Category Archives: Gnats & Ajeet in IAF

Inter-Command Weapons Meet – Another View

By Gp Capt Ajit K Agtey (Retd)

Velu’s story has finally got me to type out the following piece. I had decided to stay silent as talking of it, would have amounted to blowing one’s own trumpet, BUT WHAT THE HELL, lets do it.

I am referring to the same Inter Commabd Weapons Meet of November 1972. Western Air Command had 4 Gnat squadrons, namely 2,9,18 and23. Each squadron had to depute one pilot for each event. For R/P WAC found a bunch of four young, aggressive Flying Officers. They were Parvez Khokhar (9 Sqn),VP Vadera (23 Sqn), VK Sharma (18 Sqn) and yours truly(2 Sqn). It would not be out of place to state that senior most team member had less than 4 years service and the junior most ie self had less than 3 years. The other two were in between.

The range was all time famous SIDHWANKHAS range and the base of operation was Halwara. On the due date we all gathered at Halwara and the practice sessions began. The other team members/leaders were legends like Mickey Jatar (Maruts), Godfrey Salins (Mig 21 F/G), Johnney Greene (Gnat Cine). The tail was brought up by us.

Halwara bar was as always the debrief centre, and we were generally being taught the finer points of R/P firing.

The format was, as already spelt out by Velu. The two best rockets of each member were to be assessed. The load we were carrying was 4, T-10s.

On the appointed day the team got airborne in copybook fashion and went and fired our load in total silence and returned. To cut a long story short the results were 16 DIRECT HITS. End of Story

That evening when we walked into the bar Mickey Jatar got up, shook us by the hand and said that it would be an honour for him to stand us a drink, as he had never seen scores of this kind.

The G- bird was a sheer delight to fly and was a very versatile weapons platform.

The team is still around Parvez is in Bangalore, Vady in Jet airways in Delhi, VK Sharma in corporate flying in Delhi and yours truly in Jet Airways in Bangalore. Looking forward to meeting up with all the stalwarts.

A Gnat Story

By Gp Capt PM Velankar VM (Retd)

Count down has started long back . Now , whenever we open “Gnat50years” site , we see the decreasing number of days . Today when I opened the site I saw “5 days” . I also notice that as the number of days are decreasing , so are the contributions towards posts and the comments .
Continue reading A Gnat Story

Ferry Kalaikunda – Sulur : Gnats land up in Kasturchand Park , Nagpur .

By Gp Capt PM Velankar

After the 1971 war the squadrons were recovering and as Squadron Adjutant I was busy in returning the “mobile furniture , the tentage and sorting out “DWO Inventory “. The EO and Flight Commanders were also busy sorting out their inventories . One major item being establishment and the strength of the aircraft on the inventory . Due to the war , aircraft were given permissible extension to enable the squadrons to keep flying them . Lot of aircraft were were given extension beyond the airframe life and so were over due for major overhaul . Early months of the year 1972 saw lot of Gnats being ferried to 5 BRD Sulur for major overhaul . In this the EO had an unenviable job . Which aircraft had to be ferried for major overhaul was no problem as it was straight forward and simple matter .What was not simple was the decision as to which major and minor components fitted on the aircraft were left with lot of ” life ” and would be needed in the squadron to maintain good serviceability as the spares were not easily forthcoming . Once that was decided the EO had to “cannibalise” these with those components which were left with just sufficient ” life ” to ferry from Kalaikunda to Sulur with a landing in Nagpur . Examples which come readily to mind are , Engine which was left with just 2 to 3 hours of life , Stand by R/T set which could not be repaired , Tail chute which could be deployed may be only once , main wheel tyres may be good enough only to do 2/3 landings etc . This was always done in consultation with the Flight Commander and decision was taken keeping in mind the seniority and experience of the ferry pilot who was thoroughly briefed about what was being done ! So in this way two aircraft had been made ready for the ferry . I do not know how things are in the Squadrons now a days , but these were considered totally acceptable practices and If today’s pilots & engineers consider that we were taking chances with flight safety , I would say that those were calculated risks . Life and Air Force in those days were different . You see those days Gnats still ruled the skies !!!
Continue reading Ferry Kalaikunda – Sulur : Gnats land up in Kasturchand Park , Nagpur .

