Air Force Day: The 'knights of the air' India couldn't do without

Today it's Air Force Day in India, so here's a look at 20 aircraft that have played a key role in various operations of the Indian Air Force.

MiG-21 Bison: The supersonic jet fighter aircraft, which has a maximum speed of 2230 km/hr, forms the backbone of the Indian Air Force.

MiG-21 Bison: The supersonic jet fighter aircraft, which is an upgraded version of MiG-21s - which once formed the backbone of the IAF - has a maximum speed of 2230 km/hr. The IAF has phased out most of its MiG-21s and keeps only 125 that have been upgraded to MiG-21 Bison standard. (Photo courtesy: Wikipedia) (Others)

Folland Gnats: The fighter air craft was initially imported by India from Britain and then manufactured in the country under license.

Folland Gnats: The fighter air craft was initially imported by India from Britain and then manufactured in the country under license. The light-weight jet-powered planes popularly came to be known as Sabre Slayers after they out-maneuvered Pakistan's F-86 Sabres in the 1965 and 1971 wars. (Photo courtesy: Wikipedia) (Others)

Sukhoi Su-30MKI: IAF's primary air superiority fighter is capable of carrying medium-range guided air to air missiles.

Sukhoi Su-30MKI: IAF's primary air superiority fighter is capable of carrying medium-range guided air-to-air missiles, and has a maximum speed of 2500 km/hr. It was was developed by Russia's Sukhoi and built under licence by India's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The first Su-30MKI was accepted into the IAF in 2002 while first indigenously assembled plane was operationalised in 2004. (Photo courtesy: Wikipedia) (Others)

Sukhoi/HAL FGFA: The fifth generation fighter two-seater aircraft is being jointly developed by India and Russia.

Sukhoi/HAL FGFA: The fifth generation fighter two-seater aircraft is being jointly developed by India and Russia and will perform stealth operations and have supercruise technology, advanced sensors, networking and combat aviation capabilities. (Photo courtesy: Wikipedia)
(Others)

HAL AMCA: India's fifth-generation fighter aircraft is being developed as an all weather multi-role fighter aircraft.

HAL AMCA: India's fifth-generation fighter aircraft is being developed as an all weather multi-role fighter aircraft. It will complement other fighter planes of the IAF including the Tejas, Su30MKI, Sukhoi/HAL FGFA and the Rafale jets. They are intended to replace the Sepecat Jaguar, MiG-23 and MiG-27. A Naval variant is also being designed by the HAL and the Aeronautical Development Agency. (Photo courtesy: Wikipedia)
(Others)

MiG-27: The aircraft, which is capable of flying at 1700 km/hr, forms IAF's primary ground attack force.

MIG-27: The aircraft, which is capable of flying at 1700 km/hr, forms IAF's primary ground attack force. It was originally developed by Russia for India and later manufactured in India by HAL. All non-upgraded aircrafts will be retired this year and the remaining ones by 2017-18 and will be replaced by Tejas. Over 85 MiG-27s are currently in operation. (AFP)

MiG-29: The fighter aircraft, which have a maximum speed of 2,445 km/hr, were extensively imported by India from Russia through the Eighties and the Nineties.

MiG-29: The fighter aircraft, which have a maximum speed of 2445 km/hr, were extensively imported by India through the 80's and 90's. They were used extensively as fighter escorts to the Mirage 2000 during the Kargil war. (AFP)

Tejas: India's first indigenously built multi-role light fighter plane has been designed for the Indian Air Force and Navy to replace the MiG-21s and MiG-27s.

Tejas: India's first indigenously built multi-role light fighter plane has been designed for the Indian Air Force and Navy to replace the MiG-21s and MiG-27s. Two aircraft were inducted into the first Tejas IAF unit, Flying Daggers, in July. The entire squadron will be introduced by 2018.
(AFP)

Jaguar: The single-seater strike aircraft of Anglo-French origin serves as the IAF's ground attack force.

Jaguar: The single-seater fighter jet of Anglo-French origin with a speed of up to 1350 km /hr, serves as the IAF's ground attack force. It is the only nuclear-capable aircraft in India's arsenal besides the Mirage 2000s. (AFP)

Rafale: India signed a deal to acquire 36 Rafale fighter jets for 7.9 billion Euros this month.

