strategic option thus went out of the IAF hand. The Canberra gave good service for some 40 years, but it lacked the capability to strike China. The Indian government gravely neglected getting a long-range bomber as they always felt that China was a ‘friend’.
After the phasing out of the Canberra the IAF has no long or medium range bomber. The set of aircraft with the IAF are only the fighter bombers that are good for close support and cannot carry out interdiction or strategic bombing. This lacuna needs to be addressed as China has a missile complex and long-range bombers. Incidentally the Indian missile program is also capped at 3000 miles, which is again difficult to comprehend. Recently the Air Chief PV Nail recommended the lifting of this embargo. This is because the Indian leadership lacks the concept of a Global power.
Thus the sad conclusion is that IAF is not a global force and at best can operate only in a regional environment.