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The Air Force Academy (AFA), India: A Dream Destination for Aspiring Air Warriors

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If you have ever dreamed of flying high in the sky, defending the nation’s sovereignty, and living a life of adventure and honor, then you might want to consider joining the Air Force Academy (AFA), India. The Air Force Academy (AFA) is the premier training center of the Indian Air Force (IAF). It is the cradle of training for pilots, ground duty, and technical officers of the IAF. It also imparts training to the officers of the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard.

It is one of the best military academies in India.

The Air Force Academy (AFA) is located in Dundigal, Telangana, about 43 km (27 mi) from Hyderabad, the capital city of Telangana. The Air Force Academy (AFA) was established in 1969 and started operations in 1971. It is spread over 7,050 acres (2,850 ha) of land and has a state-of-the-art infrastructure and facilities for the cadets. The AFA is a vision that seeks to concentrate most of the ab initio officer training of the IAF under one roof to nurture capable leaders and seasoned air warriors.

This article will explore the history, admission process, tuition fees, rankings, academic programs, campus life, athletics, notable alumni, and frequently asked questions of this prestigious military school in India.

History of The Air Force Academy, India

The idea of establishing a permanent Air Force Academy (AFA) at one place, not only for pilots but also for ground duty and technical officers, was conceived as far back as 1953. The plan was to develop the institution gradually with the pilot flying school moving in first, then the navigation and signal school and finally the ground duties training school. However, the construction of the Air Force Academy (AFA) was delayed for several years due to the difficulty in acquiring a proper site. Eventually, about 6700 acres of land located near Dundigal was acquired from the government of Andhra Pradesh (now Telangana).

The location was considered ideal, as satellite bases for advanced training were available at Hakimpet and Bidar and the weather was conducive for flying training for a major portion of the year. The foundation stone of the Air Force Academy (AFA) was laid by the then President of India Dr. Zakir Hussain on 11 October 1967. The Air Force Academy (AFA) formally came into being when it started its first course on 16 January 1971. Air Commodore J. D. Aquino was the first Commandant of the academy. The AFA inducted women cadets into the IAF for the first time in June 1993.

How to Get Admission Into The Air Force Academy (AFA), India

The admission process of the Air Force Academy (AFA) is highly competitive and rigorous. The candidates have to clear various stages of selection before they can join the academy. The AFA takes admissions from various entries, such as:

National Defence Academy (NDA): The NDA is a joint service academy of the Indian Armed Forces, where cadets of the Army, Navy and Air Force are trained together. The candidates have to appear for the NDA entrance exam, which is conducted twice a year, in April and September, by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). The exam consists of two papers: Mathematics and General Ability Test. The candidates who qualify the written exam are called for the Services Selection Board (SSB) interview, which tests their personality, intelligence, aptitude, and physical fitness.

The candidates who clear the SSB interview are medically examined and then allotted a service and a branch, according to their preference and merit. The candidates who are allotted the Air Force branch join the AFA after completing three years of training at the NDA. The NDA entry is open for unmarried male candidates who have passed 10+2 with Physics and Mathematics as subjects.

Combined Defence Services Examination (CDSE): The CDSE is another entrance exam conducted by the UPSC twice a year, in February and November, for graduates who want to join the Indian Armed Forces. The exam consists of three papers: English, General Knowledge, and Elementary Mathematics. The candidates who qualify the written exam are called for the SSB interview, which follows the same procedure as the NDA entry.

The candidates who clear the SSB interview are medically examined and then allotted a service and a branch, according to their preference and merit. The candidates who are allotted the Air Force branch join the AFA after completing one year of training at the Indian Military Academy (IMA) or the Officers Training Academy (OTA). The CDSE entry is open for unmarried male and female candidates who have a degree in any discipline or a degree in Engineering.

