The Aero India is a spectacle like no other, held in Bengaluru in the State of Karnataka the biennial event is one of the most important Aerospace and Defence exhibitions in the world and has been the site of several important unveilings. The 2021 edition of the Aero India held like always at the Yelahanka Air Force Station in Bengaluru. This time however, the event was shorter and entry restricted due to the after effects of the pandemic, this had the effect of greatly reducing the number of participating countries and manufacturers, mainly in terms of aircraft presented.

The Indian Air Force however was keen on attempting to make this edition a success, and the relentless battering of the eardrums of the spectators went on for the three days with Aircraft of all shapes and sizes from the Air Forces arsenal took part in flypasts and aerobatic displays in the air. Keeping up the ante with their spectacular aerial displays that enthralled everyone present.

LIST OF FIXED WING AIRCRAFT

  • Dassault Rafale

One of the most talked about piece of military hardware in India, the French are to deliver 36 of these Air superiority fighters. 11 of them have been delivered already and the haste by which Dassault Aviation has delivered the aircraft is much appreciated by the Indian Air Force amid rising tensions with China. The Rafale is a 4.5 gen fighter aircraft developed to be capable of performing a wide variety of tasks, mainly air superiority, nuclear deterrence, aerial recon and close ground support. It can fly up to a height of 42,000 feet and can fly at a speed of Mach 1.8 or  2,223 km/h.

The Indian Rafales have been fitted with the most advanced AESA radar from Thales, these radar systems are capable of scanning and engaging multiple targets at once and especially beyond visual range combat. Armed with Meteor BVRAAM( Beyond Visual Range Air to Air Missile) and other state-of-the-art weaponry. The induction of the Rafale has been a big boost of the aging fleet of Indian jets especially due to the rising threat of the Pakistani and Chinese air-forces both of whom are bolstered.

The Rafales also did a flying demo with solo aircraft and a flypast with a trio of them.

  • Sukhoi 30 MKI

The backbone of the Indian Air Force fighter fleet, the Russian fighter is as good as jets go. India operates 272 of these Heavy, all-weather, flight jets. The Sukhois are made by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited right here in India, with the first few deliveries done directly from Russia. The aircraft is based on the Su-27 design but integrates features from the Sukhoi-35 (a further advancement), and the name MKI denotes the Indian version, Mark India if one may consider it that. The Sukhoi can fly at almost 55,000 feet, carry 8 tons of weaponry and has a range of around 3000 kilometers. The MKIs have been infused with Indian as well as Israeli avionics to integrate the Russian technology better, the aircraft have received several upgrades to the avionics.

Currently the only air based method of using the Hypersonic cruise missile, the Brahmos is by mounting it under the Sukhoi which due to its size and powerful engines is more than a potent platform to use the missile on. It is generally considered one of the finest fighter jets around the world, especially pitted against American and European counterparts due to its speed, supermaneuverability aided due to the 3-Dimensional thrust vectoring. The aircraft has taken part in various exercises around the world during its 15+ years of service and has been adjudged the superior aircraft in a majority of these.

  • Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29UPG

India was the first international customer to receive the Russian jets, and these have undergone massive overhaul and upgrade to now be known as the MiG-29 UPG. The aircraft escorted the French Mirage 2000 Deep-Strike aircraft during the Kargil war and has won several laurels for its actions. The UPG is the most advanced variant of the aircraft and features better engines, avionics, radar and weapons suite. To further bolster the sanctioned strength, the Indian Air Force has ordered a further 21 aircraft.

In Russia, the MiG along with the larger Sukhoi form a double layer of aerospace security, the MiG acting as a support aircraft for the Sukhoi, and in ideal conditions maintaining a ratio of 2 MiGs to a lone Sukhoi.

  • Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 Bison

The Falcon-Slayer has been serving in the IAF since 1964 and is the longest serving aircraft in many air-forces. The Mig-21 Bison is an upgraded version of the original aircraft, and due to its exceptional speed of 2300 km h it now serves as an interceptor rather than a full fledged fighter-jet. Despite being a very aging aircraft, it trumped an American made F-16 of the Pakistani Air Force but was shot down itself. It has been retired now in phases, and while once almost 1200 of them served, only a hundred or so remain, the aircraft has been plagued with mechanical and operational issues throughout its career.

  • Dassault Mirage 2000

The aircraft was purchased by India to counter the growing American jet fleet of Pakistan, it features an advanced avionics suite. The jet proved instrumental in the Kargil war, mainly because of its capability to hit ground targets with precision, a feat which the aircraft repeated in 2019 when the Mirage and Sukhois went deep into Pakistan airspace and destroyed several Terrorist launch pads. It remains even today one of deadliest fighters in the Indian fleet. It is one of the two aircraft in the IAF that have Nuclear strike capability.

  • SEPECAT Jaguar

The British-French aircraft is designed specifically for strike capability, on the ground, on moving targets and in our fleet they have been especially maintained to strike Seaborne targets. The aircraft has extensive operational history and has participated in several Peacetime military exercises especially in Reconnaissance. Along with the Mirage 2000 it is the other aircraft capable of Nuclear strike and is a very potent platform for quick deep strikes into enemy territory.

