The IAF has had several aerobatic teams over its 72 years of existence. From Hurricanes in 1943 to a four aircraft vampire team in 1949 to several squadron teams that fielded up to nine aircraft Hunter teams in the 50s and 60s including a 22 aircraft Hunter loop using 7 and 27 sqn aircraft in 1959. This was followed by the 4 aircraft MiG 21 FL team called the “Scorchers” primarily because they formed by using aircraft from 29 (Scorpions) and 47 sqns (Black Archers) in 1969.
For a short while in the 1970s the Flying Instructors School formed a four aircraft Kiran team called the ‘Silver Streaks’ (because they used their bare metal ac). In 1981 it was decided that for the celebration of the IAF’s golden jubilee, a nine aircraft team would go round the country demonstrating throughout the year. Within a year a nine aircraft team was worked up using 20 sqn (Lightnings) as a platform, it being the last operational sqn on the Hunter 56. In keeping with the sqn name the team was named the Thunderbolts and a suitable scheme of white lightning bolts over an oxford blue was devised. -
The Team came to the public eye for the first time on Air force day, 08 Oct 82. Since then the team has displayed at almost every Indian airfield and at Colombo as well. Although the team only displayed for nine seasons, it never lost a single aircraft in display flying. The team was finally replaced (as the Hunter was simply becoming too old for public formation displays) by a nine aircraft Kiran team called the “Surya Kirans” (Sun’s rays).
The elegant barrels, the thunder of nine Avons at nearly full power as they ran in at 300 ft from behind the public, the immaculate formation changes in a 5g turn were the stuff that kept little boys like me staring at the smoke trails in the sky long after the crowd had left.
Ultimately I never got to fly the Hunter except for a few trips in the trainer; I was chosen to fly the less elegant MiG 21. Since then I have always wanted to build the Thunderbolt Hunter, and this is it.
I had the bought the Academy FGA 6 before FGA 9 came to the market and had to modify it to the Mk 56 with the addition of the tail chute container and the removal of a few antennae. The kit itself is renowned for its quality except for the complex, intake trunk-to-wing root-to- fuselage assembly. I decided to keep the rather under scale Mk 9 seat and left the canopy in the semi-open position. Build was simple with few parts and good fit. I sanded all the wheels down to give the weight effect also.
For the painting I decided to paint it overall blue and then mask each thunderbolt individually. This took some time and a lot of touch up later on. I decided to keep the latter year’s scheme with the air force crest on the nose replaced by the simple white disc and the numerals-20 in it (probably as the aircraft was serviced and repainted it was simply to laborious to do the crest again).
This latter scheme also had a red and white numeral on the fin identifying the call sign, in this case ‘Thunderbolt seven’ decided to use an RAF roundel without the red inner. The blue matched perfectly and I inserted the 20 from the TallyHo RAF serials. The white points on the tips of the nose, drop tanks and link collector were formation keeping aids used in conjunction with the white bands on the forward fuselage drop tank pylons and the black segment marks on the wing tips.
After the team disbanded and the aircraft went back to servicing they emerged with many markings overlooked like the white bands on the link collectors and the fuselage roundel moving forward or aft from its original location. As an aside this was probably the only aircraft in the world whose fuselage national markings (roundels) were bigger than the wing markings.
A coat of Testor’s Gloss and then the Bright Spark IAF decals and kit decals for the stenciling. White numerals from the spares box were used for the serial on the nose (A 452), as no numerals existed on the original tail position on most aircraft and the numeral seven on the fin. At the end of it all iam quite satisfied with the finished product, it does look something like the real thing!!