Aircraft Fleet of the Indian Airforce

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Context: We come across various news articles about the certain aircraft being commissioned to or retired from the Indian Airforce. As there are different types of Aircraft within the Indian Airforce, it might be difficult to remember them all and not get confused. In this article, we have categorized the Indian Airforce aircraft fleet for a better understanding of their uses and features. 

Mains: Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.


  • The Indian Air Force was officially established on 8 October 1932. Its first ac flight came into being on 01 Apr 1933.
  • It possessed a strength of six RAF-trained officers and 19 Havai Sepoys (literally, air soldiers).
  • The aircraft inventory comprised of four Westland Wapiti IIA army co-operation biplanes at Drigh Road as the “A” Flight nucleus of the planned No.1 (Army Co-operation) Squadron.
  • Since 1950 the IAF has been involved in four wars with neighboring Pakistan and one with the People's Republic of China.
  • Other major operations undertaken by the IAF include Operation Vijay, Operation Meghdoot, Operation Cactus and Operation Poomalai.
  • The IAF's mission expands beyond engagement with hostile forces, with the IAF participating in United Nations peacekeeping missions.
  • The Indian Air Force has aircraft and equipment of Russian (erstwhile the Soviet Union), British, French, Israeli, US and Indian origins with Russian aircraft dominating its inventory.
    • HAL produces some of the Russian and British aircraft in India under license.
  • The exact number of aircraft in service with the Indian Air Force cannot be determined with precision from open sources.
    • Various reliable sources provided notably divergent estimates for a variety of high-visibility aircraft.
    • Flight International estimates there to be around 1,721 aircraft in service with the IAF, while the International Institute for Strategic Studies provides a similar estimate of 1,724 aircraft.
    • Both sources agree there are approximately 900 combat capable (fighter, attack, etc.) aircraft in the IAF.

Types of Aircraft commissioned in the Indian Airforce:

  1. Combat Aircraft: 
    • Combat aircraft are designed to destroy enemy equipment using their own aircraft ordnance
    • Variations exist between them, including fighter-bombers, such as the MiG-23 ground-attack aircraft and the Soviet Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmovik. 
    • Many combat aircraft today have a multirole ability.
    • Normally only applied to fixed-wing aircraft, this term signifies that the plane in question can be a fighter or a bomber, depending on what the mission calls for.
    • An example of a multirole design is the F-15E Strike Eagle, F/A-18 Hornet, F-35 Lightning II.
  2. AEWACS: 
    • An airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system is an airborne radar system designed to detect aircraft, ships and ground vehicles at long ranges and control and command the battlespace in an air engagement by directing fighter and attack aircraft strikes.
    • AEW&C units are also used to carry out surveillance, including over ground targets and frequently perform C2BM (command and control, battle management) functions similar to an Airport Traffic Controller given military command over other forces.
    • Used at a high altitude, the radars on the aircraft allow the operators to distinguish between friendly and hostile aircraft hundreds of miles away.
  3. Reconnaissance and surveillance:  
    • Reconnaissance aircraft are primarily used to gather intelligence. They are equipped with cameras and other sensors.
    • These aircraft may be specially designed or may be modified from a basic fighter or bomber type.
    • This role is increasingly being filled by satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
    • Surveillance and observation aircraft use radar and other sensors for battlefield surveillance, airspace surveillance, maritime patrol and artillery spotting.
    • They include modified civil aircraft designs, moored balloons, and UAVs.
  4. Electronic Warfare: 
    • An electronic warfare aircraft is a military aircraft equipped for electronic warfare (EW) – i.e. degrading the effectiveness of enemy radar and radio systems.
    • They have generally modified versions of other pre-existing aircraft.
    • A recent example would be the Boeing EA-18G Growler, which is a modified version of the Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet.
  5. Tanker:
    • Aerial refueling, also referred to as air refueling, in-flight refueling (IFR), air-to-air refueling (AAR), and tanking, is the process of transferring aviation fuel from one military aircraft (the tanker) to another (the receiver) during flight.
  6. Military transport:
    • Military transport (logistics) aircraft are primarily used to transport troops and war supplies.
    • Cargo can be attached to pallets, which are easily loaded, secured for flight, and quickly unloaded for delivery.
    • Cargo also may be discharged from flying aircraft on parachutes, eliminating the need for landing.
    • Also included in this category are aerial tankers; these planes can refuel other aircraft while in flight.
    • An example of a transport aircraft is the C-17 Globemaster III. 
  7. Trainer Aircraft:
    • A trainer is a class of aircraft designed specifically to facilitate flight training of pilots and aircrews.
    • These are dedicated trainer aircraft with additional safety features- such as tandem flight controls, forgiving flight characteristics, and a simplified cockpit arrangement.
    • This allows pilots-in-training to safely advance their real-time piloting, navigation and warfighting skills without the danger of overextending their abilities alone in a fully-featured aircraft.

The following list of active Indian Airforce aircraft is a list of military aircraft currently in service or on order with the Indian Air Force.