The Gnat Brotherhood

By Group Captain (Retd) AK Datta, Vr C, IAF

1. An Indian Air Force, single-seat fighter pilot is a unique individual. To be effective and deadly, he has to acquire qualities and skills beyond that expected of an ordinary fighting man. He has to be a mixture of an infantry soldier, a gladiator, a “six-gun” fighter of the Wild West and at the same time have the mental and physical agility of a combat marine let loose in the jungles with equipment that requires mathematical familiarity to effectively use a multitude of countermeasures along with the simultaneous ability to launch a number of long, medium and close range weapons. And, in the final phases of combat, display a capability to “go-it-alone”; and, do all this in the span of not more than 30 to 150 seconds. The Gnat is the smallest operational aircraft in its class in the whole world – it did not have a trainer aircraft for pilots to convert. The first solo was flown after a dual check on a Hunter Trainer and, hence, the first solo on the Gnat was traditionally logged as “1 Versus 1” ie “Combat of Pilot versus Aircraft!: As very aptly put by a Gnat Old-timer “ It requires a pilot to fly an aircraft – but it requires a man to fly the Gnat !”
Continue reading The Gnat Brotherhood

How the Gnat Benefited Indian Industry

By Gp Capt Kapil Bhargava (Retd)

Acquisition of the Gnat by IAF resulted in a number of benefits. It not only got our fighter pilots a fantastic Sabre Slayer, it also gave the aviation industry many other associated benefits. We will look at what the airframe side did for us a little later as we try and build up the authentic history of the Gnat. In my opinion an aircraft designer needs to consider the engine as soon as he thinks of creating a new aircraft,if not sooner. An aircraft project will go nowhere unless an engine matching the designer’s aspirations is either already available or is about to arrive on the scene.

The engine selected by Ted Petter for the Midge was the Saturn being developed by Bristol Aero Engines Ltd. But the project was aborted after the British Government decided against it. Petter had to use the Viper which powered the Jet Provost.
Fortunately for Petter, even this lower power engine on the Midge gave it very nippy performance, including supersonic dives. This proved that his concept of the Gnat as a light (Low Cost Aircraft = LCA!) fighter was viable. Coincidentally, the Orpheus engine appeared on the scene exactly at the time it was needed for the Gnat. The aircraft was designed to intercept incoming attackers before they crossed the English Channel. After the British Government rejected the Gnat, even more fortunately for Petter, we bought the aircraft. With it came the Orpheus to India to be produced under license in the country.

Contrary to much of our R&D efforts, I do not believe copying a product really helps us. The industry neither learns how to design such an item nor gets the production technology to do a proper job at the correct price. My thesis was and still is that we should take a licensed item and develop it to the next level. This is what the Japanese did, starting with textile machinery from Manchester. We have done this in a very limited way.

Let us now list the applications to which the Orpheus was applied. First of all, it helped create an Engine Division within HAL. Apart from its use on the Gnat, the same engine powered the HF-24 and the Marut Trainer. Its de-rated version is still in use on Kiran Mk II. A re-heated version, so-called developed by GTRE was used to power the HF-24 Mk IA, IBX and IR. But its most daring application was on the C-119G Fairchild Packet. The best person to describe it is Group Captain Jacob Chakko, the brains and the working hand almost solely responsible for the success of the project.

Orpheus Jet Pack on the Packet
By Gp Capt Jacob Chakko Tech (Eng)

Fitting Orpheus Engine Jet Pack on the C119-G was indeed very interesting. It was a challenge at ‘that’ time to suggest that the Orpheus could be used as a Jet Pack because there were too many ‘nay-saying wet blankets’ who had doubts whether that engine could also run on the 115-Octane fuel used by the Packets.

