5 Best Fighter Jets to have served with Indian Air Force
Indian Air Force, since its inception, has used some 38 Fighter Aircrafts ( here ) ranging from Russia to British Fighter Aircrafts over the time relying on a mix of various Combat Platforms ranging from Multi-Role Combat Aircrafts, Deep Penetration Strike Aircraft, Light Combat Aircrafts to Tactical Interceptor Aircrafts to keep up the edge and the Combat Versatility of the force. In this post, I will discuss the 5 Best Jet Fighter Aircraft that have served the Indian Air Force after the Independence.
E. Sukhoi Su-7BMK “Fitter” Fighter-Bomber Jet Aircraft:
Su-7BMK first entered service with No.26 Squadron of Indian Air Force in March 1968 and went onto become an aircraft which was inducted in an unprecedented number in the Indian Air Force much to the surprise of Indian Air Force Officers also. Su-7BMK took up the mantle of strengthening the Strike Arm of Indian Air Force, complementing the Hawker Hunters in the role. Indian Air Force had raised some 6 Combat Squadrons of Su-7 in just 18 months and was employed for Strike Missions, Tactical Recon and Offensive Air Support.
Su-7 earned its benchmark during the 1971 Indo-Pak War where its sheer power, manoeuvrability and punch provided it with an edge over its adversaries by a huge margin. Su-7 flew over 1500 Combat Sorties during the war, conducting a variety of missions alongside its Soviet cousin: Mig-21. Su-7 played a big role in neutralizing the enemy armour at Poonch and Chhamb sectors where its 57mm rocket assault claimed 69 tanks, 25 field-guns and 57 “B” vehicles. Four Su-7 were lost to enemy action in the air while ten additional Su-7 were lost to ground attacks.
Even after the war, Su-7 set numerous benchmarks by winning “Arjuna” gunnery trophy and overall championship in 1978 and 1980, with 97% ground hits. Many Su-7 were lost to crashes due to heavy attrition rate but that didn’t diminish the legend of the Su-7 in Indian Air Force.
D. Mig-25R/U “Garuda” Supersonic Reconnaissance Fighter Aircraft:
Mig-25 had acquired a legendary status in Indian Air Force as perhaps the most secretive Fighter Aircraft to ever fly with an Indian Air Force Roundel. Mig-25 served only with two squadrons of Indian Air Force: No.102 Squadron “Trisonics” and No.35 Squadron “Rapiers” and fulfilled the Indian need for a Strategic Reconnaissance Aircraft after it was inducted on 17 August 1981. Mig-25 could reach a stupendous top speed of Mach 2.83 at an altitude of 65,000′ to 80,000 feet, thanks to its twin Tumansky R-15BD-300 engines which can put out 7500 kgf of dry thrust.
Only 42 Pilots of Indian Air Force were ever qualified to fly this magnificent machine, and they performed Reconnaissance and Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) Operations deep inside enemy airspace where they would fly with impunity at such a high altitude that would make them non-interceptable to any enemy Fighter Aircraft or Air Defense. IAF Mig-25 were equipped with SLAR (Side Looking Airborne Radar) and used to carry out somewhere between 10 to 25 sorties per month depending on their mission role. It is highly unlikely that IAF used Mig-25 in a Combat configuration with Missiles and Bombs ever. Mig-25 was finally phased out on 1st May 2006 with only six airframes preserved till date.
C. Folland Gnat/HAL Ajeet Light Fighter Aircraft:
Folland Gnat can be undoubtedly marked as the best dogfighter for Indian Air Force during the two Aerial Wars that it fought against Pakistan in 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak Wars. Indian Air Force inducted the Gnats on 18 March 1960 as it entered service with No.23 Squadron of Indian Air Force. Gnats were then constructed with Indian parts to increase the indigenization content in the light and nimble Fighter Aircraft.
India was the first country to utilize the Gnat in a Frontline Combat Role and Gnat remains the smallest and lightest aircraft ever in Cold-War era to go in a Combat Role. Gnat soon found its niche as a “Sabre Slayer” after it scored several Aerial victories in dogfights against Pakistani F-86 Sabres with IAF scoring most of the Aerial Kills using Gnats. In 1965 Squadron Leader Trevor Keelor, first shot down an F-86 using Gnat and this feat was later repeated by his brother Denzil Keelor. In 1971 War, Flight Lieutenant Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon piloting his Gnat single-handedly took on 6 Sabres, shooting down two and damaging one before he himself was shot down. For this gallant action, he received the Param Vir Chakra and remains the only Indian pilot to receive so.
