This section relates to air operations over the mainland of SE Asia and the Indian Ocean, which continued until 15 August 1945. Operations eastward are addressed in a separate section 'Air War SW Pacific'.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, the Philippines and the north coast of Malaysia on 7 Dec 1941, the Allied air forces in the region were hit by a succession of hammer blows as the Japanese quickly gained air superiority, lead by the ubiquitous Mitsubishi A6 'Zero' fighter that was faster, more manoeuverable and at least as heavily armed as anything the Allies had at that time.
On the mainland of SE Asia there began an aerial contest that encompassed an area from Singapore to India and into China. After the disastrous Malayan campaign, RAAF personnel served primarily attached to RAF squadrons based in India and Burma (now Myanamar), as the RAAF effort became focussed on northern Australia and New Guinea.
Australian pilots and aircraft did maintain a critical air link from Australia to the UK, via Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) from 1943 after the route was originally cut by the Japanese in 1942. This was done by flying mainly Consolidated PBY Catalina aircraft from Nedlands in WA to Colombo in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) via the Cocos Islands, almost entirely over water. Passengers were awarded "The Order of the Double Sunrise" because they would see two sunrises during the journey.