Indian Air Force Chief Birender Singh Dhanoa inspects a guard of honour during the Indian Air Force day parade at the Hindon air base, Monday, Oct. 8, 2018

HINDON: The Indian Air Force is "ever-prepared" to meet any contingency and the procurement of 36 Rafale jets and S-400 missile systems would enhance its operational capabilities, Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa said on Monday as the force celebrated its 86th anniversary.

In his address to IAF personnel at Hindon, the Chief of the Air Staff said the force needs to maintain a constant vigil in the aerospace safety area as "loss of aircraft in peacetime is not only expensive but also diminishes wartime capability".

The IAF has been grappling with incidents of accidents involving its frontline aircraft and military choppers in the last few years.

The Air Chief Marshal said efforts are being made to minimise accidents caused by human error by providing best possible training to the air crew and technicians operating current generation of fighter jets as well as "legacy aircraft" and weapons systems.

"The IAF is ever prepared to meet any contingency that challenges the defence of our country. In the year gone by, IAF has continued to grow from strength to strength and achieved a number of operational milestones," Dhanoa said in his address on Air Force Day here.

He said it is the duty of the Air Force personnel to remain combat worthy and maintain combat systems operational for any contingency at a short notice.

"Acquisition of 36 Rafale aircraft, S-400 missiles systems, Apache attack helicopters and Chinook heavy lift helicopters would further enhance our capabilities," he said.

The ongoing induction of state-of-the-art Tejas precision weapons is a part of the IAF's larger modernisation program, he noted.

India and Russia last week signed the multi-billion air missile defence system deal. The deal to buy Rafale jets was signed with France in 2016.

Dhanoa had last week termed the procurement of the 36 Rafale jets, the deal which is currently mired in controversy, and S-400 missile defence systems as the much needed "booster shots" to the Air Force.

Speaking on 'Gaganshakti', the IAF drill that saw a mobilisation of 1,4000 officers and 14,000 personnel, Dhanoa said it showcased the operational capability and readiness of the force.

During the exercise, more than 11,000 sorties were flown, including approximately 9,000 sorties by fighter aircraft, he said.

Elucidating on the role of Air Force in peacetime operations, he said during the Kerala floods this year, 23 aircraft and 25 helicopters of the IAF were pressed into the service.

The IAF also provided timely assistance in fighting forest fires in Theni (Tamil Nadu), Katra (Jammu and Kashmir), Pathankot (Punjab), Kasuli (Himachal Pradesh) and even urban fires in Delhi, he noted.

"In addition, airlifting relief material to Myanmar and Indonesia, fire fighting on an Indian Merchant Ship and CASEVAC of pilgrims stranded at Kailash Mansarovar and Amarnath Yatra were also carried out," Dhanoa said.

The IAF, he said, has been actively supporting the government's initiatives for growth of regional air connectivity under the 'UDAAN' scheme. Forty-five new routes have been cleared through military airspaces while 33 defence airfields have been opened for joint use to accommodate civilian flights, he added.

An impressive aerial acrobatic show by the IAF's frontline fighter jets and choppers were also on display at the Hindon airbase.

In the evening, Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa hosted an 'At Home' event at his official residence which was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Army Chief Gen. Bipin Rawat and Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba.

In a special gesture, the IAF chief also invited his drill trainers at the National Defence Academy to the 'At Home'.

The 86th anniversary of the IAF was also celebrated at various bases of the force across the country including at the air force stations at Tambaram, near Chennai and in Thanjavur.

Celebrations were also organised at air force station in Chandigarh and bases in nearby areas.