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The Dassault Mystere and the Indian Air Force

MG is a senior air warrior who is an alumnus of the Staff College and a notable writer on military history.

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Introduction

India has had a long connection with French aviation since the days when Krishna Menon was the defense minister. The first "supersonic-in-a-dive" aircraft in the IAF, the Mystere was inducted in 1957 and served till 1973. It was the mainstay of interdictory forces during the 1965 War. A total of 104 Mystere IV were supplied by Avions Marcel Dassault.

The development of the Mystere commenced at the Dassault factory in 1951 and the plane was operational by 1954. It was a subsonic fighter bomber and was used by the French Air Force. The Israeli Air Force also bought this plane. The French Air Force did not find the plane and its avionics commensurate with its needs and the plane was retired in 1963. Dassault did produce a supersonic version also but it did not set the Atlantic on fire.

Dassault produced 5 variants of the Mystere but by 1958 the plane had been relegated to training duties. The IAF going in for the Mystere in 1957 was not a very good deal but then at that time the political scenario was very hot and the USA and Great Britain were not prepared to supply the latest planes to India while the Russians had not yet stepped in. The Indian Defense Ministry opted for the French plane and it did very good service in the subcontinent.

It was not used in the 1962 war with China as the government decided not to use the airforce for reasons of timidity. The Mystere was however used for air operations during the 1965 war and its earlier avatar Ouragan was also used for a strike on Mizo rebels who had taken control of the city of Aizwal in 1965.

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the-dassault-mystere-and-the-indian-air-force

With the IAF

It is interesting to learn about the development of the Mystere which for several years was the mainstay of the Indian Air Force. The genesis of the manufacture of the plane can be traced to Marcel Bloch. He was a French resistance fighter and an aircraft designer. He had been arrested by the Germans but was released from the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany in 1945. He returned to France and changed his name to Marcel "Dassault", which had been his brother's "nom de guerre" in the French underground. He immediately began to put his talent to good use and established an aircraft manufacturing firm the "Societe des Avions Marcel Dassault". The company made good progress and became one of the top French aircraft production factories.

The aircraft was bought by the IAF in 'flyaway' condition like the Rafale has been bought now. The Mystere was the updated version of the earlier French fighter bomber the Ouragon. In 1953, India ordered 71 Ouragans with the slightly uprated Nene 105 engine. The IAF gave it a new name, ' Toofani'. The Ouragon was used by the Indian Air Force in counter-insurgency operations but records of the use of the plane are sketchy because it was phased out soon.

India used the Mystere extensively in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. On 16 September 1965, a Mystère IVA shot down a Pakistani L-19. On 7 September an Indian Mystère was rammed in the air by a Pakistani Lockheed F-104 Starfighter in a raid over Sargodha. Both the Mystère and the Starfighter crashed.

Sargodha was the principal airbase of the PAF. Over 50% of the PAF combat strength was located at this base and thus it had to be taken out at all costs. The IAF planned and executed six strikes against Sargodha at different times of day on 7th September 65. The aim was to neutralize the PAF on the ground. The Indian attacks were led by the Mystere and Hawker Hunter. Squadron number 1& 8 of Mystere's took part in the attack which achieved minimal success as the PAF had reportedly constructed underground hangers. This was not the case.

The IAF however blunted the edge of the PAF and it is on record that 31 sorties were mounted against the base from dawn to dusk on that day. The bulk of the attacks were conducted by the Mystere's.

After the 1965 war, the Mystere did not have much use as by then the MIG- 21 had become the workhorse of the Indian Air Force.


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Retirement

After the 1971 war, the Mystere was no longer a potent option for the Indian Air Force. The Indian Air Force then was completely equipped with Russian planes including the MIG-21, the SU-7, the AN-12 among others. The Mystere was not at all used in the 1971 war. An incident from the 1965 war however stands out. Squadron Leader Bopayya Devayya went into combat with an F104, a plane that could fly at twice the speed of the Mystere. It was an unequal fight but the Air Force pilot was able to hit the F 104 though he himself crashed. The F104 also crashed. Squadron Leader Bopayya was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra(MVC) for bravery. For many years the feat of Squadron leader Bopayya remained under wraps and he was finally resurrected and awarded the MVC in 1988.

The Mystere and Ouragon are displayed at the Air Force Museum at Palam. They form an exciting page in the history of the Indian Air Force.


Comments

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on February 13, 2021:

Devika, its such a pleasure to read your comment

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 13, 2021:

emge Informative about what most of us didn't know or had forgotten.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on February 02, 2021:

Thanks, Tom, your comments are informative. Nice to have pointed out the anomalies which I shall amend later.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on February 02, 2021:

Thank you, Ravi, for commenting

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on February 02, 2021:

Thank you, Pamela, for sparing time and commenting

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 02, 2021:

This is an interesting account of the Mystere, MG. Your articles about the military history in India are always exxcellent.

tom on February 02, 2021:

some information is wrong,110 mystere mk4a in iaf 5squadrons,transonic,65 sargodha no underground hangers ,devayya shot down fll lt hussains f104,before that f104 hit and damged mystere,to avoid embarassment paf claims collision,mvc in 1988 to devayya,september 7th sargodha strike three mysteres lost in combat,pilots killed or pow,toofanis hit aizwal not mysteres,1971 two squadrons did interdiction at night,hundreds of sorties,no zero gravity ejection seat,tv series aeronauts shows this planes,movies anohkee pehchan and hindustan ki kasam ,two movies m ysteres played f86s,two planes resmble each other ,dassult sold mirage 3and 5 tp paf ,200 mirages in paf ,excellent ground attack aircraft,most heavily armed ground attack plane of iaf ,nick name flying armoury,few losses in 1965 and 1971war,1974 phase out,supersonic version supermystere,1954 pc lal,roshan suri and moolgavkar selected gnat,ouragan and mystere

Ravi Rajan from Mumbai on February 02, 2021:

Thanks for the information, Emge.Looking forward to reading more such interesting military histories from you.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on February 02, 2021:

Ravi, thank you for commenting. There was no plan or an attempt made to upgrade the plane by the IAF because the parent manufacturer was not interested in it. They had moved head to other aircraft.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on February 02, 2021:

Thank you Citra sweet of you to have commented and spared time as well.

Ravi Rajan from Mumbai on February 02, 2021:

Interesting history about the Mystere. One question that comes is that why it was it retired? Why was it not upgraded with the latest technology as a certain comfort level had already been established by the usage of the aircraft?

Thanks for sharing this interesting remnant of Indian Air force History.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on February 02, 2021:

Interesting and informative article about the Dassault Mystere, with reference to the wars and the IAF. It was good to know about this.

Thank you for sharing.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on February 02, 2021:

Thank you Rebellio for commenting. Great to know you operated this plane. From all accounts, it was a tough plane that did good service for the IAF.

IA Rebellio on February 02, 2021:

I enjoyed reading this article. It took my memory back to the days when I used to fly this plane in the Air Force 6 decades back. I must mention the plane had an excellent safety record and the fact that it could even get into combat against the F104 is a plus point.

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