  • HAL LCA Tejas

The aircraft which has taken a very long time to come into operation is now growing its own fanbase, the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas is designed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. As the name suggests, it is a light aircraft and features a single engine. It has been developed to replace the fleet of MiG-21s. It is the lightest and smallest aircraft in its class, the IAF has passed the Tejas and inducted a whole squadron presently, with further orders for the advanced Mark 1A standard. A further development, the Tejas Mk2 is in the initial phase of its development.

A Naval variant has also been developed alongside, to act as the main Aircraft-carrier deck based fighter, however the future of this aircraft hangs in balance as the Indian Navy suggests that the experience gained due to the development of the Naval LCA is to be used for the TEDBF-Twin Engined Deck Based Fighter.

  • Boeing C-17 Globemaster III

The Very heavy lift transport aircraft is one of the most advanced in the world, the C-17 is the reason that Indian Army soldiers are able to receive rations and supplies in places like Leh and Thoise. The aircraft can lift about 77 tons of cargo, which includes Tanks, Trucks and Personnel. It is capable of airdropping all of these through its rear bay doors. With a minimal crew, it has a very short take-off and landing requirement which makes it ideal for use in inaccessible airfields.

  • Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules

The tactical transport aircraft from the United States is the backbone of the Special Operations of the military. It is powered by four Turbo Propellor engines from Rolls-Royce. The aircraft is specially suited for high-pressure situations as it is extremely agile even when carrying heavy loads, and due to the agility it offers is also the go-to aircraft for the Special Forces like the Para SF. in the high-altitude regions like the Himalayas and the North-East, the Hercules is instrumental for accessing remote areas.

  • Ilyushin IL-76

The aircraft which formed the transport backbone for the IAF, the Russian made aircraft is known as the Gajraj. This aircraft is actually operated in different variants by the IAF, the main one being a heavy-lift transport. The IL-78 is a mid-air refueling aircraft which can refuel all the fighter jets of the fleet and greatly increase their range and operability. The Beriev A50E/I is an AEW&CS-Airborne Early Warning and Control System, which uses an Isreali made Phalcon radar. Till the induction of the Globemaster, the Gajraj performed most of the duties of the heavy category.

  • Antonov An-32

The Russian made transport aircraft has since its induction formed the light transport utility fleet in the IAF. It is agile and has been upgraded to an advanced version with better engines and avionics to extend its life. India operates 104 of the An-32 with 53 of them being the advanced RE variant.

  • Embraer Legacy 600

This is one of the VIP transport aircraft of the IAF, and is mainly used by the Chief of Air Staff. The Brazilian made jet is a competitor of the Gulfstream and has a range of 6500 kilometers making it ideal for travel.

  • Netra- Embraer EMB-145 AEW&CS

The Airborne Early Warning aircraft is designed in Brazil but has been equipped on the radar front by DRDO. the development and maintenance of the aircraft rests on Embraer while the Radar and surveillance system is developed indigenously.

  • Dornier 228

The German made aircraft is also operated by the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard as it is preferred platform for utility and Maritime surveillance and security. It has varied uses and has easy serviceability.

  • Intermediate Jet Trainer/ HAL HJT-36 Sitara

The replacement for the HAL Kiran is made indigenously and has been equipped with an advanced avionics suite. The trainer aircraft is suited to use for new pilots because it will enable them to get a more hand-on-experience of a Jet aircraft that the Kiran lacks in. The IJT is agile and has heads-up-display, night time flying, cloud flying, formation flying capabilities.

  • Douglas Dakota DC-3

The aircraft is part of the Historical fleet, it was made in the United States and can very well be one of the most impactful aircraft in the history of Aeronautical engineering. The aircraft changed civilian transport even before World War II and was instrumental as a military transport plane. The aircraft can land on most surfaces including gravel, snow and grass and has a short take off span.

  • Hawk 132

The BAE systems Hawk is an advanced trainer aircraft, and is currently serving in the IAF. It actually forms the majority of the trainer fleet with 104 aircraft in the fleet, the British made jet has advanced avionics and flight capabilities making it the ideal platform for budding pilots to learn on before moving on to the operational aircraft. The Hawk is also the new aircraft used for the Aerobatic display team of the IAF, named Suryakiran.

  • HAL Kiran

The Kiran is a side-by-side seating trainer aircraft built by the HAL. This trainer served as the mainstay of the fleet, until the BAE Hawk which has been made in India by HAL under license and the HAL HJT-36 came into being.

  • Rockwell B-1 Lancer

The long-range Supersonic heavy bomber from the United States Airforce. It is part of the three pronged Strategic Bomber fleet along with the B-2 Spirit and the B-52 Stratofortress. The aircraft uses variable swept wing design, that makes it agile at low speeds and altitude while providing stability for high-altitude flying. The USAF B-1 Lancer made flypasts at the Aero India escorted by the LCA Tejas of the IAF.

Anagh Bhaskar

Anagh Bhaskar

I am a journalism grad who has always had a passion towards machines, especially cars and war machines, the sheer competitiveness of the industry which works with the same enthusiasm everyday without fail is what fascinates me. Favourie Car: Nissan GT-R R35 Quote: What you do in life echoes in eternity- Russell Crowe, Maximus, Gladiator

1 Response

  1. Gyanendra says:

    Excellent collection of combat aircrafts on display at the Aero India. The author has made assiduous efforts to cover the show amidst the pandemic which has hit all aspects of life. Congratulations

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