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Old 22nd January 2015, 22:36   #1
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Default Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter

Indian Aviation - HF-24 Marut, first Indian designed jet fighter


This is the story of India (and Asia's) first indigenously designed jet fighter the HF-24 Marut. It was a landmark achievement for the 1950s and 60s and I don’t wish to take anything away from that. Nevertheless this tale is narrated with what I hope is a balanced objectivity and not a nostalgic applaud. I have tried to balance between things we can be proud of, things we didn't do so well and lessons we ought to have learnt but may not have. Views expressed are my own and not intended to offend anyone. Reference sources at the end. Photo credits mentioned where known.



CONCEPTUALIZATION

India, in 1955, was a young nation full of enthusiasm for building the economy. A lot of projects were tried for the first time under the national objective of creating our own manufacturing and design capabilities. One such endeavour was to design and build in India, for the first time, our very own jet fighter. This was ambitious to say the least at a time when we had just started assembling diesel locomotives, had never built a major ship, had just started assembly of motor cars, possessed little aluminum smelting capacity etc etc. This was Pandit Nehru's vision and the IAF (Indian Air Force) enthusiastically went along. At the time of the Marut's conception, the domestic aviation industry's only design experience amounted to designing and manufacturing the HT-2, a piston engine propeller driven trainer. Whatever aircraft manufacturing capability existed resulted from the license assembly of the Vampire Fighter Bomber FBMk.52 and Trainer TMk.55. To have considered building a supersonic capable aircraft, given such limited capabilities, bordered on audacity. The only aircraft manufacturing capability lay in Hindustan Aircraft Ltd (HAL) set up by Walchand Hirachand in the 1930s and nationalized by the Government subsequently.


Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter-p1-ht2.jpg

P1: the HT-2 propeller driven primary trainer. This represented the only indigenous design capability in India at the time of the decision to design & build the Marut. The HT-2 was designed by Dr VM Ghatge and served the IAF and the Army Aviation Corps for 25 years. 172 were manufactured of which 12 were exported to Ghana.


The building of the Marut (Spirit of the Tempest), as this aircraft was to be called, was the first attempt of its kind anywhere outside the four major powers of USA, USSR, UK and France to build a supersonic jet fighter. Whatever else one might say the gumption deserves admiration. The political, bureaucratic and I dare say military hierarchies did not have a proper appreciation of the supply chain infrastructure and quality control challenges that would need to be overcome.


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P2: The end product, subject of our story, the Hindustan Fighter HF-24; this specimen preserved at the Kurt Tank Museum in Germany



AIR STAFF REQUIREMENT

The Marut was conceived to meet an Air Staff Requirement (ASR), that called for a multi-role aircraft suitable for both high-altitude interception and low-level ground attack. The specified performance attributes called for a speed of Mach 2.0 at altitude, a ceiling of 60,000 feet (18,290 m) and a combat radius of 500 miles (805 km). Furthermore, the Air Staff Requirement demanded that the basic design be suitable for adaptation as an advanced trainer, an all-weather fighter and for 'navalization' as a shipboard aircraft. It was directed that this aircraft be developed within the country. Nations with advanced military design and manufacturing capabilities rarely, if ever, put out specifications that are such all singing all dancing renditions. A military aircraft is designed to play one role well, a second role moderately well and sometimes , only sometimes, a third role in a limited form. Unfortunately out of lack of experience (and in my opinion a willingness to apply common sense) the Air Staff Requirement was too wide and reflected lack of clarity of aims and a complete lack of understanding of what it takes to design and build a fighter as opposed to flying one. It is like saying - I want a car that drives like a BMW 3 (Mach 2.0), suitable for both high and low altitudes (drive well on a race track as well on Delhi's rutted roads), can carry payload like a Isuzu D-Max pick-up (low level ground attack payload) and have the toughness of a 4-wheel drive cross country mud slogger (capable of all weather capabilities & navalization). The combat radius of ~800 kms was beyond the ken of the most efficient fighter turbojet even in the USA of the 1950s. These ranges were not achieved till military turbofan engines like the Rolls Royce Spey (on the Hawker Buccaneer, 1960s) or Rolls Royce Adour (Sepecat Jaguar, 1970s) amongst others came into play. All weather was at best in an experimental rudimentary stage even in USA and USSR in 1956 and no IAF aircraft of 1956 even carried a gun ranging radar let alone a search & track one. While I don’t wish to be too critical these were overly ambitious specifications for 1955 even for the UK, France or USSR. As an aside, it might be worth noting that the ASR for the current Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Tejas, in mid-1980s, followed the same concept of all singing all dancing and (partly due to that) it is sadly still some way off from full operational service 30 years later. The only other aircraft of the 1950s and 1960s that was designed to similar specifications as the Marut and carried a requirement for navalization + all-weather was the legendary McDonnell Douglas F4 Phantom of the US Air Force and Navy. And let's remember the Americans were then and today the foremost in aviation R&D, design and production know-how. And even with the Phantom the Americans lost out on maneuverability.

