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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 !”
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