Skip to main content

The De Havilland Vampire Fighter Bomber With the Iaf

A senior air warrior, graduate from the Staff College and a PG in military studies. He is qualified to write on war and allied matters.



In 1947 the Indian Air Force felt the need for a ground attack aircraft when the Indian Army was battling the Pakistani invaders in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. With the war still on in Kashmir, the IAF scouted round for a jet fighter bomber.

The induction of the vampire had been approved during the days of the British Raj and as per reports available, three vampires joined the RIAF between 1945 and 47. The deal for De Havilland vampire, a jet fighter bomber was progressed with England. As the IAF since its inception had been operating only British aircraft which had been seconded from RAF inevitably the choice was for a British pedigree plane. The first of the Vampires F3s - HB544 (ex VV209, VT-CXH ) was received by the IAF in 1945. The aircraft was formerly VV209 from the RAF inventory.

The bulk of the planes came in 1948-49 and Number 7 squadron was equipped with this plane. The vampire is a single-seater fighter bomber. It had a trainer version also with two seats and that was used for training in the IAF for close to 3 decades. The vampire was manufactured by the De Havilland aircraft company. It was the second jet fighter to be operated by the RAF, after the Gloster Meteor and the first to be powered by a single jet engine.

In 1946, six vampires flew from England to the United States across the Atlantic and became the first jet planes to cover this route. The jet plane had been under testing since 1943.

The vampire had limitations of speed and maneuverability and was not purchased by many countries. For India, this was an excellent buy and the Indian air force became the first airforce in Asia to operate jet fighter planes. It is recorded that 3268 of these planes were built in England and the last of them flew in 1979 with the Rhodesian Airforce.

The vampire was a subsonic plane and was a little slow. The RAF retired the plane from combat duty in 1953 but the Indian air force continued using the plane till 1965.


Vampire with the IAF

The vampire could also be used for ground attack role as it could carry four 500 lb bombs and had two machine guns. The plane was however relegated to a secondary role in the IAF with the advent of the Hawker Hunter and the Folland Gnat interceptor.

In the 1962 war, the vampire was not used at all as the Nehru government did not wish to escalate the conflict and the Air Force was kept out of the operations. In hindsight this was a monumental blunder as the use of the airforce at that time would have turned the tide against the Chinese.

The first time the vampire saw action was in the 1965 war with Pakistan. At that time Pakistan made a big armored thrust in the Chamb-Jaurian sector and the army requested for ground support to repel the invaders.

It is not known as to who decided at that time to use the vampire for the ground attack. It was known that the Pakistanis had the F 86 Sabre jet which had been given to them by the United States and the vampire was not a match for the Sabre. There is a possibility that the clearance to use the vampire was given by the CAS but nothing can be said with any certainty.

The vampires were launched into attack when superior planes like Hawker Hunter was available. In the ensuing battle, 4 vampires were lost to air combat and ground fire. Two vampires were shot down by Pakistani F86 as the vampire was simply out of its depth in combating with the Sabrejet.

News of the loss of the vampires reached air headquarters it promptly decided not to use them for any more ground support role. The Hawker Hunter and a Folland Gnat were pressed into service but the loss of four vampires and aircrew always rankles with the Indian Airforce.

The vampire was a good plane during the late 40s but by mid-60s it had become almost obsolete and RAF discontinued its operational role from 1953 and was using it only for pilot training.

After the end of the war, the vampire was relegated only to a training role and slowly began to be phased out as India at that time had signed the military agreement with Russia for the supply of the MiG 21.

In the late 40s and early 50s the vampire had its most glorious period but after that, it was more of liability, yet the IAF persisted with it for another decade. One of the planes is now preserved at the Air Force Museum at Palam and one can have a look at the machine.

Scroll to Continue
At the Air Force Museum , Palam

At the Air Force Museum , Palam

Last word

The first squadron to receive the vampire was number 7 squadron in January 1949. Later number 17 squadron IAF was also equipped with the vampire. There was also the vampire F 54 which was the reconnaissance plane and equipped number 37 squadron. It was used for reconnaissance duty during the Goa campaign and also came under anti-aircraft fire at that time in 1961.

On 1 September 1965, during the Indo-Pakistan war No 45 Squadronresponded to a request for strikes against a counter-attack by the Pakistan army, and twelve Vampire Mk 52 fighter-bombers were successful in slowing the Pakistani advance. However, after the loss of 4 vampires, the plane was withdrawn from combat duty.

The vampire will however always have a niche in the heart of the Indian Airforce. It was the first jet fighter bomber that was inducted. It was the beginning of a new chapter of Jet aircraft warfare. The airforce has come a long way from those days and now operates the Jaguar, the Mirage, the MIG21/ 29/31, and the SU- 30.

People who have flown the vampire have generally very favorable opinions about the plane. It had good endurance though it was a little low as far as maneuverability was concerned. Moreover, its peculiar shape of having twin fins was not conducive to high speeds or upgradations.