Gnats had some serious problems with its Electronics and In-built Cannons, and therefore an Indian variant was developed taking the baseline Gnat Mk II model for the purpose. Changes made were a new Ferranti ISIS gunsight, new Martin Baker Ejection Seats, new weapons package and beefed-up landing gear. More than 300 Gnats/Ajeet served with Indian Air Force before the whole fleet, risking obsolescence, were retired in 1991.
B. Su-30MKI “Flanker-H” Air Superiority Fighter Aircraft:
Su-30MKI “Flanker-H” was inducted into the No.20 Squadron “Lightning” of Indian Air Force on 27 September 2002. These were the Indian-specific variants of the baseline Su-30K and the more advanced Su-30MK and were licensed variants of the Flanker Platform which would be manufactured in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Indian Air Force has currently some 250 Su-30MKI in active frontline service with 12 Squadrons of Indian Air Force.
Su-30MKI is the first of its type in service with Indian Air Force with its role fulfilling the need of a Heavy Weight Fighter (HWF) which can perform a wide variety of missions like Air Superiority, Fighter Escorts, Ground Attac, Naval Strike, Aerial Interdiction and with a single in-flight re-fuelling can go a distance of 8000 km. It’s top-notch design features which lend it super-manoeuvrability features allow it to be an excellent dogfighter in Within Visual Range Combat while it’s Self Defence Package and Weapon Delivery System allow it to be utilized in Multi-Role Missions with no close competitor in any adversary’s arsenal.
Su-30MKI has seen its first Combat Kill when it shot down a US-Made Helium Filled Balloon which was shot down by Su-30MKI in 2016. It next saw service against Pakistani F-16 when it dodged over several AIM-120C5 AMRAAMs fired at Maximum Engagement Range, thanks to its superior self-defence features. Su-30MKI again saw action when a PAF-operated Falco UAS was shot down by a SU-30MKI of No.31 “Lions” Squadron by its GsH-30mm Autocannon.
A. Mirage-2000H/TH “Vajra” Multirole Fighter Aircraft:
In the 1990s, when Pakistan was buying F-16A/B Fighter Jets, then India too realized the need for a Multirole Fighter Jet that can take on the F-16 head-on. This made the Indian Air Force evaluate Mig-23 and Mirage 2000, both of which were later inducted but it was the Mirage that would persist longer than the Mig. Mirage 2000 is a single-engine multirole Fighter Jet developed by the French Company Dassault and it was decided that 36 Mirage-2000 would be bought in the first batch. The first batch of Indian Pilots was sent to France for advanced training on a new type in 1984–85 which included Noel Moitra, Anil Chopra, KK Swaminathan, Ajit Bhavnani, Pudding Ahluwalia, SP Rajguru, Suzie Apte and Rajan Bhasin.
Mirage-2000 was first inducted into the No.7 Squadron of Indian Air Force aka “BattleAxes” and was the first of its kind in Indian Air Force. Mirage-2000 heavily relied on composite materials and was cleared for 9G and 270/s roll at subsonic and supersonic speeds. Mirage 2000 were later used to equip 1 Squadron “Tigers” and 9 Squadron “Wolfpack” as well. It was powered by a Snecma M53-P20 turbofan rated at 21,384 lbs. of maximum thrust and featured a Thomson-CSF RDM Multi-Mode Radar along with an Antilope terrain-following radar. For self-defence, Mirage 2000 were equipped with ICMS Mk.2 Automated Integrated Countermeasures System.
Indian Air Force love affair has been endless: Even though 41 Mirage-2000 are in service at present, Indian Air Force time and again demanded more Mirages be inducted to beef up its combat capability, a demand which was let down by successive governments. Mirage-2000 saw action for the first time during Kargil War, when it used Arcole and Paveway laser-guided penetration bombs to bomb Pakistani infiltrators and flying over 500 combat sorties during the war for air defence and strike escort missions.
Mirage-2000 upgrade was undertaken by HAL and Dassault along with other partners and it once again came into limelight after it participated in an Indian Air Force airstrike over terror camps at Balakot, inside Pakistani mainland. They were equipped with SPICE 2000 Precision Bombs and were able to destroy all the targets with 80% of the bombs landing on the designated target. Twelve Mirage 2000 were divided into the formation of 6 each which were equipped with HSLD 1000lb and SPICE 2000 PGMs. They took off from their bases in and around 2 AM from Gwalior and Adampur and were refuelled by Il-78MKI Mid-Air Refuelling Aircraft of Indian Air Force. They commenced the 21-minute attack where they launched 5 SPICE PGMs and then the HSLD Bombs to completely pulverize the target. Mirage 2000 (IN Variant) also took part in an aerial confrontation with Pakistan Air Force Strike Team the next day but did not took part in conflict but provided Combat Support to Mig-21.
Harsh B Mishra is a writer on DefenceUpdate, he also loves to write on Quora. You can follow him on Quora for more interesting knowledge on special forces