IAF motto — Nabhah Sparsham Diptam — is from Bhagvad Gita

By Niranjan Shah

My dear Snehi and Sohan:

Nabhah Sparsham Diptam! (Touch the Sky with Glory!) is the Motto of Indian Air Force. This Motto of Indian Air Force has been taken from eleventh chapter of the Bhagavad Gita (11:24), the Discourse given by Lord Krishna to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra during the Great War of Mahabhara-ta. The Lord is showing His Supreme Divine form to Arjuna and the great form of the Lord is reaching the sky with glory, evoking fear and loss of self-control in the mind of Arjuna. The Indian Air Force, similarly, aims to overwhelm the adversaries with application of aerospace power in defense of the nation. The complete Shloka is like this: nabhah-sparsham diptam aneka varnam, vyattananam diptavishalanethram drishtva hi thvam pravyathitantar atma, dhruthim na vindami saman cha vishnu  This means: “O Lord Vishnu, On seeing you touching the sky, shining in many color, with mouths wide open, with large fiery eyes, I am terrified at heart, and find no courage nor peace.”

Until January 26, 1950 Air Force of India was known as Royal Indian Air Force. In January 1950, India became a Republic within the British Commonwealth and the Indian Air Force dropped its “Royal” prefix. At this time, it possessed six fighter squad-rons of Spitfires, Vampires and Tempests, operating from Kanpur, Poona, Ambala and Palam, one B-24 bomber squadron, one C-47 Dakota transport squadron, one AOP flight, a communications squadron at Palam and a growing training organization. Training adhered closely to the pattern established by the RAF, most instructors having graduated from the CFS in the UK and in addition to No.1. Flying Training School at Hyderabad with Tiger Moths and Harvards and No. 2 FTS at Jodhpur with Prentices and Harvards. There were IAF colleges at Begumpet, Coimbatore and Jodhpur. License manufacture of the de Havilland Vampire had been initiated by HAL, which after building a batch from imported major assemblies, went on to manufacture a further 250. In addition, 60 Vampire T Mk. 55s were to be built of which 10 were assembled from imported kits. Nos.2, 3 and 8 Squadrons followed No.7 Squadron on the Vampire, but, extraordinarily, 1951 also saw the formation of the last piston-engined fighter combat unit when No. 14 Squadron was raised on the Spitfire Mk. XVIII. Vampire NF Mk. 54 two-seat night fighters were obtained in May 1953 to re-equip No. 10. Sqn. at Palam, thus endowing night-intercept capability upon the IAF for the first time. At this time, relations between India and Pakistan were again steadily deteriorating and the IAF, its combat strength virtually unchanged since partition in 1947, was scarcely ready for any full-scale conflict. Plans were accordingly framed for major expansion during the period 1953-57, and the government began to seek non-traditional and alternative sources of combat aircraft procurement.

On the eve of relinquishing command of the Indian Air Force, Air Marshal G. E. Gibbs in his Order of the Day said:  “On December 10, 1951, I took over command of the Indian Air Force and at midnight on March 31st the command will pass from me to Air Marshal Mukherjee. April 1, 1954, will be a great day for the IAF, when the first Indian C-in-C, an officer of such very fine qualities, takes over.”

Over the years, the IAF has grown from a tactical force to one with transoceanic reach. The strategic reach emerges from induction of Force Multi-pliers like Flight Refueling Aircraft (FRA), Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and credible strategic lift capabilities. There is emphasis on acquiring best of technology through acquisitions or upgradation, be it aircraft, systems, precision missiles or net centricity.

The IAF is also in the process of acquiring radars in various categories to meet the air defense requirements, accurate and advanced weapons, Network Centric Warfare systems, etc, to meet its assigned tasks. The Indian Air Force has seven commands, of which five are operational and two functional, at Allahabad,  Shillong,  New Delhi, Thiru-vananthapuram, Gandhi Nagar, Nagpur, and Bangalore, respectively.

— Grandpa’s blessing

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