Air Force Common Admission Test (AFCAT): The AFCAT is a test conducted by the IAF twice a year, in February and August, for graduates who want to join the IAF as officers. The test consists of four sections: General Awareness, Verbal Ability, Numerical Ability, and Reasoning and Military Aptitude. The candidates who qualify the test are called for the Air Force Selection Board (AFSB) interview, which follows the same procedure as the SSB interview.

The candidates who clear the AFSB interview are medically examined and then allotted a branch, according to their preference and merit. The candidates who are allotted the flying branch join the Air Force Academy (AFA) for training. The AFCAT entry is open for unmarried male and female candidates who have a degree in any discipline with Physics and Mathematics at 10+2 level or a degree in Engineering.

National Cadet Corps (NCC) Special Entry: The NCC special entry is a direct entry scheme for NCC cadets who have a ‘C’ certificate with minimum ‘B’ grade and have passed 10+2 with Physics and Mathematics as subjects or have a degree in any discipline with Physics and Mathematics at 10+2 level or have a degree in Engineering. The candidates have to apply online through the IAF website and then appear for the AFSB interview, which follows the same procedure as the AFCAT entry. The candidates who clear the AFSB interview are medically examined and then allotted the flying branch, according to their merit. The NCC special entry is open for unmarried male and female candidates.

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Meteorology Branch Entry: The meteorology branch entry is a direct entry scheme for postgraduates who have a degree in Science/ Mathematics/ Statistics/ Geography/ Computer Applications/ Environmental Science/ Applied Physics/ Oceanography/ Meteorology/ Agricultural Meteorology/ Ecology & Environment/ Geo-physics/ Environmental Biology with minimum 50% marks in aggregate and have passed 10+2 with Physics and Mathematics as subjects.

The candidates have to apply online through the IAF website and then appear for the AFSB interview, which follows the same procedure as the AFCAT entry. The candidates who clear the AFSB interview are medically examined and then allotted the meteorology branch, according to their merit. The meteorology branch entry is open for unmarried male and female candidates.

The candidates who join the Air Force Academy (AFA) have to undergo pre-commissioning training of one year for the flying and ground duty branches and 74 weeks for the technical branch. The training is designed to inculcate moral values, leadership qualities, sense of honor and duty, mental and physical prowess, a spirit of adventure and the will to win in the cadets. The training consists of character building, discipline, military and academic subjects, physical exercise, drills, sports, and adventure activities. The cadets have to pass various tests and exams during the training and also have to maintain a high standard of conduct and discipline. The cadets who successfully complete the training are commissioned into various branches of the IAF as flying officers.

Tuition Fees

The tuition fees for the cadets who join the Air Force Academy (AFA) are nominal and subsidized by the government of India. The cadets have to pay a one-time fee of Rs. 7,500 for the entire duration of the training. The fee includes the cost of tuition, books, accommodation, messing, clothing, medical and other facilities. The cadets also have to pay a refundable security deposit of Rs. 5,000 and a non-refundable club subscription of Rs. 500. The cadets are entitled to a stipend of Rs. 56,100 per month during the training period.

The Air Force Academy 2024 Rankings

The Air Force Academy (AFA) is one of the most prestigious and reputed institutions in India and the world. It is ranked among the top 10 military academies in the world by various sources, such as:

  1. The Military Education website ranked the AFA as the 7th best military academy in the world in 2019.
  2. The Defence IQ website ranked the Air Force Academy (AFA) as the 8th best military academy in the world in 2018.
  3. The Top Universities website ranked the AFA as the 9th best military academy in the world in 2017.

The AFA is also recognized and accredited by various national and international bodies, such as:

  1. The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) approves the technical courses offered by the Air Force Academy (AFA).
  2. The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) awards degrees to the cadets who pass out from the AFA.
  3. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) certifies the flying standards and procedures of the Air Force Academy (AFA).