So here is a short summary of the Orpheus installation and a little of what was involved, engine-wise. Yes, my technical paper had riled a lot of people in high places. But once AVM Pinto and the CAS Air Mshl Aspy Engineer had okayed it as an Operational Requirement, and AVM Ranjan Dutt at HAL was given the task, I had quite a lot of support for its quick ‘denouement’.

Orpheus to run on Packet’s High Octane Fuel.
The IAF Orpheus Engine was only cleared to run on JP-4 for us. For the Jet Pack we had to clear it for use with the Packet’s 115 Octane fuel. Special tests were run at the Engine Factory for 400 hours plus. The engine was inspected every 100 hours or so. There was a micro-thin greenish-yellow coating of a ‘lead oxide deposit’ on the hot parts from the combustion of the High Octane Fuel. But it was decided that the engine’s performance was not affected in any way. So the TBO for the Orpheus Engine was retained at the normal at 400 hours (as I recall) on this installation.

Orpheus Fuel Pump Life
However, since the Fuel pump was also running on this high octane fuel which had less lubricity than JP-4 kerosene, it was decided that the fuel pump would be mandatorily inspected and changed at 200 hours. I believe this figure was later changed to 250 hours. My memory fails me a bit now. (He is 84 now- KB).

Orpheus on a Hydraulic Starter
The Orpheus at that time could only be started with compressed air from those massive high pressure cylinders on the ground. These cylinders weighed a whopping 1750 pounds each. These Packet aircraft had to land and take off from airfields where such facilities were not always available. It was therefore decided that 2 such cylinders would be installed in the Packet’s Aux Deck to give the aircraft total independence from ground equipment. The Orpheus could be started in the air by wind-milling it but it became an IAF requirement that the jet had to be running at take-off also. Missing this installation would have meant a reduction of nearly 3500 – 4000 pounds in payload capacity. An alternative Engine starting system had to be found asap!

The ‘designers’ went on a rampage for a few months to find an alternative electric or hydraulic starter from the international market. A suggestion that the extant Hydraulic Starter on the Westinghouse J-34 Jet Engine would do the trick was rudely ridiculed. Discussions were held ‘in camera’ with Air Cdre S Rikh of the Engine Factory who, being convinced that this could be done, took it on himself to produce the very simple modifications. Having been done (hubba hubba) and having proved itself totally successful in the Engine Test Bed, Air Cdre Rikh called AVM Ranjan Dutt and requested him to come and start the Orpheus with the Hydraulic Starter by himself. Having satisfied himself that this was a successful mod, the AVM called the CAS from the Test Cell itself and said to him,”Sir, we at HAL do the impossible, miracles take a little longer”! This was ‘a la AVM Harjinder Singh’ for those who know the allusion!

The Pay-Off
The result of this modification was immediately felt by the Packet Aircrew who straight away had an extra 3 – 4 thousand pounds extra in payload carrying capacity. And the increased factor of safety in flying in Ladakh will always be remembered also by a single episode where ” Air Marshal PL Purohit and Winco HB Singh flew a Packet on the Orpheus Jet alone, with both piston engines feathered, from Zojila to Srinagar, a distance of over 100 miles, losing height in a powered glide from 18,000 feet and maintaining level flight at approx 7,500 feet over Srinagar.

Net Results.
I am told these modifications of the Orpheus Jet Pack not only extended the Service Life of the Packet C-119G aircraft by 20 odd years, from 1964 to 1984, but also gave HAL a whopping order for over 150 Orpheus Engines plus oodles of work in overhauling Packets and the Jet Engines over the years.

I hope this is useful information.

