Amid reports of a decline in its combat fleet, the Indian Air Force marked its 74th anniversary on Sunday, with a thrilling display, featuring frontline jets like Mirages and Sukhoi-30s.
The Sarang helicopter team and Suryakiran aerobatic team performed scintillating formation manoeuvres that had the large turnout at the airbase on the edge of their seats.
Addressing the parade, Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi said the IAF had transformed from a small and tactical force into a strategic power to reckon with.
In an attempt to dispel reports about the dwindling strength of its combat squadrons, he said the IAF was on the threshold of a quantum leap with the upcoming purchase of advanced muti-role fighters, mid-air refuellers and airborne early warning and control systems.
"Apart from being the guardian of Indian airspace, the IAF also ensures the vital interests of a resurgent India, which extends well beyond its shores," Tyagi said.
The audience was taken through a white-knuckle ride as MI-17 helicopters swooped down from the clouds in a Vic formation before the spectacular show commenced.
The Su-30 jets flew low over the crowds while another climbed a steep 'vertical charlie' into the clouds.
The Yelahanka-based Sarang team, with its unique paint scheme, captivated dignitaries and the audience with a mid-air salute from team leader Wing Commander Shashank Mishra before embarking on a series of stunts.
The Suryakiran team put on its signature performance and enthralled spectators with different formations like Vic, Viggen and Tango.
But the high-point of their show was when the team tore through the sky to form sun-rays and a symbolic heart.
IAF Marshal Arjan Singh, Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash, Army chief General J J Singh and other dignitaries attended the function.
Tyagi honoured 37 personnel with the Vayu Sena Medal, including 20 for gallantry. Thirty-one Vishist Seva Medals and one Jeevan Raksha Padak were also distributed to mark the IAF staff's contribution in securing the borders and for their role in relief operations in the wake of disasters and natural calamities.