Academic Programs at The Air Force Academy, India

The AFA offers various academic programs to the cadets who join the academy. The programs are divided into three categories: flying, technical and ground duty. The programs are as follows:

Flying: The flying program is for the cadets who want to become pilots in the IAF. The program consists of three stages: Stage I, Stage II and Stage III. In Stage I, the cadets undergo basic flying training on the Pilatus PC-7 Mk II aircraft at the AFA. The cadets learn the fundamentals of flying, such as take-off, landing, aerobatics, navigation, instrument flying and formation flying. The cadets who successfully complete Stage I are streamed into fighter, transport or helicopter streams, based on their aptitude and merit.

In Stage II, the cadets undergo advanced flying training on the Kiran Mk II aircraft at the Fighter Training Wing (FTW) at Hakimpet, the An-32 aircraft at the Transport Training Wing (TTW) at Yelahanka, or the Chetak and Mi-17 helicopters at the Helicopter Training School (HTS) at Hakimpet. The cadets learn the specific skills and techniques required for their respective streams, such as air combat, low-level flying, air-to-ground weapons delivery, tactical operations, troop induction, casualty evacuation, etc.

In Stage III, the cadets undergo further specialization training on the Hawk Mk 132 aircraft at the Advanced Jet Training Squadron (AJTS) at Bidar, the C-130J Super Hercules aircraft at the Medium Lift Tactical Squadron (MLTS) at Hindon, or the Mi-35 attack helicopter at the Combat Helicopter Training School (CHTS) at Hakimpet. The cadets learn the advanced aspects of their streams, such as operational conversion, combat readiness, night flying, formation flying, etc. The cadets who complete the flying program are awarded the coveted ‘wings’ and the Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree in Aviation by the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

Technical: The technical program is for the cadets who want to become engineers in the IAF. The program consists of two branches: aeronautical engineering (electronics) and aeronautical engineering (mechanical). The cadets undergo a 74-week course at the AFA, where they learn the theoretical and practical aspects of various engineering subjects, such as aerodynamics, propulsion, avionics, materials, structures, etc. The cadets also visit various IAF establishments and industries to gain exposure and hands-on experience on the maintenance and repair of various aircraft and systems. The JNU awards the cadets who complete the technical program the Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech.) degree in Aeronautical Engineering.

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Ground Duty: The ground duty program is for the cadets who want to join the administrative, logistics, accounts, education or meteorology branches of the IAF. The program consists of a 52-week course at the AFA, where they learn general service knowledge, military law, defense management, communication skills, leadership skills, etc. The cadets also undergo specialized training in their respective branches, such as air traffic control, material management, financial management, instructional techniques, weather forecasting, etc. The cadets who complete the ground duty program are awarded the Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree in Computer Science, Bachelor of Commerce (B.Com.) degree or Post Graduate Diploma in Defence Studies by the JNU.

The academic programs offered by the AFA are approved by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and are recognized by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The AFA also conducts various short-term courses for the in-service officers of the IAF and other friendly foreign countries. The AFA has a well-equipped library, computer center, laboratories, workshops, auditorium, museum and other facilities to facilitate the learning process of the cadets. The AFA also has a team of highly qualified and experienced instructors, who impart the best possible training to the cadets. The AFA strives to produce competent, confident and committed officers, who can uphold the ethos and traditions of the IAF.

Campus Life

The campus life of the AFA is a blend of discipline, dedication and enjoyment. The cadets live in spacious and comfortable dormitories, which are named after the legendary air warriors of the IAF, such as Subroto, Arjan Singh, Shivdev Singh, etc. The cadets are divided into four squadrons: Akash, Agni, Prithvi and Vayu, which compete with each other in various academic, sports and cultural events. The cadets have to follow a strict daily routine, which starts with the morning physical training (PT) and ends with the lights out at night. The cadets have to attend various classes, lectures, practicals, drills, parades and tests during the day. The cadets also have to participate in various sports and games, such as football, hockey, basketball, volleyball, cricket, badminton, squash, tennis, etc. The AFA has excellent sports facilities, such as a synthetic athletic track, an Olympic-size swimming pool, a gymnasium, a golf course, etc. The cadets also have to take part in various adventure activities, such as trekking, camping, rock climbing, rappelling, parasailing, microlight flying, etc. The AFA has a gliding and aero-modeling club, which provide the cadets with the opportunity to experience the thrill of flying. The cadets also have to showcase their talents in various cultural activities, such as music, dance, drama, debate, quiz, etc. The AFA has a cultural club, which organizes various events and festivals annually. The cadets also have to observe various customs and traditions of the IAF, such as the passing out parade, the dining in night, the oath taking ceremony, etc. The campus life of the AFA is designed to instill a sense of camaraderie, team spirit and esprit de corps among the cadets. The cadets also learn to respect and appreciate the diversity and richness of the Indian culture and heritage. The campus life of the AFA is a memorable and enriching experience for the cadets, which prepares them for the challenges and opportunities of the future.

