Who is flying in this year’s Republic Day Airshow?

The Republic Day parade on the Rajpath in 2022 will see the “grandest and largest” flypast ever with a total of 75 aircraft to mark the Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav celebrations, an IAF official said on Monday, January 17.

The flypast will conclude with seven jaguar fighter aircraft flying in the “Amrit” formation to commemorate the 75 years of Independence.

“The flypast this year will be the grandest and largest with 75 aircraft from IAF, Army and Navy flying during the Republic Day parade. This is in line with the Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav celebrations.

The flypast will include Tangail formation which will have one Dakota and two Dornier flying in Vic formation. This is a tribute to the Tangail airdrop operations of the 1971 War. There will also be Meghna formation of 1 Chinook and four Mi-17s.”

Wing Commander Indranil Nandi, PRO, Indian Air Force

The flypast will begin with “Dhwaj” formation with four Mi-17 aircraft, followed by “Rudra” and “Rahat” formations with 4 and 5 Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH), respectively.

Among the other aircraft that will display their might at the parade are Rafale, Indian Navy’s MiG29K, P-8I surveillance aircraft and Jaguar fighter jets.

All air assets of the IAF, excluding single-engine assets like the Light Combat Aircraft and the MiG-21, will feature in the flypast, which will also commemorate the Golden Jubilee of India’s victory in the 1971 War with the Megha and Tangail formations.  

IAF’s Chinook Helicopters

While the Meghna formation will feature a Chinook CH-47 heavy-lift helicopter in the lead along with four Mi-171V helicopters in an Arrow shape, the Tangail formation will feature the vintage Dakota escorted by two Dornier-228 aircraft. Operations at Meghna and Tangail signify important landmarks in the 1971 War.  

‘Transformation for the Future’ will be the theme of the IAF Tableaux at the Parade. It will feature models of the MiG-21 and Gnat fighters which were the highlight of the use of airpower by India in the 1971 War.  

The tableaux will also feature the Light Combat Helicopter and its weapon, the Dhruvastra Anti-Tank Guided Missile. The Aslesha Mk 1 3D low-level radar which detects threats flying at low and medium altitudes is also a highlight of the display, as is the GSAT 7A satellite which is the backbone of the IAF’s network-centric capabilities.

Indian Air Force Band

The Rafale fighter and its weaponry, including the Scalp ground attack cruise missile and the Meteor and Mica air-to-air missile will also be displayed on the tableaux.  

A 96-member marching contingent at the Parade will be led by Squadron Leader Prashant Swaminathan while the 72-member IAF band will be led by Flight Lieutenant Roop Chander.  

India will celebrate its 73rd Republic Day on January 26 this year, honouring the historic date when the country completed its transition towards becoming an independent republic after the Constitution came into effect. As part of the celebrations, an annual Republic Day parade is held in Delhi’s Rajpath.

Meanwhile, a contingent of five Central Asian nations – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, who will be chief guests for Republic Day 2022 celebrations, has arrived in Delhi to participate in the event.

List of the aircraft participating in the flypast on Republic Day 2022.

Let’s understand about the Indian Air Force and Flypast

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is the air arm of the Indian Armed Forces. Its complement of personnel and aircraft assets ranks fourth amongst the air forces of the world. Its primary mission is to secure Indian airspace and to conduct aerial warfare during armed conflict. It was officially established on 8 October 1932 as an auxiliary air force of the British Empire which honoured India’s aviation service during World War II with the prefix Royal

After India gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1947, the name Royal Indian Air Force was kept and served in the name of Dominion of India. With the government’s transition to a Republic in 1950, the prefix Royal was removed.

The President of India holds the rank of Supreme Commander of the IAF. As of 1 July 2017, 1,39,576 personnel are in service with the Indian Air Force. The Chief of the Air Staff, an air chief marshal, is a four-star officer and is responsible for the bulk of operational command of the Air Force.

There is never more than one serving ACM at any given time in the IAF. The rank of Marshal of the Air Force has been conferred by the President of India on one occasion in history, to Arjan Singh. On 26 January 2002, Singh became the first and so far, the only five-star rank officer of the IAF.

A flypast is a ceremonial or honorific flight by a group of aircraft or a single aircraft. The term flypast is used in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. Since India is a Commonwealth nation, we use the term Flypast. In the United States, the terms flyover and flyby are used.

In many countries including India, flypasts, normally performed by the precision aerobatic team of a country’s air force, are an integral part of Republic Day or National Day celebrations.

In October 2006, the Indian Air Force celebrated its Platinum Jubilee with a flypast of around 78 aircraft, including the Sukhoi 30 MKI, the Mirage 2000, and MiG-25 attack aircraft.

Flypasts are often tied in with Royal or state events, anniversaries, celebrations – and occasionally funerary or memorial occasions. Sometimes flypasts occur in special situations, to honour someone or to celebrate certain types of aircraft.

They have affinities with parades, of which they form the aerial component. Often they occur in purely display contexts at airshows, but it is the flypasts linked with civic, ceremonial and national pride, that imprint themselves on a nation’s memory. Some flypasts have been described in broadcast and print media as “historic”.

