Frontlist | Top 10 books on Indian Air Force one must read
“The sky is limitless and in this infinite sky, the Air Force is like the bird who is watching and protecting the country from above.”
Offense is the best defense. Military might of a country is its ability to strike deep inside the enemy territory, so it can protect what is it’s own and gain advantage in any conflict. The Indian Air Force, which was officially established on 8th October 1932 with the motto of touching the sky with glory, has always stood upright in giving us that leverage and protection. While we revere the people of the Indian Air Force, all of us must have a sound understanding of the power which is providing us this priceless service. Lets celebrate its 88th anniversary by spreading as much knowledge as possible.
A lot has been written about them over the years (though surely not enough). Here is a list of some books we recommend to peek inside the life and mission of the Air Force and the people behind it.
- THE FORGOTTEN FEW: The Indian Air Force’s Contribution in the 2nd World War (2019)
The Forgotten Few, a book by K.S Nair is the first contemporary attempt to produce a historical narrative of the nation’s contribution, specifically to the Air Force component of World War II, which was an important part of our journey to Independence and national identity. Close to three million Indians served in uniform during the War. This book brings to light some of the lost stories of Indian aviators who built the very foundations of human and physical infrastructure for what is now the world’s fourth largest air force. It benefits from several first-person interviews with some of the last Indian survivors of World War II, enabling a level of fidelity that is quite rare among Indian histories.
- EAGLES OVER BANGLADESH: The Indian Air Force in the 1971 Liberation war
Interested in History? Try ‘Eagles over Bangladesh’, by P.V.S Jagan Mohan and Samir Chopra. The birth of Bangladesh in December 1971 was among the most painful of any new nation. It had suffered a brutal genocide conducted by its former countrymen from West Pakistan, and also a war for liberation fought between the indigenous Mukti Bahini (Liberation Army) & the Indian Armed Forces on one side, and the West Pakistani Armed Forces on the other. Open war broke out on the Western and Eastern fronts in December 1971. The war ended quickly, with the West Pakistani Army surrendering in Dacca two weeks later. A significant factor in facilitating the Indian Army’s rapid progress to Dacca was the Indian Air Force (IAF) which proved itself to be a formidable fighting force. Eagles over Bangladesh: The Indian Air Force in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War recounts the IAF offensive over Bangladesh, commencing with the raids on Dacca on the first day of the war, and moving on to the final coup de grace delivered on the Governor’s House in Dacca. It aims to fill in the gaps regarding a military conflict that took place almost four decades ago.
- DEFENCE FROM THE SKIES: 80 Years of the Indian Air Force (2007)
Time and again, the air force has performed magnificently even against severe odds, and built up a professional reputation that is envied by leading air forces of the world. Air Forces are unique in the sense that they are the only national military institution exclusively devoted to military operations in the aerospace continuum. The Indian Air Force is no different. But their dominant role in modern warfare, the high costs of aerospace power, and a host of other factors demand closer attention to their role in modern defence and the protection of national interests. Air Forces don’t win wars by themselves; and no one in the Indian Air Force has ever claimed it. But no war can be won without them. This book by Air Commodore Jasjit Singh, gives us an insight into the significance of the Air Force in the Indian Army.
- Indian Air Force and me (2017)
This book written by Muniruddin Syed and published in 2017 is however different in the sense that it is written by a person holding a lower position and viewed from the bottom echelon of the organization. This book talks about the author’s love for the Indian Air force and narrates real life incidents associated with him which will take you on a ride of the life of an Air Force official. An important specification is that all the characters in this book are absolutely real, with their correct names and locations. However, in a couple of places, the names are changed to avoid controversy.
- ARJAN SINGH, DFC: Marshal of the Indian Air Force (2002)
In April 2002, Arjan Singh, one of the legends of the Indian Air Force, was honoured with the first five star rank of ‘Marshal of the Indian Air Force’. When he strode up to the dais to receive the Marshal’s baton from the President of India, it was the crowning glory of a brilliant career. From facing the Japanese during WWII, to leading the Indian Air Force during the war of 1965 – Arjan Singh and his men always ruled the skies. Then followed years of distinguished service as a diplomat and L.G. of Delhi. Written by Roopinder Singh and published in 2002, this is the inspiring story of a leader who transformed the Air Force into a professional fighting force.
- The Indian Air Force (1995)
This book written by George Kilpatrick Tanham and Marcy Agmon provides an overview of the Indian Air Force (IAF). This book reviews the birth and development of the independent IAF, analyzing its role in the series of conflicts that India has been engaged in since independence. It also discusses some of the doctrinal issues that these conflicts have illuminated. Finally, it analyzes the evolution of the IAF’s force structure and assesses the prospects for Indian air power. This book is worth reading as it gives a perspective of our Air Force from a foreigner’s eye.
- Aircraft of the Indian Air force (2011)
Would you like to know more about the magnificent flying machines of the Indian Air Force? This expertly put together book is a handy introduction to the aircrafts of the Indian Air Force that have been in service from 1950 to date. Each aircraft is accompanied by detailed sketches and information that ranges from country of origin and year of service to speed, range and armament. The book includes interesting facts like the involvement of Gnats in dog-fights and airborne kills during both the ’65 and ’71 wars. Share the passion of author Anil Menon who has been watching aeroplanes and sketching aircraft & ships since he was a young boy.
- Kargil : Untold stories from the war (2019)
Kargil takes you into the treacherous mountains where some of Indian Army’s bloodiest battles were fought. Interviewing war survivors and martyrs’ families, Rachna Bisht Rawat tells stories of extraordinary human courage, of not just men in uniform but also those who loved them the most. With its gritty stories of incomparable bravery, Kargil is a tribute to the 527 young braves who gave up their lives for us – and the many who were ready to do it too. It also gives an insight into the role played by the Indian Air Force in the war of Kargil.
- Indian Air Force :Glorious Past to Present (2011)
The primary objective of Indian Air Force (IAF) is to defend the nation and its air space in coordination with the Army, Navy and other security agencies. It also assists civil administration during natural calamities and internal disturbances. The book highlights the great transformation since independence from the first being its evolution from Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF) to the present day Indian Air Force having latest acquisitions, maintenance and monitoring systems. It also highlights the courage, valour, leadership and dedication of its personnel in various wars India faced with its neighbouring countries right from the Second World War. It describes the details of aircraft and helicopters used by IAF in various operations along with their photographs and salient features. The book is rich in information as it presents micro details of the recipients of gallantry awards `Param Vir Chakra (PVC) and `Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) with their photographs as well as sectors of event; the Chiefs of the Air Staff with photographs and important contributions made. The book provides all Indian recipients of Victoria Cross, all Honours and Awards along with the description of each medal and ribbon. It also presents the role of IAF during peacetime. The book is a valuable addition to the very limited literature on air power in India and would be useful to all those concerned with national security in one way or the other.
10.The India and Pakistan Air War (1965)
This book written by P.V.S Mohan Jagon and Samir Chopra is a good example of painstaking research by amateurs who are keenly interested in the subject since there is a serious dearth of credible histories of wars and military matters specifically of the Indian Air Force. There are, of course, many examples of “cover my ass” books by retired generals and the like but this book is different as it seeks to give an unbiased account of the events in the air war during the war of 1965.
Among many other things, we learn about the serious reverses suffered by IAF in the first few days of the war as well as the peculiar incidents such as the death of Gujarat’s CM Balwantrai Mehta.
This book is particularly useful as it counters the biased versions of various writers like John Fricker who listened to whatever the PAF told them.