The vampire with however remains an important part of the chequered history of the Indian Air Force.


tom on October 13, 2020:

sir type iaf attrition crashes in google you will get detail by type ,year

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 11, 2020:

I have had a look at Bharat Rakshak the website but I could not locate 101 vampire crashes which you have mentioned.

tom on October 11, 2020:

bharat rakshak website has details per year and type,245 hal made vampires,vampires as trainers,four vampire squadrons combat converted to other types,1948-1975 data 101 is correct

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 10, 2020:

Tom, the IAF operated only four squadrons of vampires which works out to about 80 aircraft so the question that 101 vampires Crashed may not be correct.

tom on October 10, 2020:

101 vampires crashed in iaf service,early models no ejection seat

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 03, 2020:

Tom, thank you for this bit of information. I do admire Frederick Forsyth and his books.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 02, 2020:

Tom, thanks for the info.

tom on October 02, 2020:

245 hal made vampires,fredrick forsyth was raf vampire pilot ,his book the shepherd on vampire aircraft

tom on October 02, 2020:

1948 3 vampires in iaf ,first in asia,early models no ejection seat

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 02, 2020:

The vampire remains the first jet fighter inducted by any air force in Asia.

tom on September 30, 2020:

vampires phased out in 1975,acted in 1968 movie admi aur insaan

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 28, 2020:

Tom, thanks for the info which you have is awesome

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 27, 2020:

The loss of the vampires was a big blow but the important point is who took the decision to send these slow planes into combat.

tom on September 27, 2020:

4 vampires shot down on september 1 1965 ,3 pilots killed

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 23, 2020:

Thank you, Liz, for sparing time to read and comment

Liz Westwood from UK on July 23, 2020:

This is an interesting article. I recall seeing this plane in a museum.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 23, 2020:

Thanks, Alan for pointing out the bloomer! The UK is now out of the picture and the French did a hard sell and the Air Force brass wanted the French plane.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on July 23, 2020:

So ties have been cut with the UK military? The French have got their 'claws' on India again since the Seven Years' War in the 18th Century when Sir Arthur Wellesley (later Duke of Wellington after the Peninsular War) defeated an alliance with the Raj? Was that at the Indian military's suggestion or did the French do a 'selling job'? They sold Exocet missiles to the Argentinians in the 1980's during the Falklands issue (that was no war, it was a 'police action' by HM Forces, and funnily enough there were Welshmen on both sides... ask me why.

In line 8 below you say, "... but at the moment the fighters are still of Russian region..."

That threw me for a moment when I read it the first time. I take it you meant, "...the fighters are of Russian origin..."

We all stumble sometimes, or lose track of what we wanted to say.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 22, 2020:

Alan, the IAF has come a long way into the 21st century. India is now firmly aligned with America and the USS enterprise has just carried out exercises with the Indian Navy in event of war with China to block the Malacca Strait. As far as the Air Force is concerned the Americans are giving the Lockheed transport plane the Chinook and the Apache attack helicopter. They are ready to give the F 35 also but at the moment the fighters are still of Russian region. Immediately after the clash with China Russia gave 42 SU 30 and MiG 29 on emergency basis to India much to the chagrin of the Chinese. India has also signed a deal for 126 Rafale fighters from France and the first lot has already been inducted. The stress is now on Indian made aircraft and the Dhruv light attack helicopter is under production. India is also manufacturing the Tejas Mark II interceptor. It is a Mach 2 multirole operational aircraft and will slowly replace the MiG 21 completely. During a recent visit to India by the chief of the American air force he had the privilege to fly the Tejas Mark II which is now being offered for sale to other countries as well.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 22, 2020:

Pamela, thanks. Your comment is so welcome.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 22, 2020:

Thanks for another interesting bit of history of India for the fighter bomber, MG.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on July 22, 2020:

Interesting progression the IAF made in its choice of fighter aircraft, emge, from British to US and then Russian. Whose military planes does the IAF fly now (obviously not the Chinese)?

The USAAF (or was it the USAF in 1944-45?) successfully used the Lockheed twin-tailed fighters against the German Messerschmitt and Focke-Wulf aircraft at the tail end of WWII, although the Luftwaffe had had its day by then and were experimenting unsuccessfully (for the pilots, that is) with Rocket fighters, Hitler having demanded his jet fighters be armed with bombs for dual capability and forsaken their advantage. Then again, by the late 40's air warfare had moved on apace.

The Russians had been 'accidentally' afforded the advantage by the War Office by sending planes to the Soviet Union that were powered by Rolls Royce engines, no less. Being clever lads with copying technology, the Russians had modified the Rolls Royce engines for jet fighters, and used their up-graded MiGs against the Allies in Korea.

The advantage was not fully exploited by the Chinese and North Koreans, was it, and handed to MacArthur. The Russians obviously upgraded their warplanes again, which is probably why the IAF was equipped by them against Pakistan.

What do you say?

Related Articles