IAF transport

Know Your Air Force: IAF Transport Aircraft Squadrons

-Kunal Varshney

Indian Air force currently operates 6 types of transport aircrafts, from heavy to light weight transport aircrafts including strategic airlifters and freighters. These aircrafts are divided between 14 squadrons.  Let’s understand the aircraft and the squadron strength

Various IAF transport aircrafts

C-17 GlobeMaster III

C-17 Globemaster III is a heavy weight transport aircraft. Mcdonnell Douglas is the manufacturer. The aircraft is capable of carrying 77 tons of cargo or 134 troops in one go. Therefore it is the only aircraft in IAF capable of airlifting Arjun MBTs. It is the work horse of IAF. Hence this aircraft forms the backbone of IAF logistics support. IAF originally procured 10 aircrafts with option for 6 more. But due to the indecisiveness of GOI, the deal for additional 6 units remained stagnant. As a result the production line eventually shut down. Due to this we were able to procure only last example made out of its production plant, taking the total number to 11.

IAF operates 1 squadron of C-17:

(i) Squadron no.81 Sky Lords – based at Hindon Air Force Station

IL-76 MD

The aircraft designed by Ilyushin under than Soviet Union is operated in good numbers by Indian Air Force. The aircraft comes in many variants like transport, AWACS and mid air refuelers. Indian Air Force operates all 3 variants but we will limit our discussion to transport fleet only. IAF currently has 17 IL-76 MD Variant popularly known as Gajraj. They are capable of carrying 48 tons of cargo or 145 troops. The upgrade and overhaul from MD variant to MD-90A variant is currently under consideration. It will include new glass cockpit, new one piece carbon-fibre wing and new better Aviadvigatel PS-90A engine. Hence these new upgrades will improve its payload capacity to 60 tons.

IAF currently operates 1 squadron and 1 flight of IL-76 MD:

(i) Squadron no.44 Mighty Jets – based at Chandigarh Air Force Station
(ii) Squadron no.25 Himalayan Eagles Flight A – based at Vadodara  Air Force Station

C-130 J SuperHercules

Lockheed martin C-130J Super Hercules is a propeller driven strategic air-lifter, mainly used for special operations role. Capable of carrying 20 tons of cargo or 92 troops, IAF initially procured 6 such aircrafts of which 1 crashed, it further procured 6 more taking the total tally to 11. IAF is also considering to buy 1 more C-130J as replacement for the one which crashed.

Indian Air  Force operate 2 Squadrons of C-130J:

(i) Squadron no.77 Veiled Vipers –  based at Hindon Air Force Station
(ii) Squadron no.87 Raiding Raptors – based at Panagarh Air Force Station


Antonov AN-32 was built by Antonov during Soviet Union era, with Antonov eventually going to become Ukraine based company after disintegration of USSR. IAF has a fleet of around 104 AN-32, which are being upgraded to AN-32RE standard, with payload capacity increased to 7.5 tons of cargo and troops capacity of 50. As per some soucres, upgrade included many US sourced component like Honeywell’s weather radar, traffic collision avoidance system(TCAS), etc.

IAF operates 5 squadrons and 1 flight of AN-32:

(i) Squadron no. 12 Yaks – based at Agra Air Force Station
(ii) Squadron no. 25 Himalayan Eagles Flight B  – based at Vadodara Air Force Station
(iii) Squadron no. 33 Caribous – based at Sulur Air Force Station
(iv) Squadron no. 43 Ibexes – based at Jorhat Air Force Station
(v) Squadron no. 48 Camels – based at Chandigarh Air Force Station
(vi) Squadron no. 49 Paraspears – based at Jorhat Air Force Station


Avro designed Hawker Siddeley HS-748 is the oldest transport aircraft in IAF service. The aircraft is more or less obsolete with HAL still pushing for its upgrade. This Plane should be replaced by far better and modern C-295, the deal of which is awaiting contract signing after all clearances. HS-748 is a medium weight transport aircraft with 5 tons of payload or upto 58 troops carrying capacity. IAF currently have less than 60 HL-748 in service divided in 1 squadron and 3 flights excluding some 18 aircrafts at Yelahanka AFS for training purposes:

(i) Squadron no.11 Charging Rhinos- based at Vadodara Air Force Station
(ii) Squadron no. 41 Otters Flight- based at Palam Air Force Station
(iii) Squadron no. 59 Hornbills Flight- based at Gauhati Air Force Station
 (iv) Squadron no. 106 Lynxes Flight- based at Tezpur Air Force Station


Dornier GmbH manufactures Do-228. It is currently being licensed produced by HAL in India. IAF uses this 19 seater Do-228 for liaison and communication duties along with a dozen aircraft for training purposes in Yelahanka. The aircraft form part of 2 flights:

(i) Squadron no. 41 Otters Flight- based at Palam Air Force Station
(ii) Squadron no. 59 Hornbills Flight- based at Gauhati Air Force Station

Interested to know about IAF Fighter Jet Squadrons? Read here IAF Fighter Squadrons

By Alpha Defense

Alpha Defense initially a solo venture but now a defense group by people from various demographics of India covering defense news and updates. We believe in unbiased analysis of every subject in hand. Our mission is to provide simplfiied defense information to the public.