Evolution of Defence Forces in India

10 Aug 2023  Read 1356 Views

Hey Fellow Indians, On this proud occasion of Independence Day, as the tricolor unfurls and the echoes of patriotism resound, let’s celebrate this independence day with shared knowledge and wisdom through evolution and remarkable achievements of the cornerstones of our nation's security—the Indian Air Force, the Indian Navy, and the Indian Army.

In this blog, we’ll go through the evolution of our defence forces; from the echoes of Vedic chants to the roar of modern aircraft, from the sails of ancient maritime trade to the precision-guided operations of today, India's defence forces stand tall as our watchful protector, as The Heroes India deserves. Let’s get started.

The Indian Air Force emblem

The Indian Air Force (IAF), the air wing of the Indian Armed Forces, symbolises India’s aerial strength and excellence. The IAF plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety and sovereignty of India's airspace. Let’s dive into the history, operations, and remarkable achievements of the fourth-largest air force in the world.

History of the Indian Air Force

  • The IAF traces its origins back to October 8, 1932, when it was established as an auxiliary arm of Britain's Royal Air Force following the Indian Air Force Act of 1932. Its first squadron, comprising four Westland Wapiti aeroplanes, took flight on April 1, 1933, led by a British officer and supported by five Indian pilots.

  • During World War II, the IAF played a pivotal role in halting Japan's advance in Burma. Notably, Flight Lieutenant Arjan Singh's leadership during this period laid the foundation for his historic appointment as India's first and only Marshal of the Air Force.

Post-Independence Era:

  • As India gained independence and transitioned to a republic in 1950, the prefix "Royal" was removed from the air force's name. 

  • The President of India holds the rank of Supreme Commander of the IAF, while the operational command lies with the Chief of Air Staff, an Air Chief Marshal, and a four-star officer.

  • In a remarkable event, the President of India conferred the five-star rank of Marshal of the Air Force on Arjan Singh.


The IAF's motto, "Nabhah Sparsham Diptam," taken from the Bhagavad Gita, embodies its aspiration to "Touch the sky with glory." Since 1950, the IAF has been involved in several conflicts, including four wars with Pakistan. Its vital role in Operations Vijay, Meghdoot, Cactus, and Poomalai further demonstrates its commitment to national interest on international and humanitarian fronts.

Crucial Operations and Notable Achievements:

  • Operation Vijay (1961): The IAF played a pivotal role in annexing Goa from Portuguese rule, providing crucial support to ground forces.

  • 1965 Indo-Pak War: The IAF effectively engaged the enemy air force, preventing Pakistan from gaining air superiority.

  • Indigenous Advancements: Post the 1965 war, the IAF emphasized indigenous fighter aircraft manufacturing and established the Para Commandos regiment to enhance logistics and rescue operations capabilities.

  • 1971 Indo-Pak War: The IAF's crucial role and complete air superiority were instrumental in the success of the conflict, leading to the awarding of Param Vir Chakra to Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon.

  • Operation Meghdoot (1984): The IAF successfully airlifted troops to the Siachen Glacier, a milestone in challenging environments.

  • Operation Poomalai (1987): IAF supported airdrops during the Sri Lankan civil war, showcasing its humanitarian commitment.

  • Operation Safed Sagar (1999): In the Kargil conflict, the IAF employed airpower effectively for the first time in such challenging terrain.

  • Balakot Airstrike (2019): In response to the Pulwama attack, IAF carried out airstrikes on JeM camps, showcasing its precision and determination.

Air Force Day

Every year on October 8th, Air Force Day is celebrated to honour the establishment of the IAF. From its humble beginnings as an auxiliary force to becoming the fourth-largest air force globally, the Indian Air Force continues to inspire with its history, operations, and remarkable achievements, solidifying its position as a key defender of Indian airspace and national interests.

Key Facts on Indian Air Force

  • Subroto Mukherjee is known as the Father of the Indian Air Force.

  • Indian Airforce Founded: 8 October 1932

  • Chief of Staff: Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari 

The Indian Navy 

India's maritime heritage is enriched with historical and cultural connections. This legacy, dating back thousands of years, has witnessed the evolution of seafaring, trade, and naval prowess. From Rig Veda's references to naval expeditions to the establishment of a modern Indian Navy, the maritime journey of India is a fascinating tale of exploration, trade, and defence.

Ancient Maritime Glory:

  • The maritime roots of India trace back to around 2300 BCE, with the construction of the world's first tidal dock at Lothal, Gujarat. 

  • The Rig Veda, composed around 1700 BCE, acknowledges the ocean's importance in trade routes and navigation techniques. Mentions of "Plava" (side wings for ship stability) and "Matsya Yantra" (a navigation compass) reveal the advanced maritime knowledge of that era.

Early Empires 

  • During the 4th century BCE, the Mauryan Empire marked the beginning of organized naval activities in India. 

  • The Greek explorer Megasthenes described naval warfare administration during the Mauryan era, making it the world's earliest recorded instance of a navy.

  • Chandragupta Maurya's minister, Chanakya, detailed maritime governance in his "Arthashastra," emphasizing waterways and navigation.

British Naval Rule:

  • The British East India Company raised the Honourable East India Company's Marine in 1612, marking the beginning of British maritime presence. 

  • Through the Royal Indian Marine, the British took control of strategic ports, eventually forming the Royal Indian Navy (RIN) in 1934. During World War I, the RIN played significant roles in various theatres.

Post-Independence Era

The partition of India led to the division of the Royal Indian Navy into the Indian Navy and the Pakistan Navy. Rear Admiral JTS Hall became India's first Flag Officer Commanding Royal Indian Navy in 1947. In 1950, India's naval force was rechristened as the Indian Navy, embodying the nation's maritime sovereignty.

Indian Navy in Modern Times:

The Indian Navy played a vital role in conflicts like the India-Pakistan War of 1965, where it observed the Western Sector of operations and highlighted its readiness. During the 1971 war, the Indian Navy executed Operation Trident, showcasing its technological prowess by sinking enemy vessels.


Indian Navy Day and Motto: Shaṁ No Varunaḥ. 'May the Lord of Water be auspicious unto us' Navy Day in India is celebrated on 4 December every year to recognize the achievements and role of the Indian Navy to the country.

Key Facts on the Indian Navy

  • Chief of Naval Staff: Admiral R Hari Kumar;

  • Indian Navy Founded: 26 January 1950.

  • The Maratha Emperor, Chhatrapati Shivaji Bhosle of the 17th century, is considered as “Father of the Indian Navy”

The Indian Army

The history of the Indian Army is deeply intertwined with India's diverse past, marked by warfare, alliances, and transformations. From the Vedic period to the modern armed forces, India's military journey has experienced various phases, reflecting changes in governance, technology, and strategic imperatives.

Vedic Period and Early Military Structure:

  • During the Vedic period, Indo-Aryan tribes led by chieftains engaged in wars with each other and rival tribes. 

  • The Rigveda mentions horse-drawn chariots and bronze weapons used by warriors. The spoils of wars were often rewarded to tribal chiefs, and the warrior class, Kshatriyas, played a crucial role.

Indian Army and Mythological Significance

  • The Indian epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, highlight conflicts between emerging Mahajanapadas (great kingdoms) and detail military strategies, formations, and weaponry. 

  • The epics mention standing armies, chariots, war elephants, and even flying machines. The legendary Battle of Kurukshetra in the Mahabharata showcases the tactical complexity of ancient Indian warfare.

Medieval Era and Sultanate Period:

  • The Delhi Sultanate faced invasions by the Mongols, with military leaders like Zafar Khan repelling their advances. The era marked fierce battles and shifting allegiances. 

  • The Mughal Empire emerged after the sultanate, featuring notable battles like the Battle of Panipat and Chittor's conquest.

Rise of the British Indian Army:

  • The British Indian Army emerged after the Indian Rebellion of 1857, drawing from native communities and British officers. 

  • Sepoy regiments, cavalry, and sapper units were established. The British controlled the army, leading to the formation of separate barracks for Indian soldiers. British distrust resulted in native armies with limited access to weaponry.

Post-Independence Military Transformations:

The armed forces were restructured after India's independence in 1947, incorporating wartime troops and units. The partition of India and Pakistan further divided the forces. India's armed forces participated in wars against Pakistan and China, notably the Kargil War.

Modernization and Reforms:

  • The aftermath of the 1962 India-China War prompted the Indian government to increase defence expenditure and modernize the armed forces. Expanding the army's size, enhancing air force capabilities, and creating specialized mountain divisions became priorities.

  • K.V. Krishna Rao Report: The 1975 K.V. Krishna Rao Report ushered in significant changes in the armed forces. Modernization efforts led to the introduction of helicopters, advanced weaponry like the BOFORS Guns, and track vehicles such as BMP and T72 tanks. These changes aimed to make the Indian Army a modern, effective fighting force.

Indian Army Day and Motto

Indian Army Day, celebrated on January 15th each year, honours the dedicated members of the Indian Army. From the ancient Vedic warriors to the technologically advanced forces of today, the Indian Army's evolution is a testament to the nation's commitment to security, sovereignty, and safeguarding its people with the motto of Sevā Paramo Dharmaḥ "Service Before Self"

Key Facts on the Indian Army

  • Stringer Lawrence is known as the Father of the Indian Army.

  • Chief of Army Staff: Manoj Pande

  • Founded: 1 April 1895


As India celebrates its 76th Independence Day, the evolution of its defence forces stands as a testament to the nation's dedication to safeguarding its sovereignty, integrity, and values. From ancient seafaring to the establishment of a modern Navy, from the valiant air sorties of the past to the cutting-edge aerial capabilities of today, and from the warrior traditions of the Vedic period to the disciplined forces of the present, India's defence forces continue to stand tall as guardians of the nation's honour and security. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Who is considered the Father of the Indian Air Force?

: Subroto Mukherjee is known as the Father of the Indian Air Force.

2. Who is considered the Father of the Indian Navy?

: The Maratha Emperor, Chhatrapati Shivaji Bhosle of the 17th century, is considered the Father of the Indian Navy.

3. Who is considered the Father of the Indian Army?

: Stringer Lawrence is known as the Father of the Indian Army.

4. When was the Indian Air Force founded?

: The Indian Air Force was founded on 8th October 1932.

5. When was the Indian Navy founded?

: The Indian Navy was founded on 26 January 1950.

6. When was the Indian Army founded?

: The Indian Army's modern form was established on 1 April 1985.

7. What is the motto of the Indian Air Force?

: The motto of the Indian Air Force is "Nabhah Sparsham Diptam," meaning "Touch the sky with glory."

8. What is the motto of the Indian Navy?

: The motto of the Indian Navy is "Shaṁ No Varunaḥ," meaning "May the Lord of Water be auspicious unto us."

9. What is the motto of the Indian Army?

: The motto of the Indian Army is "Sevā Paramo Dharmaḥ," meaning "Service Before Self."

10. Who is the current Chief of Naval Staff?

: The current Chief of Naval Staff is Admiral R Hari Kumar.

11. Who is the current Chief of Army Staff?

: The current Chief of Army Staff is General Manoj Pande.

About the Author: Devansh Dixit | 32 Post(s)

Devansh is a 4th-year law student from Amity Law School Noida (Uttar Pradesh), currently interning at Finology Legal. He is specialising in business and commercial laws. 

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