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It's a milestone for a magnificent fighter

Staff Reporter

The HF-24 is a legend among pilots even today

THE HINDU PHOTO ARCHIVES

DATE WITH HISTORY: Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru inspecting the HF-24 in Bangalore on July 28, 1961.

BANGALORE: This was the first indigenous fighter/ bomber aircraft India built, and that too in a record time. Though currently not in service, the HF-24, known as Marut, which served the Indian Air Force during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war, is now celebrating its golden jubilee.

Designed and developed by the well known Focke-Wulf designer Kurt Tank, the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) produced 129 single-seaters and 18 trainers between 1964 and 1977.

Glorious saga

The saga of Marut, which began in 1956 with the arrival of Prof. Tank, hit the benchmark when a 1:1 scale wooden glider flew in 1959 despite being bogged down by shortage of qualified staff and required facilities. While an HF-24, controlled by Group Captain Suranjan Das, took to the air on June 17, 1961, the first official flight took off on June 24, 1961. “The HF-24 was a sight to behold. Pilots fondly remember it as a stable and wonderful weapons platform,” HAL said in a press note, adding that if Marut was the ‘Wind Spirit', the men involved with her were the heart of that spirit.

During its service with the Indian Air Force, three Marut squadrons were raised, which provided aerial support for the Indian Army during the 1971 war.

Not a single aircraft was lost in combat though aerial encounters with the opposition were occasional. The three squadrons ended the war with four Vir Chakras and a Mention in Despatches.

Sadly, the Marut, till the end of its days, was immersed in controversy over its engines. This was a problem which remained insurmountable till the very end.

The decline for the indigenous aircraft started in the 1980s when the Daggers of 10 Squadron stopped flying, followed by the Desert Tigers of Squadron 220. The Lions of 31 Squadron finally wound down in 1983, and the last sortie of the aircraft was flown on October 8, 1984 on the Air Force Day.

One of the Maruts retired from service is now on display at the Air Force Academy in Dundigal near Hyderabad.

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