HAL relives first fighter’s maiden flight 50 years ago

June 17th, 2011 - 7:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, June 17 (IANS) State-run defence behemoth Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) celebrated the maiden flight of its first fighter bomber here Friday. It was on this day five decades ago - June 17, 1961 - that Marut (HF-24) took to the skies in this aerospace hub.

To mark the golden jubilee celebrations of the first indigenous jet, the $2.9-billion company roped in its prime customer the Indian Air Force (IAF) to relive the trials and tribulations of its designers, engineers, technicians and test pilots who worked together to roll out the mock-up wooden glider in 1959 and Marut aircraft two years later.

“The first generation pilots of the air force just loved flying Marut with a sense of pride as it was our own and stood the test of time for over two decades, with a stellar performance during the Indo-Pak war in 1971,” Air Marshal K.J. Mathews said on the occasion.

Admitting that Marut, which means ‘Spirit of the Tempest’ in Sanksrit, did not perform the way the air force pilots wanted to fly due to problems its engines faced, Mathews said there was something special about it as it was the first fighter-bomber aircraft that was designed, developed and assembled by a developing country.

“Notwithstanding the teething troubles they faced from the imported (Orpheus) engines and flight controls, we nurtured it and got to love it eventually. Though I have flown almost the whole range of aircraft over the years, flying Marut was different as the experience was unique,” Mathews recalled.

As part of the IAF frontline fleet, the single-seater Marut played an active role in the India-Pakistan 1965 war and not a single aircraft was lost in any aerial combat.

IAF test pilot Group Captain Suranjan Das had the honour of flying the prototype of HF-24 with tail number BR 462 in the presence of then defence minister V.K. Krishna Menon and then HAL managing director Air Vice Marshal Aspy Merwan Engineer.

After Marut was certified for initial and final operational clearances, HAL built 129 single seaters and 18 twin-seater trainers from 1964 to 1977.

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