My Life With The Gnat

By Air Marshal R Ramamurthy (Retd) PVSM VSM

Since April 1963, I was an Instructor in Air Force Technical College. I got married in November 1964. As a Flt Lt, I was deputed for a Hunter aircraft MCF course in Halwara, in January 1965. While I was in Halwara- one day- I got a call from Ambala ” You are posted to 15 Squadron, with rank”. I knew that 15 Sqn had just then been reequipped with Gnat aircraft. I did’nt have to break the news to my wife- she had already got it from the Ladies club network. Those were the days when we needed no cell phones!

After a couple of days, I got another call from Ambala. This time, it was the CO of 15 Sqn, Wg Cdr MJ Dotiwala (Later Air Marshal)- ” Come and join Immediately- we need the senior technical officer badly”. I told him that I had to go back to AFTC, clear and then come.

In March1965, when I reached Ambala Cant railway station, I found a number of airmen frantically loading a special train. I was told that No 2 & 15 Sqns were moving to 15 Wing in Bareilly. Since my belongings were already on the railway platform, I got them loaded in the special train- keeping with me only essential things!

I reported to the CO and was told that we were moving to Bareilly in a week’s time. We had not heard of Bareilly earlier. I got busy reading the manuals and getting acquainted with the aircraft.My two years stint in AFTC as an Instructor and my earlier thee years as EO in No 1 Sqn (Mysteres) helped me in getting to know the aircraft faster. A weeks time is not sufficient for getting to know the aircraft nor the other officers nor the technicians! However, in those few days in Ambala, I had established close relationship with my CO- Wg Cdr Dotiwala and the flight commanders- Sqn Ldrs Upkar Singh
and ML Chaturvedi- which has continued till now- growing stronger over the years! I had a young technical officer with me- Plt Offr SR Bendre, who gave me tremendous support.

On the designated day, all the aircraft of 15 Sqn flew into Bareilly. None was left behind. This was an achievement by itself.I reached Bareilly in the staging aircraft. No 2 & 15 were the first squadrons to operate from the newly established 15 wing. We maintained 75% serviceability. Earlier it was said that Gnats cannot operate from any base other than Ambala!

We had a bunch of young pilots in the squadron. the whole squadron functioned as a closeknit family!
Our “Chiefy” in the sqn DSS was Flt Sgt Irani- a tall and well built person. He had excellent control over the airmen. They were scared of him, but at the same time adored and loved him. He will line up the aircraft by 0630 hrs and the first sortie of 12 aircraft will get airborne by 0700 hrs!

The work in the RSS was well planned. We had a good set of experienced and dedicated technicians. One thing with the Gnat. For any rectification we had to pull out the rear fuselage and drop the engine, to get access. But these operations were easy and comfortable.After servicing when we sent an aircraft for airtest, it will invariably have a PRL flameout, at altitude. The altitude at which this occured gave us a clue to do correct adjustments! The drill was to run up the ATC tower after seeing off the aircraft, to monitor when the flameout occurred and also be ready for any emergency. The relight after descending to 15000 ft was always successful.

We went thro the alert which was sounded when the Kutch operations took place. From then on we were standing by for operations. In Sep1965- one night- at about 0430 hrs- we heard the drone of Packet aircraft circling over Bareilly airfield. we rushed to the airfield. They landed at daybreak. The Packet squadron has been despatched from Srinagar. Operations had started. No2 Sqn and half of 15Sqn aircraft moved to Ambala. The other half of 15 Sqn aircraft and pilots & technicians moved to Agra- leaving behind the Packets in Bareilly.We kept a team of technicians in Bareilly for serving of the Gnats, as and when required. I was mainly in Agra. In Agra, the squadron mounted CAP sorties continuously from dawn to dusk. On one such pre-dawn sortie Sqn Ldr Chaturvedi swerved during take-off and hit the runway lights. He abandoned take-off. The aircraft was a total write off but Chato escaped with a fracture of the leg. We had to send an aircraft back to Bareilly for inspection. I estimated that the inspection will take 3 days- normally it would have taken 8 days. My “Chiefy” in the R&SS called me up the very next day and said that the aircraft was ready. They had been working on it continuously for 24 hrs!

For giving a max throttle ground run of Gnat aircraft we had to use chocks which were lashed.Without these chocks the aircraft would move forward even with brakes on. We did not have these lashing chocks in Agra. They had been sent with the Ambala detachment. We had an aircraft which had to be given a max throttle ground run. I had therefore requested one of the young pilots to taxy the aircraft to the end of the runway and give the ground run.He was thoroughly briefed by me and the flight commander that the aircraft will move but he is not to release the brakes. However, to our horror, we noticed that he released the brakes, picked up speed and then braked. He did this not just once but thrice. The aircraft whizzed past us on the other end of the runway and crashed in the overrun area.The brakes had got heated up and hence the aircraft could not be stopped. The aircraft was a total write off- fortunately the pilot was safe and unhurt.

We came back to Bareilly after the cease-fire was announced.We had a change of CO. Wg Cdr CV Gole (later Air Marshal) took over. Bhayya Jatar took over as senior flight Commander. The squadron was training hard. The cohesiveness was built up further.It was indeed a great time. 24 Sqn was formed with Wg Cdr MM Singh (Later Air Marshal ) as CO.Now we had three Gnat Squadrons in Bareilly. Earlier it used to be said that Gnats could operate only from Ambala and nowhere else.
We went for the Republic day flypast. We operated from Palam. On every rehersal day 18 Gnats will get airborne for the flypast and land back safely.We maintained 100% serviceability throughout the period. On posting out of the Chief Engineering officer, Sqn Ldr IG Krishna (Later Air Marshal), I took over as CEO 15 Wing. Sqn Ldr IG Krishna was the pioneer of the Gnat and had established a name for himself. He was no doubt an outstanding engineer.

15 squadron moved to Jamnagar for “Air to Air firing”. The results were excellent. One day, in Jamnagar, an aircraft taxied out with an air intake blank still on, on one side. The manual advised a change of engine. I was summoned from Bareilly. I inspected the engine thoroughly and since there was no damage at all, I cleared it for further flying. I was in Bareilly till April 1967. I was sent to USSR for training on Su-7 aircraft. I loved the Gnat and was amazed at its design features and
superb performance. At the same time, maintaining the aircraft was a challenge and a great experience. One had to be alert all the time.

My experience on the Gnat stood me in good stead throughout my career.

Why IAF went for the Gnat?

By Group Captain Kapil Bhargava (Retd)

In early 1954, Indian Air Force defined its Operational Requirements (OR) anticipating that its adversaries would most likely be China and Pakistan. Intelligence information with Air HQ identified the probability of Pakistan being supplied with fighter aircraft from the US, China and Russia. India would need not only to procure aircraft to meet any threat, but also ensure that long-term air defence needs would be met by large-scale design and manufacture in India.

An elite team was picked to study, test and recommend new aircraft and weapons systems that would fulfil the operational requirements of the next 10-15 years. The team was headed by Air Cdre PC Lal, with members Gp Capt H Moolgavkar, Squadron Leaders Roshan Lal Suri (test pilot), Suranjan Das (test pilot), Srinivasan (Sigs), UK Nair (Armt), K Sarwate (Elec) and Fit. Lt. Jacob Chakko (Tech Eng).

Following IAF’s purchase of hundreds of Ouragans from France, world markets realised that India was a big buyer. She had the necessary foreign exchange reserves, and would not allow her Independence to be compromised by letting the big powers to dictate to her. European countries by then had a healthy respect for the Indian point of view as put out by PM Nehru. All of a sudden, everyone wanted to sell aircraft, guns, ships, tanks and a whole heap of military hardware to India. After all, such sales would boost their own countries’ economic well-being.
Continue reading Why IAF went for the Gnat?