Aircraft Origin Type Features
Combat Aircraft


Russia (Soviet Union)

  • The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 is a supersonic jet fighter and interceptor aircraft.
  • Single engine, single seater multirole fighter/ground attack aircraft which forms the backbone of the IAF.
  • It has a max speed of 2230 km/hr (Mach 2.1).
  • The MiG-21 jet fighter was a continuation of Soviet jet fighters, starting with the subsonic MiG-15 and MiG-17, and the supersonic MiG-19.




Russia (Soviet Union) Multirole
  • Twin engine, single seater air superiority fighter aircraft capable of attaining max. speed of 2445 km per hour (Mach-2.3).
  • It has a combat ceiling of 17 km. 

Sukhoi Su-30

Russia Multirole
  • Twin seater twin-engine multirole fighter of Russian origin which carries One X 30mm GSH gun along with 8000 kg external armament.
  • It is capable of carrying a variety of medium-range guided air to air missiles with active or semi-active radar or Infrared homing close range missiles.
  • It has a max speed of 2500 km/hr (Mach 2.35).

HAL Tejas

India Multirole
  • India has long borrowed its fighter jets from countries like Russia, France, and Britain under a license agreement to manufacture it locally by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.
  • However, back in the 1980s, the HAL started the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) programme to replace the aging Soviet sourced MiG-21.
  • Tejas– the 1st indigenously built fighter aircraft was inducted in the Indian Air Force
  • The smallest, lightweight, multi-role, single-engine tactical fighter aircraft in the world, Tejas is developed as a single-seat fighter aircraft for the IAF and a two-seat training aircraft. 

Mirage 2000


France Multirole
  • Single-Seater air defense and multi-role fighter of French origin powered by a single-engine can attain a max speed of 2495 km/hr(Mach 2.3). 

Dassault Rafale

France Multirole
  • Twin-engine, canard delta wing, multirole fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation.
  • Equipped with a wide range of weapons, the Rafale is intended to perform air supremacy, interdiction, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike, and nuclear deterrence missions.
  • The Rafale is referred to as an “omnirole” aircraft by Dassault.


UK/France Ground attack
  •  A twin-engine, single-seater deep penetration strike aircraft of Anglo-French origin which has a max. speed of 1350 km /hr (Mach 1.3).


Brazil AEW&C
  • The EMB-145 SA is an AEW&C optimized for air traffic control applications.
  • It incorporates an advanced mission system that includes a surveillance radar, advanced navigation and communication systems including data-link facilities and increased fuel capacity.

Beriev A-50

Russia (Soviet Union) AEW&C
  • The Beriev A-50 is a Soviet airborne early warning and control aircraft based on the Ilyushin Il-76 transport.
  • It has a speed of 900 km/h and a range of 7,500 km.

Boeing 707

United States


  • The Boeing 707 is an American mid-sized, mid- to a long-range, narrow-body, four-engine jet airliner.
  • Versions of the aircraft have a capacity from 140 to 219 passengers and a range of 2,500 to 5,750 nautical miles (2,880 to 6,620 mi; 4,630 to 10,650 km).

Global 5000

United States Electronic signals intelligence (ELINT)
  • It is designed to be slightly smaller and faster than the Global Express, for those that value reliability and speed, without using the extensive range capabilities of the Express. 
  • It can fly eight passengers and three crew members 4,800 nautical miles nonstop at a speed of .85 Mach. 
  • It is impressive in its speed, cabin size, and reliability.

Gulfstream G100

Israel/US Surveillance
  • The Gulfstream 100 was designed to fly long distances at high speeds. 
  • It can easily complete nonstop trips from Seattle to New York or from Singapore to Tokyo and has a maximum cruise speed of .84 Mach.
  • It lives up to the standards of reliability and high performance in private jets that Galaxy Aerospace Corp and its owner, Israel Aircraft Industries, have come to be known for.

Pipistrel Virus

Slovenia Ultralight
  • The Pipistrel Virus is a light aircraft manufactured in Slovenia and sold as an ultralight, homebuilt kit, or light-sport aircraft.
Electronic Warfare

Gulfstream III

United States EW/ELINT
  • The Gulfstream III is a Large business Jet is manufactured by Gulfstream Aerospace has a maximum range of 4200 miles and a maximum speed of 576 mph.
  • The twin-turbofan aircraft provides the long-term capability for efficient testing of subsonic flight experiments for NASA, the U.S. Air Force, other government agencies, academia, and private industry. 

Ilyushin Il-78


Russia (Soviet Union) Aerial refueling
  • The Ilyushin Il-78 is a Soviet four-engined aerial refueling tanker based on the Il-76 strategic airlifter and has the Nato reporting name Midas.

Boeing 737

United States VIP transport
  • Twin-engine turbofan, VIP passenger aircraft of American origin with a total seating capacity of up to 60 passengers.
  • It has a max cruise speed of 943 km/hr.