Athletics

The AFA is a hub of athletic activities, which aim to develop the physical fitness, mental toughness and sportsmanship of the cadets. The AFA has a dedicated sports wing, which organizes various inter-squadron and inter-academy competitions throughout the year. The AFA also participates in various national and international sports events, such as the Inter Services Sports Championship, the World Military Games, the Asian Military Games, etc. The AFA has produced many outstanding sportsmen and sportswomen, who have brought laurels to the IAF and the nation. Some of the notable alumni of the AFA who have excelled in sports are:

  • Air Marshal Denzil Keelor (Retd.), who won the gold medal in tennis at the 1966 Asian Games and the bronze medal at the 1970 Asian Games. He was also the first Indian to fly a supersonic jet, the MiG-21.
  • Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma, who became the first Indian and the 138th person in the world to travel in space, aboard the Soviet spacecraft Soyuz T-11 in 1984. He was also an accomplished squash player, who represented the IAF at various levels.
  • Wing Commander Pooja Thakur, who became the first woman officer to lead the guard of honor for the US President Barack Obama during his visit to India in 2015. She was also a national-level basketball player, who represented the IAF and the Services.
  • Squadron Leader Shaliza Dhami, who became the first woman officer to be appointed as the flight commander of a flying unit in the IAF in 2019. She was also a national-level badminton player, who represented the IAF and the Services.

The AFA believes that sports and games are an integral part of the military training, which foster the qualities of courage, endurance, teamwork and fair play among the cadets. The AFA encourages the cadets to pursue their passion for sports and games, and to achieve excellence in their chosen fields.

Notable Alumni

The AFA has a long and illustrious history of producing some of the finest officers of the IAF, who have served the nation with distinction and honor. The AFA has a proud tradition of producing the Chiefs of the Air Staff (CAS), the highest-ranking officer of the IAF, who commands and controls the entire air force. Out of the 27 CASs till date, 17 have been the alumni of the AFA. Some of the notable alumni of the AFA who have become the CASs are:

  • Air Chief Marshal Nirmal Chandra Suri, who was the CAS from 1991 to 1993. He was the first alumnus of the AFA to become the CAS. He was also the first Indian to fly the Mirage 2000 aircraft. He played a key role in the induction and operationalization of the Mirage 2000 fleet in the IAF.
  • Air Chief Marshal Anil Yashwant Tipnis, who was the CAS from 1998 to 2001. He was the second alumnus of the AFA to become the CAS. He was also the first Indian to fly the Su-30MKI aircraft. He led the IAF during the Kargil War of 1999, in which the IAF displayed its courage and professionalism in the face of the enemy. He was instrumental in the modernization and transformation of the IAF into a potent force.
  • Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik, who was the CAS from 2009 to 2011. He was the third alumnus of the AFA to become the CAS. He was also the first Indian to fly the MiG-29 aircraft. He commanded the Western Air Command during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, in which the IAF provided vital support to the security forces. He also initiated various reforms and initiatives to enhance the operational capability and welfare of the IAF personnel.
  • Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria, who is the current and the 27th CAS of the IAF. He is the fourth alumnus of the AFA to become the CAS. He is also the first Indian to fly the Tejas aircraft. He has played a pivotal role in the induction and development of the Tejas, the Rafale and other indigenous platforms and systems in the IAF. He has also been at the forefront of the IAF’s response to the recent border standoff with China, in which the IAF has demonstrated its readiness and resolve to safeguard the national interests.
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Apart from the CASs, the AFA has also produced many other distinguished officers of the IAF, who have made significant contributions to the nation’s security and development. Some of the notable alumni of the AFA who have excelled in various fields are:

