The Dakota DC-3 transport aircraft had an exemplary service record for the IAF

From old, trusted warhorses like the Dakota and B-52 to the more modern machines like the Rafale and Tejas to aerobatic display teams pulling off stunning manoeuvres — the ongoing Aero India is as stellar as ever.

ET takes a look at the history and origin of these jets and finds out what makes them so impressive:

1. Dakota DC-3 — The Vintage

The aircraft that catches one’s attention at the aerial display is the vintage Douglas DC-3, rechristened as Parashurama. An Indian military aircraft, Dakota was at the forefront of operations from 1947 to 1971 and played a pivotal role in the 1947-48 India-Pakistan war.

The old workhorse was fully restored to its original glory in 2018 and it is now part of Bangalore’s Aero show. Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrasekhar got the aircraft from scrap in 2011 and restored it to flying condition in UK before gifting it to the IAF.

1944: It was inducted into IAF as the first major transport aircraft.

2. ​ALH (MK IV) Rudra — Lethal Weapon

The Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Rudra is the first real armed helicopter being produced indigenously in India. Post-Kargil war, there was a need for helicopters capable of delivering a lethal punch at the demanding altitudes and environs of the Siachen glacier.

The HAL rose to the challenge and manufactured ALH Rudra in record time. With its weapon system integrated feature, the machine is a modified version of ALH Dhruv. The helicopter was displayed for the first time at the 2013 Aero India show.

Aircraft Type: Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH)
Manufacturer: Hindustan Aeronautics Limited
Year of origin: 2013

3. ​LCA Tejas — The fighter

Able to climb fast and carry out different manoeuvres, the light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas performs stunts that are a must watch. The single-engine, lightweight, highly-agile and multi-role supersonic fighter is a realisation of India’s over 30-year-old dream for an indigenous model combat aircraft. The LCA Tejas is able to perform air-to-ground attacks, air-to-air refuelling and dispense weapons on the targets. Its ability to turn with a short radius makes it a formidable flying machine.


It is a major milestone for the LCA to get the final operational clearance. The aircraft could fly in many sorties and has demonstrated the precision with which it can deliver weapons. The aircraft performed air-to-ground attacks and air-to-air refuelling at IAF's Vayu Shakti air display at Pokhran in Rajasthan on February 16.

​IAF's Request

State-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd Chairman and Managing Director R. Madhavan said HAL had responded to the request for proposal (RFP) floated by the IAF for 83 LCA Mk-1.


The FOC involves addition of capabilities to the initial operational clearance (IOC) aircraft which are beyond visual range missile capabilities.

The regulator's document provides capabilities, features and technologies that FOC standard aircraft will have on induction into the IAF.


The FOC standard aircraft drawings have been handed over to HAL to start production after incorporating changes over the IOC. The regulator gave IOC to the combat aircraft in 2013 and inducted it into the IAF 45 Squadron in July 2016.


HAL plans to give 16 Tejas fighter aircraft by year-end.

Aircraft type: Multi-Role Light Fighter
Unit cost: Rs 162 crore
Designed and developed by Aeronautical Development Agency with HAL as the principal partner.
Final operational clearance: 2019

4. ​Rafale — The Disrupter

With daring feats, Rafale has been a cynosure of eyes at the Aero India show this year. While showcasing its power, the aircraft paid a mid-air tribute to IAF pilot Wing Commander Sahil Gandhi by flying slow. The twin-engine, multi-role aircraft is able to carry out short- and long range missions, including ground and sea attacks, aerial reconnaissance, high-accuracy strikes and nuclear strike deterrence.

Country of origin: France
Manufacturer: Dassault Aviation
India is expected to get first of the 36 Rafales by September this year

5. B 52 — The Bomberman

An aircraft that strikes one’s attention is the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, an American long-range, subsonic, jet powered strategic bomber. It is capable of carrying up to 32,000 kg of weapons and has a typical combat range of more than 14,080 km without aerial refuelling. A veteran of several wars including the Vietnam and Gulf wars, the aircraft is still in service, despite the presence of more advanced aircraft, thanks to its superior performance and relatively low operating costs.

Manufacturer: Boeing
Year of origin: 1952
It is expected to continue to serve even in 2050s

6. ​Sukhoi SU-30MKI — The Backbone

Among the most versatile aircraft, the Bangalore-made Russian jets can perform complex manoeuvres under pilot control. The IAF’s staple warhorse, the Sukhoi has been used by the IAF since 2002 and is expected to form its backbone for the years to come.

Aircraft type: Multi-role air superiority fighter
Country of origin: Russia
Year of origin: 2002
Unit cost: Rs 358 crore in 2014

​7. Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team (SKAT) — The Showmen

Conspicuous by its absence at the Aero Show, SKAT is an aerobatics (coined from aerial-acrobatics) demonstration team of 13 pilots who carry out complex, visually appealing manoeuvres with turns, loops, barrel rolls and inverted runs. After the team lost one of its star pilots in an accident during the rehearsals, three IAF aircraft — Tejas, Su-30 MKI and the Jaguar — flew a ‘missing man formation’. The formation is usually done at the funerals of pilots as a tribute.

Aircraft currently used: Hawk MK 132
Aircraft type: Advanced jet trainer (AJT)
Country of origin of aircraft: England
Year of team formation: 1996
Base: Bidar, Karnataka
No of aircraft: 9

8. ​Sarang Display Team — The Peacocks

A befitting complement to the Surya Kiran team, Sarang is IAF’s helicopter display team. Their displays are characterised by four striking, peacock themed choppers that perform a variety of manoeuvres, enhanced by the thick smoke trailing the choppers. Sarang’s moves get a lot of appreciation from the spectators.

Aircraft used: HAL Dhruv
Aircraft type: Utility helicopter
Base: Sulur Air Force Station, near Coimbatore
Year of team formation: 2003
Unit cost: Rs 40 crore