Dr VM Ghatge, India's senior most aeronautical designer was the only voice against the Marut. He prescribed a more balanced step by step approach to building the nation's aviation industry by first designing & building propeller trainers, then basic jet trainers, then light attack fighter-bombers and then a more advanced light multi-role fighter and to do this in stages over 2 decades. In retrospect his was, in my opinion, the more sensible approach. But Ghatge's voice was drowned out.

Nehru tried to attract leading aeronautical designers from the west to work for India on this project. It was to his credit that he convinced Dr. Kurt Tank (of Focke Wulf fame) to take up this assignment along with his able deputy Engineer Mittelhuber. Both arrived in Bangalore in August 1956. As head of the design team it was Kurt Tank who would give the design shape and substance.


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P3: Dr Kurt Tank (1898 - 1983). Dr APJ Kalam was a student of his at Madras Institute of Technology where Tank taught while deputed to HAL



Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter-p4-fw190.jpg

P4: The legendary Focke Wulf FW190, the top performing German fighter of WWII. 20,000 + were manufactured. In most respects it was a match and more for the equally legendary British Spitfire. Photo Source: Bjorn Huber Collection

HAL in 1956, possessed only three senior Indian design engineers and the entire design department boasted only 54 personnel. It had no hangar space for construction of prototypes, no machine shop for prototype engineering, no suitable test equipment, structural test rigs or a flight test laboratory. In fact even the runway length was inadequate for a jet fighter prototype. It is to the credit of HAL team of that era that all this was created from scratch while Kurt Tank built up the design & prototype team of over 850 personnel including 18 German designers.


DESIGNING & BUILDING THE MARUT

A full scale representation (wooden glider) of the projected fighter was ready by early 1959. A test program was initiated with this glider on 1 April 1959. The new design was given the designation of Hindustan Fighter 24 or simply HF-24.


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P5: Wind tunnel testing of a scale model of the Marut, 1959. All this basic infrastructure was created from scratch by HAL. Photo credit: Marutfans.com


Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter-p6-glider.jpg

P6: Wooden glider of Marut design in test flight towed behind a C-47 Dakota. Glider tests for aerodynamics started in April 1959. 78 test flights were conducted with the gliders which were released between 12,000 and 15,000 feet altitude. Use of wooden gliders was an integral part of Kurt Tank's style of design testing. Photo credit: Marutfans.com. Copyright Late Group Captain Kapil Bhargava

Assembly of the first HF-24 prototype (HF-001) began in April 1960 and after a comprehensive three month ground test programme, HF-001 (later re-numbered BR 462), with the late Wing Commander (later Group Captain) Suranjan Das at the controls, flew for the first time on 17 June 1961. In the circumstances this was a commendably short period of 15 months from starting to put together the prototype to first flight.


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P7: HF-001, the first prototype was first subjected to several days of ground run testing to check if at a basic level the controls, engines, fuel systems, hydraulics, electrics actually work in co-ordination.



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P8: Wing Commander (later group Captain) Suranjan Das, India's foremost test pilot, flew the HF-001 for the first time on 17th June, 1961. He led the test flying on the Marut as well as the later Kiran jet trainer. Earlier he had led the test flying for the Gnat. Tragically, he was killed in 1970 when testing a more advanced version of the Marut.



On 27th June 1961 they built up enough confidence and test hours to show case the prototype to Prime Minister Nehru. The prototype was re-numbered BR462. By November 1961, a structural test airframe had been completed and was subjected to extensive structural and functional tests in rigs designed and fabricated at Bangalore. On 4 October 1962, a second prototype (BR 463) joined the flight development programme and the two prototypes were extensively tested by Das and a team of three Air Force test pilots for aerodynamics & stability, engine protocol, armament, instrumentation, emergency procedures etc. It was a remarkable achievement for its era. India became only the 6th country to design and fly its own supersonic jet combat aircraft after USA, UK, USSR, France and Sweden.


Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter-p9-br462.jpg

P9: BR462 towed out for its first flight in presence of Prime Minister Nehru 27th June 1961. C-119G Packet medium transport in background. This is the HAL airstrip. Note the open expanse now packed with buildings on two sides. Photo Copyright: HAL


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P10: Prototype now numbered BR462 on a flight after 27th June 1961. Unfortunately I have located no photograph of the first flights of either 17th June or 27th June 1961 Photo Copyright Group Captain Polly Singh


SEARCH FOR A SUITABLE POWER PLANT

The design of the HF-24 had been based around the expected availability of the 3700 kgf (kilogram force) afterburning Bristol Siddeley (later Rolls Royce) Orpheus engine which the British planned to develop. An after burning turbo jet is one in which fuel is injected and exploded in the hot exhaust of the jet (behind the turbines) which still has some oxygen in it. The resultant combustion of pure vaporized fuel into a red hot efflux blasting rearwards at hundreds of metres per second results in a rocket like acceleration and very high power to weight ratios. Afterburners consume prodigious volumes of fuels and are usually used when high thrust is needed for a few minutes. Unfortunately, the British requirement for this power plant was discarded and the Indian Government in a short sighted decision declined to underwrite its continued development (to Rolls Royce) even though the budget was only 13 million not a large sum even by the standards of 1961. This decision was to bedevil the Marut programme permanently. The design team was forced to adopt the non-afterburning 2200 kgf Orpheus 703 which powered the Gnat as an interim solution. It was an utterly reliable engine but with inadequate power for the Marut. We evaluated the Soviet Tumansky RD-9F that powered the contemporary Mig-19. The Tumansky powerplant had a full thrust of 3750 kgf with afterburners and put it just right for the Marut. But for reasons I don’t fully understand the Tumansky engine was rejected on grounds of surging and limited MTBO (Mean Time Between Overhauls). Speaking in favour of the Tumansky RD9F it was a rugged engine, had great acceleration, was resistant to ingestion of dust, mud and ice and went on to power the Soviet Mig-19, Yak-25, the Chinese ShenyangJ-6 & Nanchang Q-5. It is popular in Western literature to decry the old Soviet engines as having a lower MTBO. What is less understood is that between the two MTBO points this Soviet engine needed little care & maintenance. However, I don’t want to be harsh in judging those who took these decisions as I have not stood in their shoes.



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P11: Rolls Royce Orpheus. HF-24's powerplant - light & reliable


Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter-p12-tumansky_rd9.jpg

P12: Tumansky RD9. Over 23,000 were built making it the one of the two most produced jet engines ever


The lack of an appropriate power plant meant the Marut could not fulfill its role as an interceptor though the scope of being a reasonable ground attack fighter-bomber was very possible. A lot of hard work by Kurt Tank and team, by HAL and by Suranjan Das who led the team of test pilots did help mature the Marut into a flyable aircraft. Despite IAF reluctance and unwillingness to understand that it was in its own interests to support a fledgling home industry the Government sensibly ordered 18 pre-production aircraft and 62 operational ones to arm 2 or 3 squadrons. In fairness to the IAF there is a long journey from an aircraft that flies to an aircraft that fights and does so consistently in adverse conditions. In 1963 the Marut development efforts had not traveled that distance and the IAF was justified in not being keen to take an immature product into operational squadrons. In fact it would be 1971 by the time most defects were ironed out.


AIRCRAFT DESIGN & FEATURES

It is said that a picture is worth of thousand words. The design of the Marut is explained below with help of photos rather than lengthy aeronautical verbiage.


Overall Design


Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter-p13-wing.jpg

P13: This photo, one of my favourites from the Kurt Tank museum, shows - (i) Marut's streamlined, aerodynamically clean pencil fuselage with its side air in-takes for the twin power plants; (ii) thin wing designed for supersonic flight; (iii) Under the wings we see the 2 weapon pylons of the port (left) wing; (iv) wide track under carriage to support landings on rough airfields; (v) the bubble canopy for good visibility; and (vi) the fairings, under the nose for the four 30 mm Aden cannons each firing 10 rounds per second Photo Copyright: Kurt Tank Museum, Germany