Let’s have a look at some major aircraft of IAF

  • Dassault Rafale – It the latest addition to India’s aircraft arsenal; India has signed a deal for 36 Dassault Rafale multirole fighter aircraft. As of October 2021, 29 Rafale fighters are in service with the Indian Air Force.
IAF’s Dassault Rafale
  • Sukhoi Su-30MKI – It is the IAF’s primary air superiority fighter, with additional air-to-ground (strike) mission capability, is the Sukhoi Su-30MKI. 272 Su-30MKIs have been in service as of January 2020 with 12 more on order with HAL.
File:Sukhoi Su-30MKI-3 'SB 167' (20443086186).jpg - Wikimedia Commons
IAF’s Sukhoi Su-30MKI
  • Mikoyan MiG-29 – The MiG-29, known as Baaz, is a dedicated air superiority fighter, constituting the IAF’s second line of defence after the Su-30MKI. There are 69 MiG-29s in service, all of which have been recently upgraded to the MiG-29UPG standard, after the decision was made in 2016 to upgrade the remaining 21 MiG-29s to the UPG standard.
File:KB715 Mikoyan Mig-29 Indian Air Force (8414613874).jpg - Wikimedia  Commons
IAF’s Mikoyan MiG-29
  • Dassault Mirage 2000 – The Mirage 2000, known as Vajra in Indian service. The IAF currently operates 49 Mirage 2000Hs and 8 Mirage 2000 TH all of which are currently being upgraded to the Mirage 2000-5 MK2 standard with Indian specific modifications and 2 Mirage 2000-5 MK2 are in service as of March 2015. The IAF’s Mirage 2000 are scheduled to be phased out by 2030.
Dassault Mirage 2000
  • HAL Tejas – IAF MiG-21s are to be replaced by domestically built HAL Tejas. The first Tejas IAF unit, No. 45 Squadron IAF Flying Daggers, was formed on 1 July 2016, followed by No. 18 Squadron IAF “Flying Bullets” on 27 May 2020. Initially stationed at Bangalore, the first squadron was then to be transferred to its home base in Sulur, Tamil Nadu. In February 2021, the Indian Air Force ordered 83 Tejas, including 40 Mark 1, 73 single-seat Mark 1As and 10 two-seat Mark 1 trainers. Total 123 ordered.
HAL Tejas - Wikipedia
IAF’s HAL Tejas
  • SEPECAT Jaguar – The Jaguar, known as the Shamsher, serves as the IAF’s primary ground attack force. The IAF currently operates 139 Jaguars. The first batch of DARIN-1 Jaguars are now going through a DARIN-3 upgrade being equipped with EL/M-2052 AESA radars, and an improved jamming suite plus new avionics. These aircraft are scheduled to be phased out by 2030.
SEPECAT Jaguar - Wikipedia
  • Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 – The MiG-21 serves as an interceptor aircraft in the IAF, which phased out most of its MiG-21s and planned to keep only the 125 aircraft upgraded to the MiG-21 Bison standard. The phase-out date for these interceptors has been postponed several times. Initially set for 2014–2017, it was later postponed to 2019. Current phase-out is scheduled for 2021–2022.
IAF’s MiG-21

History behind the ‘Nicknames’ of Aircraft

For nearly five decades, till the early 1990’s the IAF bestowed almost all its imported combat and transport aircraft and helicopters and indigenously developed platforms, with catchy and robust local appellations that were shortlisted by a senior officers committee at Air Headquarters in New Delhi, and finally approved by the air chief.

Expectedly, this committee delved into India’s rich animal world, mythology and history, before deciding on appealing names which, in many instances also depicted the designated platforms’ capabilities.

Thereafter, the practice of nicknaming platforms gained currency. The French Alouette III light utility helicopter that was inducted into service in the early 1960s was christened Chetak whilst the Aerospatiale SA-315B rotorcraft that followed over a decade later became Cheetah.

A more advanced version of the former rotorcraft, developed much later by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, was called Cheetal, while the indigenously designed Advanced Light Helicopter was called Dhruv, or constant, in Sanskrit.

Parallel to this, India’s first indigenously designed fighter-bomber in 1961, the HF (Hindustan Fighter)-24 was nicknamed Marut or Spirit of the Tempest, while the licence-built derivative of the British Folland Gnat light attack fighter and trainer, that joined IAF service in 1977, was called Ajeet.

IAF’s Tejas

Over two decades later, the locally designed Light Combat Aircraft was baptised as Tejas, meaning brilliantly lustrous. Fortunately, that’s a name that’s in popular use in and out of the IAF.

Soviet fighters began joining the IAF in 1964, with MiG-21M variants being commissioned into service as Trishul (trident), while the more advanced MiG-21 BIS was christened Vikram (valorous). The subsequent MiG-23BN strike fighter and its MiG-23MF air defence variant, inducted during the IAF’s ‘golden era’ of inductions in the early 1980s, were named Vijay (victory) and Rakshak (protector) respectively.

Moreover, the IAF’s classified MiG-25 reconnaissance platform was christened Garuda, after the mythological bird-like creature whose purported activities were as mysterious and enigmatic as those of the aircraft.

Indian Air Force Ilyushin IL-76 – Gajraj

Later IAF additions, like the ground attack Jaguars were baptised Shamsher (Sword of Justice), the MiG-29 as Baaz (Eagle) and the French Mirage-2000Hs, also made by Dassault, was called Vajra, meaning thunderbolt of the gods, a name the fighter has lived up to in many recent missions.

The IAF’s Russian Ilyushin IL-76 transport aircraft was befittingly called Gajraj, whilst the smaller Antonov An-32s were dubbed the Sutlej. Rotorcraft like the medium-lift Russian Mil Mi-8 helicopter was named Rana, and its subsequent upgraded version was the Mil Mi-17 Pratap, subtly combined the names of the 16th-century legendary Rajput warrior Maharana Pratap on two platforms.

The Mil Mi-25/35 attack helicopter was cheekily nicknamed Akbar, after the Mughal potentate who defeated the Mewar Maharana at Haldighati in 1568.