(Last Updated on : 18/02/2015)
The Air Force Command is divided into Western, Eastern, Central, South Western, Southern Air Command, alongwith the Training and the Maintenance Commands.
Western Air Command
The origin of the Western Air Command can be traced back to the emerging years of independent India, when the various formations of the Air Force were organized into two groups. These were the No.1 Operational Group, which controlled all the flying units including the flying training units and the No.2 Training Group responsible for the entire range of training activities (except flying training) in the IAF.
On 22nd July 1949 the No 1 Operational Group was re-designated as the Operational Command. The Air Officer Commanding the Operational Command was then the rank of an Air Commodore. This was upgraded to the rank of Air Vice Marshal in 1958 and later to the rank of Air Marshal. The Command assumed its present name of Headquarters Western Air Command on 10th June 1963, mainly because of the formation of other operational commands and differentiation of specific areas of responsibility.
Headquarters Western Air Command, located New Delhi, has over 200 bases placed under its command and has been involved in all major operations in India since independence. Due to its geographical location the Command has always been the hub-center of all operational activities during any operation. Some of the major operations handled are Kashmir Operations 1947-48, Sino-Indian Conflict 1962, Indo-Pak War 1965, Indo-Pak War 1971, Operation Pawan 1986 (Sri Lanka) and Operation Safed Sagar 1999 (Kargil).
Eastern Air Command
With the rapid expansion of the Indian Air Force during the fifties, the command and control structure needed to be reorganized. This reorganization led to the formation of No.1 Operational Group at Calcutta on 27 May 1958. This group was responsible for the operations of the IAF in the eastern as well as the central sector of the country. The threat arising due to the Chinese occupation of Tibet necessitated the formation of a Command that could successfully manage the operations of the IAF in the eastern region of the country.
With this primary aim, the No.1 Operational Group was upgraded to Eastern Air Command on 01, Dec 1959 at Calcutta. During the Indo-China Conflict of 1962, practical understanding highlighted the difficulty of Kolkata being the location of Eastern Air Command. In order to have more effective operational control over the region of the northeast, the Command Headquarters was shifted to Shillong on 10 Jun 63. Originally, HQ Eastern Air command was housed in the old buildings located at Nonglyer village at upper Shillong. In 1980, a decision was taken to maintain Shillong as the permanent location of HQs Eastern AIR Command. Thus, Air Chief Marshal IH Latif, PVSM, the then Chief of the Air Staff laid the foundation stone of the present building.
Central Air Command
The areas of responsibility of this Operational Group were divided and two separate commands were formed. The Central Air Command was formed at Rani Kuthee, Calcutta in March 1962. However with the need to increase vigil along the Indo-Nepal and Indo-Tibetan borders, Calcutta was considered inappropriate location for the Central Air Command Headquarters and it was relocated at Allahabad in February 1966. The task assigned to this Command was to guard the North Central sector of India from Himachal border to Sikkim. The area assigned to command stretches from Bareilly/Agra in the North to Bihta/Darbhanga in the East from Indo-Nepal border in the North to Nagpur in the South.
South Western Air Command
Jai Shree Varte Veeram, meaning victory garlands the gallant, is a bye word to the soul and spirit of one of the most operational commands of the Indian Air Force, the South Western Air Command. Originally established as No.1 Operational Group at Jodhpur on 21 Sep 1972, it was afterward re-named as the South Western Air Command on 23 July 1980. The operational area was engraved out of the Western Air Command, including most of Rajasthan and the entire Gujarat.
South Western Air Command is dedicated to securing the purity of the Indian Skies and to ensure the integrity of airspace above the nation's land and sea territories within its area of responsibility. Since the beginning, South Western AIR Command, is one of the leading operational commands of the IAF, This AIR Command has interminably operated in peace and war and has never let down its guard. Indeed, an Air arm can never afford to reduce its pace of operational activities and eagerness, flying by day and night through all seasons. Indeed South Western Air Command lives by its motto 'Jai Shree Varte Veeram'.