Rafale: India signed a deal to acquire 36 Rafale fighter jets for 7.9 billion Euros this month. Defence experts say the acquisition will provide a much-needed boost to India's air force. The French company Dassault, which is building the aircraft, has agreed under the terms of the deal to invest about 50 per cent of the value of the contract in India. The multi-role fighter aircraft, which has been successfully used in combat in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Iraq and Syria, has a maximum speed of 1,912 km/hr.
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The C-130J is a comprehensive update of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft.

C-130J: The C-130J is a comprehensive update of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft, and has been in service for more than 60 years. The aircraft is capable of performing paradrop, heavy drop, and casualty evacuation. It can also operate from short and semi-prepared surfaces. It is used for combined operations involving both the army and the air force. (AFP)

C-17: The US-built Boeing Globemaster III military transport aircraft commonly performs tactical and strategic airlift missions.

C-17: The US-built Boeing Globemaster III military transport aircraft commonly performs tactical and strategic airlift missions. It has the capacity to carry a payload of 40-70 tons up to a distance of 4200-9000 km in a single go. (AFP)

IL-76: The four engine heavy duty Russian origin military transport aircraft has a maximum speed of 850 km/hr.

IL-76: The four engine heavy duty Russian origin military transport aircraft has a maximum speed of 850 km/hr. It has the capacity to carry 225 paratroopers or 40 tonnes of freight and wheeled or tracked armoured vehicles. They are currently in the process of being replaced by C-17 Globemaster IIIs.
(AFP)

MI-24: The helicopter gunship, manufactured by Russia, was extensively imported by India in the 1980s.

MI-24: The helicopter gunship, popularly called the "AK-47 of assault helicopters" and manufactured by Russia, was extensively imported by India in the 1980s. Codenamed The Hind by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the chopper was deployed by the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka in 1987. India continues to use the multi-role aircraft which is armed with anti-tank missiles and also has a provision for carrying bombs and rockets. (AFP)

MI-35: It is mainly used as an assault helicopter by the IAF.

MI-35: It is mainly used as an assault helicopter by the IAF and is capable of carrying a squad of eight men and up to 1500 kgs of external ordnance including Scorpion anti-tank missiles. It has a maximum cruise speed of 310 km/hr. The IAF currently operates 2 squadrons of the aircraft.
(AFP)

MI-26: The IAF's heavy lift helicopter of Russian origin can also be used to transport troops or as a flying ambulance.

MI-26: The IAF's heavy lift helicopter of Russian origin can also be used to transport troops or as a flying ambulance. The IAF currently operates 3 Mi-26s which have a maximum speed of 295 km/hr. (AFP)

Cheetah: The light utility French origin helicopter is used for transport and search-and-rescue missions at high altitudes.

Cheetah: The light utility French origin helicopter, which is manufactured under license by the HAL, is used for transport and search-and-rescue missions at high altitudes. It has a maximum speed of 121 km/hr and can climb to 1 km in 4 minutes. (AFP)

Mirage-2000s were successfully used by India during the Kargil war in 1999.

Mirage-2000: The single-seater air defence and multi-role French combat planes, with a maximum speed of 2495 km/hr, are currently being upgraded and will be retired by 2030. They were successfully used by India during the Kargil war in 1999.
(AFP)

Canberra: The British first generation bomber was used during the Indo-Pak wars in 1965 and 1971 and during the UN operations in Congo from 1960-64.

Canberra: The British first-generation bomber was used during the Indo-Pak wars in 1965 and 1971 and during the UN operations in Congo from 1960-64. Canberra bombers were also used during the liberation of Goa from the Portuguese in 1961. (Getty)

Supermarine Spitfire: The legendary fighter planes were added to the entire Royal IAF during World War II

Supermarine Spitfire: The legendary fighter planes were added to the entire Royal IAF during World War II. By 1946, the entire fighter force had converted to Spitfires, which were also used during India's first war with Pakistan in 1947. (Getty)

Hawker Hurricane: The British single-seater monoplane fighter aircraft was inducted into the Indian air force (IAF) during World War II.

Hawker Hurricane: The British single-seater monoplane fighter aircraft was inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF) during World War II. Five Hurricane-equipped squadrons successfully fought against the Japanese in the offensive in Arakan, successfully disrupting the enemy's lines of communication and harassing their forces till the re-occupation of Rangoon. (Getty)