The Indian Air Force (IAF), one of the world's oldest, turned 75 on Monday with a pledge to attain greater heights through an ambitious modernisation drive that will see a quantum jump in its force levels and capabilities.
"Our vision is to achieve strategic reach, enabling our combat and support forces to deploy rapidly within the strategic boundaries that are in consonance with India's national interests," IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major said at a ceremonial parade at this sprawling air base on the capital's outskirts to mark the platinum jubilee.
"State of the art weaponry, communications systems, networking and technology enhancements are truly making the IAF a global force to reckon with," Major added.
In this context, he noted that the IAF of the future "will increasingly be called upon to ensure the inviolability of India's enhanced strategic borders" that now extend from the Straits of Hormuz to the Straits of Malacca and includes the Central Asian region.
The induction of the frontline Sukhoi Su-30MKI combat jets and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have already added to the IAF's war-fighting capabilities. Projects like the Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) and the Dhruv advanced light helicopter (ALH) are meant to spur indigenisation.
This apart, force multipliers like the Phalcon airborne warning and control system (AWACS), the IL-78 midair refuelling aircraft and Aerostat radars will also add to the IAF's force potency.
And, once the IAF begins receiving the first of the 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) that it has floated a global tender for, its capabilities will be greatly enhanced.
The highlight of the Air Force Day celebrations was a flying display featuring 75 aircraft to commemorate the platinum jubilee.
This was conducted in two parts and commenced with performances by a microlite aircraft, a para-motor and aero-models, followed by a paradrop by 75 members of the Akash Ganga Team.
Then, as the parade formed up, three Mi-17 helicopters carrying the IAF ensign flew past at low level. At the end of the parade, the Air Warrior Drill Team put on a dazzling display of weapons' drills.
The main part of the air display then commenced, with the microlite aircraft that recently created a world record for flying around the world in 80 days in the lead.
This was followed by a 'Big Rotor' formation of one Mi-26 helicopter, two advanced light helicopters and two Cheetah helicopters, a 'Chakra' formation comprising three Mi-35 helicopter gunships, and a 'Spectrum' formation comprising an Avro, two AN-32 and two Dornier aircraft.
A 'Mixedbag and Vulcan' formation comprising an IL-78 refuelling tanker with two Mirage aircraft then followed, with the Mirages pulling up steeply in front of the spectators.
Four aircraft formations of Jaguars, MiG-21s and MiG-23s then approached head-on, closely tailed by three aircraft formations of MiG-29s and Mirage-2000s, all of which performed split manoeuvres in front of the dais.
Thereafter, three Su-30MKI aircraft flew in Vic formation and performed the magnificent Trishul manoeuvre. After this, two Su-30MKI aircraft crossed each other at low level at high speed. One aircraft exited thereafter while the other demonstrated the jet's amazing manoeuvrability in an aerobatic display.
The grand finale was a scintillating display of formation aerobatics by the renowned Surya Kiran team of nine aircraft.