Fifty aircraft will take part in the 74th Republic Day celebrations at the Kartavya Path that will include aerial display by nine Rafale and the Navy’s IL-38 which will be showcased at the event for the first and perhaps the last time, a senior IAF official said.
IL-38 is a maritime reconnaissance aircraft of the Indian Navy that has served for nearly 42 years, he said. “It will be showcased during the Republic Day celebrations here for the first time and perhaps the last time. It will be among the 50 aircraft that will take part in the event,” the IAF official said.
These 50 aircraft will include four from the Army as well, he added.
At a press interaction, the Indian Air Force also unveiled a model of the IAF tableau that will be showcased during the January 26 parade.
The theme of the IAF tableau is “Indian Air Force: Power Beyond Boundaries” and will showcase some of the major assets of the IAF, including a few which have been recently inducted.
This will be the first Republic Day celebrations hosted at the ceremonial boulevard after Rajpath was renamed Kartavya Path last year.
Nine Rafale aircraft will also be part of the flypast during the celebrations, the IAF official said.
“Four Rafale will be part of the Netra formation and four others in Vajrang formation with a C-130 aircraft, an one will perform the ‘Vertical Charlie’ at the end of the flypast,” he added.
Asked what all will be showcased during the flypast for the first time, the IAF official said, besides the IL-38 naval aircraft, the formations like ‘Bheem’ and ‘Vajrang’ will be showcased over the Kartavya Path for the first time.
In the ‘Bheem’ formation, a C-17 aircraft will be flanked by two Su-30s. And, then in the ‘Vajrang’ formation, a C-130 aircraft will be flanked by four Rafale aircraft, he said.
“During the IAF Day, we had a similar formation, but the C-130 aircraft was flanked by Su-30s,” the official said.
Other aerial formations during the flypast will include ‘Dhawj’, ‘Rudra’, ‘Baaz’, ‘Prachand’, ‘Tiranga’, ‘Tangail’, ‘Garuda’, ‘Amrit’ and ‘Trishul’.
The IAF marching contingent of 144 air warriors will be led by Sqn Ldr Sindhu Reddy, 32, with three supernumerary officers — Flt Lt Ayush Agarwal (25), Flt Lt Tanuj Malik (26) and Flt Lt Pradhan Nikhil (24).
The marching tunes for the IAF contingent will be played by the Air Force Band continent consisting of 72 musicians and three drum majors, the IAF said.
The IAF band contingent will be led by Warrant Officer Ashok Kumar who has the distinction of leading the contingent for 16 years and has participated in Republic Day celebrations for the past 26 years, it said.
“It is a matter of great pride for me to represent the IAF band for so many years and this year on the Kartavya Path. Major attractions will be tunes like ‘Astronaut’, ‘Vijay Bharat’, and as usual we will play ‘Sound Barrier’ followed by ‘Ladaku’. During the Beating the Retreat ceremony, we will play old tunes also like ‘Sare Jahan Se Acha’,” he said.
Sqn Ldr Reddy and three supernumerary officers — Flt Lt Agarwal, Flt Lt Malik and Flt Lt Nikhil — who will accompany her as part of the IAF contingent are all excited as they will all take part in the Republic Day celebrations for the first time.
Reddy, a Bangalore native who got commissioned in the IAF in 2013, was beaming with pride at the prospect of leading the IAF continent.
“It is a matter of immense honour to lead our contingent on the Kartavya Path. The first thing I was taught, when I joined training, was that ‘you are a soldier’ and I feel the same flying an aircraft or doing any other job,” she told PTI.
She said that as a student, she was a cadet of the NCC’s IAF wing.
“And, it was my father’s dream for me that I have to march in the Republic Day parade on the Rajpath then. And, so, it is dream come true in that way,” the Sqn Ldr said.
Flt Lt Agarwal, who hails from Jaipur, said walking on Kartavya Path during rehearsals, “reminds us of our duties to the nation and the IAF” and that “we are part of the ‘fauj’ of this nation”.
“And, it is our duty to safeguard the borders of this nation,” he said.
All four IAF officers said they have to reach Kartavya Path at 4 am to do practice in biting cold, but the spirit keeps them warm.
“Temperature is low but ‘josh’ is high,” says Flt Lt Malik, who hails from Sonepat in Haryana.