As the Indian Air Force (IAF) celebrates its 85th anniversary today, October 8, we speak to Wing Commander (retd) Anil Hoshangabade about the experiences he has had through his 22 years of service, the challenges he faced, and where the IAF is headed. After working in civil aviation post retirement, he now is an active social worker in Pune. Excerpts:
Tell us about the journey. How did you join the IAF?
I had a love for the uniform right since childhood. I originally belong to Amravati in Maharashtra but my father was a government servant in Madhya Pradesh, and hence my schooling has been done across that state. I cleared the entrance examination for the National Defence Academy (NDA), but I had also cleared the engineering entrance for a government college in Jabalpur and decided to pursue that. While in my last year of college, I once again appeared for the technical entrance exam for IAF, cleared the Services Selection Board (SSB) interview and the medicals. I joined the Air Force in 1977, beginning my training at the Air Force Technical College (AFTC) in the then Bangalore; graduated from there in 1979, and travelled across the country on my several postings, until I took voluntary retirement in 1999.
How was the training experience?
It was fun. The initial six months are usually meant for introducing us to the services, administrative studies, and lots of physical activity which is a part of toughening us up for the challenging life we have signed up for. It can be slightly overwhelming in the beginning, but you soon begin to love it all. It’s a beautiful process of moulding boys/girls into officers. We learn so much. The next one year of training is more about the technical aspects.
How has life been in the IAF?
Nothing short of amazing. The forces take care of you like nothing else. It’s one big family. Both the professional and social aspects of it are truly beautiful. Everyone takes care of each other. While we are away on duty, the family is completely taken care of. The biggest boon of the services is the bonding among people. There’s a sense of pride and belonging. It’s a life-enriching experience. My wife, who is herself a BTech graduate, has been with me through this entire journey, never getting tired of all the postings and running around. Even for the kids, the fauji life is a great exposure.
What, according to you, have been the highlights of your career?
As a technical officer with the force, I got the opportunity to be a part of a number of new projects. I consider myself lucky. I was a part of the MiG-21 setup, the first MiG-27 squadron’s establishment, and the MiG-29 overall setup. I was also one of the founding members of a new training institute that the IAF set up during my tenure. Another challenging experience was being in the North-East during the Tripura conflict of 1980. It was an experience of a lifetime. The IAF not only gives you these experiences, but also helps you grow and learn. I did my MTech in Integrated Electronics from IIT Delhi while in service. All these things have certainly helped me even in my life post retirement.
What has changed in all these years, and where do you think the IAF is headed?
A lot has changed. More after I quit, I believe. It’s like the log system, where the initial changes are slow, gradually becoming rapid. So much has evolved — from our aircraft, to the communication, navigation, radar, and runway systems. Even the facilities provided to the personnel are becoming better. As for your second question, the IAF is going big gun today, lots of good things are happening, not only in terms of technology, but even in terms of knowledge and awareness. When I visit the campus sometimes, I can see a sea change. Youngsters have so much more exposure now. We are certainly headed in the right direction.