Fuselage


Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter-p14-3view-copy.jpg

P14: Photo taken from one of my early aircraft books, 'The World Guide to Combat Planes by William Green, 1966 edition'. The side view shows the fuselage design layout of one-behind-the-other - right to left, marked with blue arrows, are - (i)the avionics bay in the pencil nose cone, (ii) the cockpit, (iii) the gun bay beneath & behind the cockpit, (iv) the internal rocket pack (for ground attack), (v) the central main fuselage fuel tank, (vi) landing gear and (vii) the twin engines. The pilot sat high in a canopy that afforded a very useful view through a 300 degree arc and down wards too. Also shows the highly swept supersonic wing - more on it in the next section. This was my first big book on aircraft gifted in 1967 and as a child I gawked endlessly at the photos (reading came a little later and understanding the contents a lot later!)


Wings


Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter-p15-wing2.jpg

P15: Line drawing depicting clearly - (i) the high sweep back of the wing. Sweep back reduces drag significantly and aids high speed flight (ii) blue- leading edge with dog tooth. The dog tooth creates a vortex of high speed spinning air that flows back horizontally over the wing (or scrubs tightly over the wing surfaces) and helps maintain better aerodynamic control especially at high angles of attack (iii) orange - the ailerons for turns (iv) pink - the flaps to increase the wing area and lift for aiding lower landing and take-off speeds (v) green - the cover of the retracted undercarriage; and (vi) purple - the streamlined internal launcher for the 50 internally loaded 68mm SNEB rockets (vii) grey circle on nose - 30mm twin cannons on starboard side (ie right side) and grey oval marking the under wing for weapons/fuel pylon each rated at 454 kgs carrying capacity.

Marut's wing was highly swept and thin and large - all three characteristics for an interceptor. The sweep and thickness together determine the planes ability to fly across the speed of sound - greater the sweep and thinner the wing the lower is the thrust to weight ratio needed to get the aircraft supersonic. However, on the flip side, the greater the sweep and thinner the wing the higher becomes the landing speed and the less stable and maneuverable is the aircraft at low speeds below 250 knots (450 kmph). The Marut wing is a well balanced compromise of adequate sweep to get supersonic (provided the engines develop the thrust) and the thickness was enough to maintain moderate landing speeds and low speed stability. The wing bestowed on the HF-24 an acceleration and low altitude speed that the Pakistani Sabres and Indian Hawker Hunters could not match. In fact the Marut was one of the few, if not the only, frontline aircraft that could cross Mach 1.0 without afterburners - albeit just about at high altitudes.


Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter-p16-cutaway.jpg

P16: Detailed cut away drawing with table. Note twin engine bay (89); long narrow air intakes (44, 45); centre body with fuel tanks (49); integral fuel in the wings (57); airbrakes (94); brake parachute (78); rear view vision mirror (19) ORVM!; Matra SNEB 68mm rocket pack (116); 454 litre drop tank (114); Copyright: Pilot Press

The wings were designed to carry 4 pylons (or hardpoints) rated at 454 kgs each (1000 lbs). In addition each wing carried about 700 litres of fuel in the integral tanks. An integral tank means the internal space within the wing is sealed up and filled with fuel floating between the structural members. This means each wing carried a payload of about 1425 kgs of fuel and weapons. Think of it as carrying four Maruti Alto 800s, two under each wing and clipping away at 550 knots (~1000 kmph).


Cockpit


Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter-p17-cockpit.jpg

P17: Cockpit of HF-24. Classic layout, uncluttered, clear view. Source: Bharat Rakshak



TECHNICAL DETAILS


General

Crew: 1 in the fighter-bomber; 2 in the conversion trainer

Length: 52' 1"

Wingspan: 29' 6"

Height: 11' 10"

Wing Area: 301 square feet (~28 sq metres)

Wing Sweep: Approximately 52 degrees
[PS: I have not located definitive data on the Marut's sweep angle. This is my educated guess. BHPians from the IAF or HAL could throw more light on this.]



Weights

Empty equipped: 6195 kgs/13,658 lbs

Loaded Clean: 8951 kgs/19,734 lbs

Fully Loaded: 10925 kgs/ 24,085 lbs


Power Plant

Type: Two 2200 kgp (4850 lbs) Rolls Royce Orpheus 703 turbojets

Size & Weight: These were a variant of the Gnat powerplant. Small & compact at 75" length and 32" diameter. Weight = 379 kgs Power to Weight ratio of 5.9 kgp/kg of weight.