  • Air Marshal Padmavathy Bandopadhyay, who became the first woman Air Marshal of the IAF in 2004. She was also the first woman officer to become a Fellow of the Aerospace Medical Society of India, the first woman officer to conduct scientific research at the North Pole, and the first woman officer to receive the Vishisht Seva Medal, the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal and the Param Vishisht Seva Medal.
  • Air Marshal Harjit Singh Arora, who is the current and the 42nd Vice Chief of the Air Staff (VCAS) of the IAF. He is also the first alumnus of the AFA to become the VCAS. He has held various important appointments in the IAF, such as the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief (AOC-in-C) of the South Western Air Command, the Director General Air (Operations) at the Air Headquarters, and the Air Defence Commander of the Western Air Command during the Balakot air strike of 2019.
  • Air Marshal Amit Tiwari, who is the current and the 23rd Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC), the only tri-service command of the Indian Armed Forces. He is also the AFA’s first alumnus to become the ANC’s C-in-C. He has held various important appointments in the IAF, such as the AOC-in-C of the Southern Air Command, the Senior Air Staff Officer (SASO) of the Central Air Command, and the Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Operations) at the Air Headquarters.
  • Air Vice Marshal Subramaniam Natarajan, who is the current and the 13th Project Director of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas program, the flagship project of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). He is also the first alumnus of the AFA to become the Project Director of the LCA Tejas program. He has been involved in the design, development, testing and induction of the Tejas, the first indigenous supersonic fighter aircraft of India. He has also flown various types of aircraft, such as the MiG-21, the Jaguar, the Mirage 2000 and the Tejas.

The AFA takes pride in the achievements and accomplishments of its alumni, who have brought glory and honor to the IAF and the nation. The AFA also maintains a strong bond and network with its alumni, who provide guidance and support to the current and future cadets of the academy. The AFA alumni are the role models and inspirations for the aspiring air warriors, who wish to follow their footsteps and serve the nation with dedication and devotion.

Conclusion

The Air Force Academy (AFA), India is a prestigious and reputed institution that trains the future officers of the Indian Air Force (IAF). The AFA offers various academic programs, such as flying, technical and ground duty, to the cadets who join the academy through various entries, such as NDA, CDSE, AFCAT, NCC and meteorology. The AFA provides the cadets with a comprehensive and rigorous training, which covers the aspects of character building, discipline, military and academic subjects, physical exercise, drill, sports and adventure activities.

The AFA also has a vibrant and enjoyable campus life, fostering camaraderie, team spirit and esprit de corps among the cadets. The AFA has a long and illustrious history of producing some of the finest officers of the IAF, who have served the nation with distinction and honor. The AFA alumni have excelled in various fields, such as aviation, engineering, management, sports, space, etc.

The AFA is a dream destination for the aspiring air warriors, who wish to join the IAF and serve the nation with dedication and devotion. The AFA is a vision that seeks to nurture capable leaders and seasoned air warriors, who can uphold the ethos and traditions of the IAF.

References

  1. Indian Air Force – Air Force Academy: https://indianairforce.nic.in/content/air-force-academy
  2. SSB Crack – Air Force Academy, Dundigal: https://www.ssbcrack.com/2018/06/air-force-academy-dundigal.html
  3. Jagran Josh – Air Force Academy (AFA): https://www.jagranjosh.com/general-knowledge/air-force-academy-afa-1562238270-1
  4. The Better India – Air Marshal Denzil Keelor, Indian Air Force & Tennis: https://www.thebetterindia.com/149518/air-marshal-denzil-keelor-indian-air-force-tennis/

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