MG is a senior air warrior who is an alumnus of the Staff College and a voracious writer on military history.
India was part of the British Empire and as is the won't of all imperialist powers no development was carried out in India. On the contrary, the British denuded the country of much-needed capital and raw materials and reduced a once prosperous nation to penury. The British however left India in 1947 as they had themselves been reduced from Great Britain to Little Britain by their campaign against Hitler. They never had the wherewithal to control India as the army enthused by Subhas Chandra Bose had mutinied.
India achieved independence in 1947. At that time there was no Aviation Industry worth the name and the Government of India upgraded an existing aircraft service establishment set up by the USAAF at Bangalore. The Indian Air Force was equipped with a motley bunch of British aircraft. The need for a strong air force was felt as well the need to be self-reliant in Defense matters as well as aviation.
The real fillip to the defense effort came with the advent of Krishna Menon as Defense Minister. He set the ball rolling for the manufacture of an indigenous fighter plane. As per the Air Staff requirement, the aircraft was to be a fighter bomber and able to fly at speeds of Mach 2. The Air Staff also expected that this plane would be used for the Navy as well.
The Defense Minister was able to persuade the Government to design the plane with a foreign consultant. Accordingly, Dr. Kurt Tank, a famous designer of World War II fame was inducted as head of the design team. Dr. Tank had earlier been head of the Institute of Technology at Madras. Dr. Tank was the head of the design team at Focke-Wulf during World War II. After the war, he escaped from Germany and went to Argentina where he designed a plane and then came to India.
There was an urgent need for an indigenous fighter Bomber as the Indian political policy of non-alignment was not liked by the western powers and they refused to supply any worthwhile operational aircraft to the IAF.
Dr. Tank set about his job in earnest and soon a prototype of a fighter bomber was developed. Called the Marut the plane was fitted with Orpheus engines. This engine was used in the Folland Gnat which was assembled in India. The engine was available. The engineers at Hindustan Aeronautics and Dr. Tank decided to use this engine for the Marut. But these were underpowered in relation to the frame and the plane achieved only 1.1 Mach in shallow dives. But otherwise, its performance was impressive and the first plane was soon inducted into the IAF in 1965. This plane continued to fly with the IAF till 1990.
The plane however underpowered and never achieved its potential. Various engines were tried, but politics took a front seat and the western powers denied India the latest engines. However an attempt was made with an Egyptian power plant, but the scheme did not take off from the drawing board. The Marut also referred to as HF -24 was successfully used in the 1965 and 71 wars with Pakistan. The plane did well and no aircraft was shot down in air combat.
In all about 145 Maruts were built. But as the Mach 2 speed was not achieved the IAF scouted around and settled for the MIG fighters of the Soviets. The MIG-21 was offered by the Russians during the visit of the first Secretary of the communist party Nikita Khrushchev to India along with Nikolai Bulganin. License production of the MIG commenced in India and the plane is still part of the airforce first line fleet. In 2020 during the skirmish, a MIG -21 piloted by Wg Cdr Vardhaman shot down an F-16 of the PAF.
The aircraft named the “Marut” (Wind Spirit) entered service from Nov 69 with 10 Sqn (Daggers) and finally, three squadrons (10, 220, and 31) were equipped with this plane. A total of 18 trainers designated Mk-ITs were also received. By the commencement of the 1971 Liberation war with Pakistan, only two Squadrons (220 and 10) operated the type from Jodhpur and Uttarlai.
During the 1971 war, the HF-24 flew over 200 sorties striking deep into Pakistan at Hyderabad and Talhar airfields and interdicting railway systems at Mirpur Khas and Rohri. Maruts also were part of the complete rout of the Pakistani army’s 22 Cavalry at Longewala. A Marut piloted by Sqn Ldr KK Bakshi of 220 Squadron also shot down a PAF F-86 Sabre on 07 Dec 71 (Flg Offr Hamid Khwaja of 15 Squadron PAF).
A point to be noted is that no aircraft were lost in combat with any PAF airplane, though two planes were lost due to ground fire and one on the ground.
The Marut will be remembered as the first Indian indigenous plane and the only aircraft that came out of the aircraft factory of a developing nation. This is itself a feather in the cap of the Indians. The Marut is no longer in service, but those who have flown the plane will vouchsafe for it as a hardy and wonderful plane to fly. Despite its limitations of speed, the Marut handled very well and not a single aircraft was lost in combat.
The Marut was completely phased out in 1990. One aircraft is preserved at the Air force Museum at Palam and another is displayed in Germany, at the home town of Dr. Tank.
MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on February 13, 2021:
Vanita Thakkar on February 13, 2021:
Nice, informative article. Enjoyed it.
MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on February 12, 2021:
Tom, very nice you commented. The HF 24 had a futuristic design and credit for that must go to Dr. Tank but underpowered engines were its bane. Considering, Dr. Tank started work in India in 1956 it took a little too long to get the plane into the air, and by that time the Russians had come in and made a monopoly. One fact does jar that the Indians never pursued the next step to the HF24 and the plane was just allowed to waste away. The death of a test pilot is a bit of a tragedy and considering that four of them died while testing the Marut does not look good for the design team headed by Dr. Tank. The HF24 was on its last legs when I entered the Airforce but I never flew it as I was flying Russian planes. But many pilots which I know who flew the HF24 believed that it was a very sturdy and safe plane
MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on February 12, 2021:
thank you Sankhajit for your comment.
Sankhajit Bhattacharjee from MILWAUKEE on February 12, 2021: