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Aero India 2023

Gnat fighter aircraft to mark 50th anniversary

An old picture of the Gnat fighter from the Indian Air Force's album

BANGALORE (PTI): More than 200 pilots, engineers and flight testing experts of yesteryear from the country and abroad along with their families are expected to attend the golden jubilee celebrations of Gnat fighter aircraft here on November 21.

The event is being organised by the Indian Air Force (IAF) and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), according to a release here.

Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal F H Major will be the chief guest for the event for which some of the delegates have already arrived.

A film on Gnat made by well-known aviation filmmaker Kunal Verma will be screened and a book on the aircraft edited by Pushpinder Singh will be released to mark the event. A photo exhibition is also being organised, the statement said.

The Folland Gnat is a small, swept-wing British supersonic jet trainer and light fighter aircraft developed for the Royal Air Force, and flown extensively by the Indian Air Force.

The original designer and builders of the Gnat were Folland Aviation of the UK. HAL was the licensed producer of Gnat in India and rolled out nearly 200 of them for the IAF. The IAF is the only air force to use these aircraft in large numbers which were largely successful in the two wars against Pakistan in 1965 and 1971.

These aircraft are basically point defence fighter ones dedicated to defend strategic targets and would quickly climb up and shoot down incoming bomber aircraft.

 In the Indian scenario, they were used in fighting and escort roles. The Gnats are the only aircraft that can allow a pilot to take off in short duration to repulse an enemy air raid. In India the Gnat pilots were able to take off within two minutes after they are given the call.

On the other side Pakistan used to fight with the American F-86 aircrafts nicknamed as Sabres. In fact, the Gnat proved so formidable that the Pakistani pilots were briefed to avoid dog-fight with it and its success earned it the sobriquet ‘sabre slayer’.

Later, HAL developed and re-christened the Gnat into Ajeet, which too was used by the IAF extensively.

The Gnats were phased out from the country’s air force around 1991.

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