Hf-24 ( Marut) First Jet Fighter Manufactured Outside the Developed World.
In August 1947, the British rule lapsed over India. I have to use the word "lapsed" because freedom came to India not by a revolution or war but by an act of the British parliament. This is the government of India act of 1946.
The Britsh had set up the Royal Indian Air Force in 1932 on the advice of the Skeen committee constituted by the Viceroy. No 1 Squadron was formed and the first IAF commander was Cecil Bouchier who was seconded from the RAF. He retired as an Air Vice Marshal.
The RIAF saw action in the NW Frontier against Muslim tribesmen and later was in action against the imperial army during WW II(1939-45). The initial equipment of the iAF was aircraft of English pedigree.
In the early fifties, a proposal was floated for an indigenous fighter plane as the cold war was in full swing. Nehru must be credited with the idea of making India a self-reliant power but as usual, he went only half the way.
Earnest work began at the Hindustan Aeronautics factory at Bangalore for a fighter -bomber jet.
The Indian Air force was asked as to what they desired. The Air Staff projected a
requirement for a multi-role aircraft, which could operate at high altitude as an interceptor as well as carry out a low-level ground attack. They desired that the aircraft be able to achieve speeds of Mach 2.0 and have a ceiling of 60,000 feet (18,290 m) with a combat radius of 500 miles (805 km). In short, they required a multi-role combat aircraft that could also operate for the navy.
The Indian technical expertise to manufacture or even design such an aircraft was just not there; hence the Government of India invited Dr. Kurt Tank to head the design team at HAL
Dr. Kurt Tank
Dr.Kurt Waldemar Tank (February 24, 1898 - June 5, 1983) was contacted by the Indian government. He had escaped to Argentina after the surrender of Germany.
During the Second World War, he was heading the design department at Focke-Wulf from 1931-45. Dr. Tank made a fair amount of contribution to Hitler’s war machine and designed several important aircraft including the Focke-Wulf Few 190 fighter aircraft.
Dr. Tank led a checkered life and joined the Rohrbach aircraft factory as a test pilot. There he established the design and testing department. He left the company in 1930 and joined the famous Messerschmitt Aircraft factory. He did not stay there long and became become the design director and head of flight testing for Focke-Wulf in Bremen.As the war progressed, Tank began plans for a new fighter jet, known as the Ta 183. At the end of the war with Germany in ruins, he escaped to Argentina. He was contacted and asked to come to India. He was accompanied by his able deputy Engineer Mittelhuber.
Dr.Kurt Tank was appointed as head of the design bureau and set about designing the Hindustan Marut fighter-bomber, the first military aircraft constructed in India. The importance of the plane lies in the fact it was the first indigenous fighter jet plane built outside teh developed world. This surprised the western aircraft manufacturers.
Dr. Tank set about his task in earnest and launched the first prototype, which flew in 1961. After extensive trials, the Marut entered squadron service in 1965 and was operated by the IAF till 1985. Dr. Tank left Hindustan Aeronautics in 1967 after the induction of the plane into the IAF. He retired to Munich where he died in 1983. He was instrumental in the aircraft being displayed at the Oberschleissheim museum near Munich.
The Marut, however, did not live up to its promise, basically because the engine was underpowered. It barely touched Mach 1.1 in a dive. But it was a versatile plane and did well in the wars against Pakistan. Not a single aircraft was lost due to air combat and only 4 aircraft were lost due to ground fire. In all about 145 Maruts were built.
The airframe developed by Dr. Tank was flawless but he could not develop an engine of requisite power. There was an attempt to fit an Egyptian manufactured engine but this was abandoned in 1969. Somehow the various development
programs to enhance the operational performance of the HF-24 Marut by HAL were
abandoned for one reason or the other. In addition after the Pokharan blast in 1975, the western powers clamped down on technology transfer and the Marut suffered.
A word about the Chief test pilot of the Marut is required. Wing Commander (later Group Captain) Suranjan Das was India's foremost test pilot. He flew the HF-001 for the first time on 17th June 1961. Tragically, he was killed in 1970 when testing a more advanced version of the Marut.
The Marut Retires
Due to the delay in finding a suitable power plant for the engine, the GOI concluded an agreement with the Soviet Union for the MiG-23 variable-sweep fighter to meet the Tactical Air Strike Aircraft (TASA) requirement. Four squadrons, then flying the HF-24 and Sukhoi Su-7 was re-equipped with the MiG-23BN.
The Marut will, however, live in the annals of the aviation history of the IAF, as the first indigenous built fighter bomber.