India hasn’t been given a lot of credit as a military power. Given that Mahatma Ghandi is highly revered for his advocacy of non-violence, it seems ironic that India has quietly become a significant military power in Asia. This is evidenced best by the Indian Air Force. When it comes to air-power, India is hard to beat.
Part of what makes India a formidable airborne combatant is that it operates such a wide variety of aircraft. FlightGlobal.com notes that seven multi-role fighters are in service with the Indian Air Force and at least two other systems are on order. These aircraft range from the venerable MiG-21 Fishbed (which India has modified into an effective fighter) to the ultra-modern Sukhoi Su-30MKI Flanker and the indigenously designed Tejas (formerly known as the Light Combat Aircraft). The force totals over 800 fighters.
But there’s more to an air force than just fighters. India also sports a lot of transports, ranging from the relatively small An-32s to the powerful C-17 Globemasters — and these are just two of the six transport types in service. Additionally, India has a grand total of seven Il-78 Midas aerial refueling planes and two Airbus A330-based tankers on order.
Staffing such a force requires a talented crew, and you can’t have that without trainers. India has over 300 trainers, from British-designed Hawk 132s to India’s own HJT-16 Kiran. The country also has two-seat versions of the Jaguar and Mirage 2000 to help train pilots for the vast force of fighters.
The Indian Air Force also has a lot of helicopters. Many are Mi-8 or Mi-17 “Hip” transports, joined by home-built Dhruvs. A small force of Mi-24 Hinds are in service, and the country has ordered some of the latest AH-64 Apaches, but the bulk of the attack helicopters are from the country’s Light Combat Helicopter program.
In short, if a country wants to attack India, it’s got one heck of a fight coming.