Boeing C-17 Globemaster

United States Strategic airlifter
  • The aircraft is capable of carrying a payload of 40-70 tons up to a distance of 4200-9000 km in a single hop.

Ilyushin Il-76


Russia (Soviet Union) Strategic airlifter
  • A four-engine heavy duty/long haul military transport aircraft of Russian origin with a max speed of 850 km/hr.
  • It has a twin 23 mm cannon in tail turret and capacity to carry 225 paratroopers or 40 tonnes freight, wheeled or tracked armored vehicles.

C-130J Super Hercules


United States Tactical airlifter
  • The aircraft is capable of performing paradrop, heavy drop, casualty evacuation and can also operate from short and semi-prepared surfaces

Antonov An-32

Ukraine Transport
  • Twin-engine turboprop, medium tactical transport aircraft of Russian origin with a crew of five and capacity to carry 39 paratroopers or max load of 6.7 tonnes.
  • It has a max cruise speed of 530 km/hr.

Embraer Legacy 600

Brazil VIP Transport
  • The main role of the employment of this executive Jet Aircraft is to convey VVIPs/VIPs to destinations within India and abroad.
  • Air HQ Communication Squadron operates this aircraft and it has maintained a flawless incident/accident-free track record to date.


Dornier Do 228

Germany Transport
  • Twin-engine turboprop, multirole light transport aircraft, of German origin capable of carrying 19 passengers or 2057 kg freight.
  • It has a max speed of 428 km/hr.

Hawker Siddeley HS 748

The U.K. Transport
  • The Hawker Siddeley HS 748 is a medium-sized turboprop airliner originally designed and initially produced by the British aircraft manufacturer Avro. 

Mil Mi-17

Russia Utility It is known as the Mi-8M series in Russian service. It is a medium twin-turbine transport helicopter. There are also armed gunship versions.

CH-47 Chinook

United States Transport/Utility
  • The Boeing CH-47 Chinook is an American twin-engined, tandem-rotor, heavy-lift helicopter developed by American rotorcraft company Vertol and manufactured by Boeing Vertol.
  • The CH-47 is among the heaviest lifting Western helicopters.

Mil Mi-26

Russia Heavy Lift
  • Twin-engine turboshaft, a military heavy-lift helicopter

of Russian origin with carrying capacity of 70 combat-equipped troops or 20,000 kg payload. It has a max speed of 295 km/hr


Russia (Soviet Union) Attack
  • Twin-engine turboshaft, assault and anti-armor helicopter capable of carrying 8 men assault squad and up to 1500 Kg of external ordnance including Scorpion anti-tank missiles.
  • It has a max cruise speed of 310 km/hr.

HAL Dhruv

India Utility
  • The HAL Dhruv is a utility helicopter developed and manufactured by India's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
  • It has a carrying capacity of 12 passengers with a range of 630 km and a max speed of 250 km.

HAL Chetak

France/India Liaison/Utility
  • Single engine turboshaft, light utility French helicopter with a capacity of 6 passengers or 500 kg load.
  • It has a max speed of 220 km/hr.

HAL Cheetah

France/India Liaison
  • Single engine turboshaft, FAC/casevac helicopter of French origin having the capacity to carry 3 passengers or 100 kg external sling loads.
  • It has a max cruise speed of 121 km/hr and can climb to 1 km in 4 minutes.

Mil Mi-24

India Attack
  • The Mil Mi-24 is a large helicopter gunship, attack helicopter and low-capacity troop transport with room for eight passengers.

Apache AH-64E

United States Attack
  • The Boeing AH-64 Apache is an American twin-turboshaft attack helicopter with a tailwheel-type landing gear arrangement and a tandem cockpit for a crew of two.
  • It features a nose-mounted sensor suite for target acquisition and night vision systems.

HAL Rudra

India Attack
  • The HAL Rudra, also known as ALH-WSI, is an armed version of HAL Dhruv.
  • Rudra is equipped with Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) and Thermal Imaging Sights Interface, a 20 mm turret gun, 70 mm rocket pods, anti-tank guided missiles, and air-to-air missiles.
Trainer Aircraft
MiG-21 Russia (Soviet Union) Conversion trainer
SEPECAT Jaguar UK / France Conversion trainer
Mirage 2000 France Conversion trainer

BAE Hawk

United Kingdom Jet trainer
  • The BAE Systems Hawk is a British single-engine, jet-powered advanced trainer aircraft.

HAL Kiran

India Jet trainer
  • The HAL HJT-16 Kiran (“Ray of light”) is an Indian two-seat intermediate jet-powered trainer aircraft designed and manufactured by aircraft company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
  • The Kiran was developed at the beheld of the Indian Air Force (IAF), who sought a new intermediate trainer aircraft for its pilots.

Pilatus PC-7

Switzerland Basic trainer
  • The Pilatus PC-7 Turbo Trainer is a low-wing tandem-seat training aircraft designed and manufactured by Pilatus Aircraft of Switzerland.
  • The aircraft is capable of all basic training functions including aerobatics, instrument, tactical and night flying.


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