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Want a career with the Indian Air Force?
Navin Kumar
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May 19, 2008

Part I: All about careers in the Indian Navy
Part II: India's naval institutes and the courses on offer
Part III: Love the sea? Consider a career in the Coast Guard

The Indian Air Force is one of the jewels in the crown of India. With the latest, cutting edge technology and the cream of the IDF officers and soldiers, the Indian Air Force promises a life of adventure and learning.

The Air Force has the following branches:

1. Flying branch

This is the branch of the Air Force which actually flies the planes on operations and battles. It consists of pilots and takes in both men and women. If you join this branch you can become one of three kinds of pilot:

~ Fighter pilot

~ Helicopter pilot

~ Transport pilot

2. Ground duty

One of the main functions of this branch, in addition to control tower functions, is meteorological. Officers on ground duty are expected to keep pilots informed of weather conditions at all times.

3. Technical branch

This branch is concerned with the maintenance of aircrafts and Air Force equipment.

Other branches include Logistics, Accounts, Education, Administration, and Medical & Dental Branch.

Who can become an Air Force officer?

A person can become an officer in the Indian Air Force at one of four levels:

1. 10+2: (Direct entry) This level is for men only. All males who have completed their 12th standard may join the National Defence Academy and, once their training there is completed, enter the Air Force. Entry is through an exam conducted by the UPSC. For more details see previous articles on entry into the Army.

2. Graduate: Graduates can join any of the IAF's branches. Candidates who are shortlisted after selection undergo training at one of the IAF training institutes, after which they are commissioned and posted.

3. Engineer: An engineering student can join the technical branch of the IAF during his final or pre-final year through the University Entry Scheme.

4. Post-Graduate: A PG, depending on his degree, can join the IAF's Technical or Ground Duty branches. Favoured degrees include Aeronautical Engineering, Electronics etc.      

Women can join any branch of the IAF but are only eligible for a Short Service Commission (14 years). Also, women fighter pilots are not currently allowed in the IAF even though helicopter and transport pilots are.

Selection of candidates into the Air Force occurs through screening of applications followed by a test (either the Engineering Knowledge Test for Technical Branch or a Common Entrance Test for Non-Technical Branches). This is followed by an interview with an Air Force Selection Board which lasts 5 days (6 for Flying Branch candidates). Those candidates who pass this interview, which includes intelligence and psychological tests and group discussions, under a medical examination and those who are found suitable are selected on the basis of an All-India merit list.

The rank structure of the IAF, in descending order, is as follows:

A five-star ceremonial rank Marshall of the Air Force exists and has been held previously by Arjun Singh [Images].

The pay received by an officer of the Indian Air Force varies according to his rank and branch. The official approximations are:


Flying Branch

Technical Branch

Ground Duty Branches

Flight Lieutenant

Rs.3.11 lakh

Rs.2.75 lakh

Rs.2.45 lakh

Squadron Leader

Rs.3.97 lakh

Rs.3.43 lakh

Rs.3.13 lakh

Wing Commander

Rs.4.53 lakh

Rs.3.99 lakh

Rs.3.69 lakh

Group Captain

Rs.5.02 lakh

Rs.4.48 lakh

Rs.4.18 lakh

Air Commodore

Rs.5.30 lakh

Rs.4.97 lakh

Rs.4.67 lakh

All trainees are entitled to a monthly stipend of Rs 8,000 during their training period.

The figures are the officers' annual income, inclusive of various allowances and pay like rank pay, dearness allowances, kit maintenance etc.

There are many benefits available to officers of the IAF including fully furnished accommodation, Group Insurance Cover of Rs 20 lakh, concessional travel rates during leave, loans for purchase of things like houses, cars, computers etc, medical facilities, rations, membership to clubs and other recreational facilities, schools (and transport) for children, various courses (abroad and domestic) to facilitate learning and career growth and many retirement benefits like pension, medical facilities etc.


Selections into the Personnel Below Officer Ranks of the IAF are done by the Central Airman Selection Board which enrolls Airmen through All India Selection Tests and Recruitment Rallies. For AISTs, advertisements are placed in the Employment Times and candidates must send their applications to the given address. The eligible candidates will receive admit cards for the AIST conducted at the nearest Airman Selection Center (there are 15 in India). Dates for Recruitment Rallies are printed in national/local newspapers. Candidates are required to appear at the rally venue with the correct documents.

Depending on the decided profession, the candidates will be given a test, as well as a general Physical Fitness Test. Those who pass these two levels are given a medical examination following an interview with a team of Officers and Warrant Officers. Candidates who complete all these levels are enrolled into the IAF as per vacancies.

The qualifications required vary as per the group of trade. Group 'X' Airmen who wish to join the Technical Trades require a 10+2 with PCM or a Diploma in Engineering from a recognised institute. Those who wish to join Group 'X' Education Instructor Trade need a Graduation plus a B.Ed/Two years teaching experience. Those who wish to enter Group 'Y' Trades (police, defence etc) require a 10+2 or equivalent in Science, Arts or Commerce. Group 'Z' candidates (Musical Trade) should be able to read and write english and have elementary mathematical ability. They must be proficient in playing atleast one musical instrument.

The rank and pay structure of the Airmen across various trades is given below:


Group 'X'

Group 'Y'

Group 'Z'

Air Craftsman

Rs 3,675

Rs 3,250

Rs 3,050

Leading Air Craftsman

Rs 4,025-4,925

Rs 3,650-4,550

Rs 3,080-3,980


Rs 4,150-5,200

Rs 3,900-4,950

Rs 3,200-4,250


Rs 4,670-5,945

Rs 4,320-5,595

Rs 3,775-5,050

Junior Warrant Officer

Rs 5,770-8,290

Rs 5,620-8,140

Rs 5,200-7,450

Warrant Officer

Rs 6,750-9,700

Rs 6,600-9,320

Rs 6,180-8,650

Master Warrant Officer

Rs 7,400-10,200

Rs 6,750-9,550

Rs 6,600-9,400

In addition to these, airmen also receive various allowances like City Compensatory Allowance, Transport Allowance etc.

In addition to this airmen receive many benefits, such as accommodation, rations, medical facilities for self and dependents, Leave Travel Concession for self and family, loans for education, interest-free loans for house repair or marriage of sister/daughter, scholarships for children, various grants (natural calamities, wheelchair etc). There are many pensions including service, invalidity, disability, war injury etc, totaling 15 pensions in all. Airmen avail of Group Insurance schemes which cover disability and death.

Part I: All about careers in the Indian Navy
Part II: India's naval institutes and the courses on offer
Part III: Love the sea? Consider a career in the Coast Guard

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