The Indian Air Force because of its close association with the Royal Air Force, which was the mother of the IAF, mostly went in for British aircraft after independence. Thus the Hawker Hunter, Folland Gnat and Canberra became part of the IAF arsenal. Later however Krishna Menon the left leaning politician and defense Minister changed this policy in the late fifties and the Russian MIGs and SU’s enter service in the IAF.
Induction of the Canberra
The most important offensive aircraft incorporated in the Indian Air Force was the Canberra. This was an English manufactured plane and also came in
The Canberra saw service with the IAF, for over 5 decades and was put to varied uses. It was used against the Chinese in the 1962 for photo recce missions in Ladakh and sometimes it flew just 300’ feet above the Chinese, but the poor gunnery of the Chinese was apparent as they failed to hit a single aircraft.
Canberra in the 71 and 65 Wars
The Canberra was also used for a photo recce mission in 1959 over Pakistan, but a security leak resulted in a PAF, F86 Sabre Jet, waiting for it and it was shot down. That created considerable embarrassment for the IAF and the defense Minister Krishna Menon.
The Canberra was used extensively for interdiction and bombing raids in both the 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan. It was a success, though the PAF had a good Air defense network. The attack on Karachi where the oil installations burned for over a week was the highlight of its performance.
It was used for Photo recce mission right up to the Kargil war in 1999. In fact though hit by a stinger missile in the Kargil operation, the aircraft still returned to base on one engine. The aircraft had a low accident rate .However though the pilot could eject safely, the navigator had to crawl to a hatch open it and bale out. Thus there were many cases where the pilots did not eject, as they wished to save the navigator and thus crash landed their planes.
The Canberra’s were mostly operated from Pune, Agra and Gorakhpur during peace time. The machine was certainly a tribute to British engineering skill. Powered by a Rolls Royce engine and able to carry a 4 X 2000 lb bombs, the Canberra if handled with precision could strike a formidable blow in a conventional war. The Canberra is now phased out, the last having flown in 2007, but it will remain a part of the glorious history of the IAF.