Setting the tone for the 74th anniversary celebrations of the Indian Air Force, Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi on Sunday parachuted down from 4,500 feet to a perfect landing eight minutes later at the Hindon airbase with the humongous crowd greeting his effort with a roar of applause.
The air show that followed whipped the crowd into frenzy as IAF's fighter aces performed breathtaking manoeuvres with precision and skill.
The Air Force Day parade involved 66 aircraft including Su-30 MKIs, Jaguars, Mirage 2000 fighters, MiG-29s, MiG-23s and MiG-21s.
The 'Suryakiran' aerobatic team of nine Kiran MK II aircraft and the Sarangs comprising four advanced light helicopters deserve a special mention for the finesse of their manoeuvres and daredevil stunts.
In the forgiving environment of simulated air combat, the IAF attempted to give the spectators a feel of some "real action."
MiG-29 air superiority fighters were scrambled from a 'forward air base' soon after radars picked up two 'hostile' Jaguars. Within seconds, the MiG-29s got above the Jaguars and swooped down for a copybook 'kill.'
In similar fashion, two Mi-35 gunships approached overhead at 100 metres for a combat air patrol to 'sanitise' the area for a 'search and rescue' demonstration.
Tailing the gunships were two Mi-17s, which displayed slithering and 'small team insertion and extraction' operations by air force commandos Garuds. The commandos then 'blew up' an oil pipeline in 'enemy territory.' IL-78 tankers refuelled airborne Jaguars, Sukhois and Mirage fighters.
The fighter aircraft flypast was led by five Jaguars in arrowhead formation followed by MiG-21s, Mig-23s, MiG-29s and Mirage fighters flying in identical configuration at 150 metres, notching 780 km per hour.
Three Sukhois with the call sign Hawkeye soon burst into view and before the crowds could put their hands together, the leading Su-30 MKI pulled up steeply and carried out a splendid 'Vertical Charlie.'
Among the most dazzling stunts performed by the Suryakirans were the "level cross", "bomb burst loop", "mirror run", "inverted vic", "barbwire cross" and the highly-popular "heart loop."
Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh, army chief General JJ Singh, Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash, Western Air Command chief Air Marshal AK Singh and a battery of retired Air Force chiefs were present.
Stating that the IAF was pursuing its vision of acquiring "strategic reach", air chief Tyagi said, "We are today a trans-oceanic force capable of protecting and projecting Indian interests." Tyagi awarded 19 Vayu Sena Medals for gallantry, 18 VSMs and 31 Vishist Seva Medals.