IAF Serials: IAF serials are allocated in blocks with a role prefix. Three or four numbers form each serial, but for security reasons the IAF leaves groups of numbers out of the blocks, making strength assessement difficult. Even the role prefixes of a particular aircraft type changes. However, in all cases the aircraft serial number is positioned above the marking, usually in black. The number is also carried under the wings and in some aircraft like the Mirage 2000 and the MiG-27ML it's also carried on the nose-wheel door.
Given below are some of the prefixes used by IAF aircraft since the 1970's -
A - Hawk trainer KH - LCA (prototype) SB - Su-30K / MKI KB - MiG-29 KS - MiG-29UB (two-seat trainer) KF - Mirage 2000H KT - Mirage 2000TH (two-seat trainer) TS - MiG-27ML SM - MiG-23BN MS - MiG-23UM (two-seat trainer) KP - MiG-25(no longer in service) C - MiG 21FL / M / MF / bis U - MiG-21U & various other jet trainers. JS - Jaguar IS JM - Jaguar IM (maritime attack) JT - Jaguar IB (two-seat trainer) IF - BAC Canberra B(I).8 / PR.57 (mainly used for reconnaisance) BA - Hawker Hunter F.56 (advanced training) H - Hawker Siddley HS.748 / Avro HM - Dornier Do228 (light transport) K - IL-76, An-32 and Boeing 737 RK - IL-78 MKI Z - Indian Army and Air Force helicopters B - Su-7BM (no longer in service) BD / D - Marut (no longer in service) E - Gnat / Ajeet (no longer in service) BL / L - An-12 (no longer in service)
[Note: serial prefixes for aircraft like the Hunter & Canberra vary with each batch purchased.]
Squadron Badges: Squadron badges are applied to aircraft, mainly fighters, to the nose or forward fuselage area. Examples are No. 47 Sqn known as the Black Archers (MiG-29s) with a black and white stylised archer on a yellow disc on the forward intake trunking, No. 14 Sqn known as the Bulls (Jaguars) with red and yellow chequers on the intake side, No. 37 Sqn called the Black Panthers (MiG-21s) with a black panther in a white disc and No. 5 Sqn known as the Tuskers (Jaguars) with an elephant on a white or yellow disc on the forward fuselage. However the Su-30s of No. 24 Sqn or the Hunting Hawks as they are called carry their squardon badges at the rear of the fuselage area at the bottom of the fin.
There are some squardons dedicated specially for transport duties, one example is the No.25 Sqn known as the Himalayan Eagles and the other the No.126 Helicopter Sqn called the Featherweights. As observed from photographs, transport aircraft like the An-32 and IL-76 and helicopters like the Mi-17 and Mi-26 usually don't carry squardon badges but all of them carry the legend INDIAN AIR FORCE.
(Check out the different squardon badges used by the IAF @ the Bharat Rakshak IAF site)
Colour Schemes: IAF colour schemes are wide-ranging, with MiG-29s wearing a two-tone grey colour scheme and Mirage 2000s & Su-30s wearing similar two-tone blue air superiority colours, while the attack squardons have aircraft in different disruptive schemes - green / grey on the Jaguars and at least two different patterns of green / brown / tan on the MiG-23s and MiG-27s. Some MiG-21s are sprayed in darker shades of green and grey than those used on the Jaguars, though it would appear from photographs that colours are subject to frequent changes. This is apparent even on aircraft which have been in service no more than a few months, and must be at least partly attributable to the extremes of climate which the aircraft are subject both in flight and when parked in the open on airfields.
Naval Aviation: Aircraft operated by the Indian Navy carry the legend NAVY or INDIAN NAVY and have serials beginning with IN followed by three digits. Sea Harriers of 300 Sqn known as the White Tigers carry serials from IN601 and a leaping white tiger insignia across the fin or nose as the unit badge; colour scheme of these aircraft is dark grey and white.
Other types in service include Alize and ASW aircraft based aboard the Indian Navy's aircraft-carrier - INS Viraat, and carrying serials in the IN201, IN501 and IN901 range; Islanders; IL-38; Ka-25; Ka-28; ALH and Chetak liaison and transport helicopters.
[Goto Indian Defence Picture Gallery]