Southern Air Command
Southern Air Command with its Headquarters at Trivandrum was established on 19 July 1984. It was formed due to the changed geopolitical situation around Southern peninsula since early eighties Super Power rivalry in Indian ocean, attempts to threaten the littoral states and continued racial problems in Sri Lanka forced the defence planners to look once again towards the Defence requirements of peninsular Indian order to successfully defend the Island territories and protect the exclusive economic zones extending deep into the oceans.
The need was felt to establish a full fledged Operational Air Command covering the geopolitical area of peninsular India extending to 18 deg N including the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal and Lakshadweep islands in the Arabian sea. Accordingly, Smt lndira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India inaugurated the Headquarters Southern Air Command at Trivandrum at "Belhaven Palace", an old palace of Maharaja of Travancore located in the heart of Thiruvananthapuram city. Initially, the Command exercised control over 5 resident units. In a short span of 15 years, the Command has grown and now has 17 resident units under its control.
The Indian Air Force was born on 08 Oct 1932, when the Indian Air Force Bill became an act. During the first six years of the existence of the IAF, it comprised of one squadron only. In Sep 1939, when World War II broke out the IAF had a strength of 16 officers and 144 Hawai Sepoys. The pilots were trained at Cranwell (UK) and technical staff was trained at the Aircraft Depot, Karachi. The technical training continued at the squadron under the supervision British non-commissioned officers. Specific training centers in India were not established. With the arrival of war and the knowledge of Japan towards the alliance powers, the latter was measured as a potential enemy. Therefore, the need was felt to make IAF a self-supporting force for the South Eastern Theatre of war. This led to the rapid expansion of the IAF. The target was fixed to have strength of 10 IAF Squadrons. With this expansion, the requirement of pilots and technical staff increased. For the training of technical workers, a technical training school was set up at Ambala in 1940.
In order to meet the expansion of the IAF, a target of 300 pilots and 3000 technical personnel was fixed. Later on as the demand for ground technicians and non-technical staff increased, the target was fixed at 2750 per month. To manage such a large training commitment, a Directorate of Training was formed in Air HQ. On the decision to expand the IAF, a Recruits Training Center (for discipline, drill, etc.) and a non-technical training center was formed at Lahore. No.1 Technical School at Ambala provided technical training. These training centers provided intensive training courses; intended to make the trainees fit to bear responsibilities as soon as they were posted to the Units after passing out.
Independence of India and formation of Pakistan, led to the division of assets of the IAF in undivided India. The training establishments were divided on the basis of the international boundary. Training establishments located within the dominion of India remained with India and those located in Pakistan went over to Pakistan. Since training was in progress at the time of partition, it was decided that until such time the current courses were completed joint training would continue.
On 15 Aug 1947, the Air Force Training Establishments located in India were:
Initial Training Wing, Coimbatore formed on 11 Jul 46.
Elementary Flying Training School, Jodhpur formed on Jul 42.
Advanced Flying Training School, Ambala formed on Jul 41.
No.1 Ground Training School, Jalahalli formed on Jul 47.
No.2 Ground Training School, Tamabaram formed on Feb 47
Maintenance Command was formed at Kanpur on 26 January 1955, with Air Vice Marshal Harjinder Singh MBE PVSM as its first Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief. Kanpur was core center of maintenance activities even before independence. The only Base Repair Depot (BRD) of the Indian Air Force existed at Kanpur, along with a Repair and Manufacturing Depot (RMD). A unit called Aircraft Manufacturing Depot (AMD) was subsequently added to undertake manufacture of AVRO aircraft. As Kanpur alone was not able to absorb the futuristic industrial activities. Nagpur was eventually selected as the new site for setting up Maintenance Command Headquarters.
Maintenance Command was set up to provide maintenance support to operating bases both by undertaking service and repair of aircraft, aero engines, ground equipments, radars and missiles and warehousing of stores required during peace and war. These works are undertaken by Base Repair Depots (BRDs), Equipment Depots (EDs) and Air Storage Parks (ASPs). These units have most modern and state of the art equipment to undertake repair and service of various weapon systems. The stores are also well preserved under controlled environment to accumulate most of the storage life. Highly skilled technicians and officers maintain these equipments. Maintenance Command, IAF undertakes activities related to procurement of various types of items from Civil Vendors.