Fuel Consumption: Specific fuel consumption for the Orpheus is 1080 grammes/kgp/hour. At full thrust for the Marut this translates to 106 litres per minute flying at 600 knots in clean condition … 175 metres per litre … this is just a rough calculation to tickle the petrohead in all of us.


Performance

Maximum Speed: 1112 kmph / 600 knots* or Mach 0.91** at sea level; 1086 kmph/ 586knots or Mach 1.02 at altitude

* a knot = 1 nautical mile per hour i.e. 1.852 kmph; a nautical mile equals 1 minute of arc of any meridian of the earth
** Mach 1.0 is the speed of sound at a given altitude; Mach 2.0 by inference is twice the speed of sound. At sea level Mach 1.0 = ~1225 kmph; at 36,000 feet altitude it is ~ 1054 kmph.


Stall Speed: 248 kmph / 133 knots

Initial climb rate: 6000 feet/min or 30 metres/second at sea level

Range/Radius: 396 kms / 214 nm lo-lo-lo with a 1800 kgs warload

lo-lo-lo is the typical fighter-bomber flight configuration it means ingress, attack and egress are all at low altitudes typically below 500 feet or 1000 feet, depending on terrain, to avoid radar detection; similarly you can have configurations such as lo-lo-hi or hi-lo-hi. Ferry flights by nature will be hi-hi-hi to get the best fuel economy


Wing Loading: ~66 lbs/ square foot in clean loaded condition; 80 lbs/ square foot at maximum weight.

The first figure is one factor on its ability to dog fight out of enemy territory after releasing its warload on target. 66 is a lightly loaded wing supporting maneuverability. Corresponding figures for the Gnat are 57 lbs/ square foot and that for the very capable modern F-16 is 88.
The latter figure of 80 indicates how well the wing will take to heavily loaded low level attack. Here we need a highly loaded wing to reduce the gust response (or bone jarring bumps) the aircraft encounters when flying at 550 knots below 1000'. Here The HF-24 doesn't do so well. Classic lo-lo-lo attack aircraft like the Sepecat Jaguar have wing loadings as high as 130 lbs/square foot

You can design a wing for interception - large, triangular, low loading, highly swept, thin or for low level attack - small, long chord (length at the root), high wing loading, moderate sweep to enhance lift and low speed control and thicker for aerodynamics and greater fuel.


Power Loading: 0.50 at clean weights; 0.41 at full weight

These were moderate power loadings even for the 1960s. It reflected the unsuccessful hunt for the right engine or given the engine you had asking too much in the Air Staff Requirement. Normally for the 1960s the desired power loading in clean condition, for an interceptor, would have been 0.60 to 0.70 compared to Marut's much weaker 0.50. On the other hand in that era a dedicated ground attack aircraft (such as the McDonnell Douglas A4 Skyhawk) would have a maximum power to weight loading of 0.33 to 0.45. Here Marut's 0.41 ratio was in the right spot.

Service Ceiling: ~ 45,000'; as it was primarily used as a ground attack aircraft in combat it would usually fly at low altitudes below 1000' to avoid detection by radar


Armament

Four 30mm Aden cannons with 130 rounds per gun; combined rate of fire 2400 rounds per minute ie 40 rounds per second. Some reports talk of blanking out two guns to reduce vibrations while firing. This was an issue in the 1960s and even cost the life of one test pilot. I don’t know if this was a temporary problem or a permanent issue.

4 underwing pylons rated for 1000 lbs /454 kgs each; typical loads were bombs of 1000lbs, 500 lbs & 250 lbs, 68mm SNEB rocket packs typically of 18 or 36 rockets per pack & napalm bombs. Not known if the HF-24 was configured for cluster munitions such as Hunting BL755 which was (and is) in common use by the IAF

50 French SNEB 68mm ground attack rockets in internal pack behind pilot; The French rocket is used even today and is the world's most widely produced unguided rocket armament. The rockets can be fired in ripples with a spacing of 0.33 milliseconds. Typical warheads, amongst several variants, were high explosive, fragmentation & anti-tank. By possessing an internal weapons bay the HF-24 could carry these 50 SNEB rockets without their carriage inducing drag. This gave it greater flexibility in how the 4 pylons would be used to carry fuel or weapons for greater payload on target or a greater range for a given payload.


Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter-p18-sneb.jpg

P18: SNEB rocket pod with red tipped rocket shown as if in flight. Photo Source - Wikipedia


Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter-p19-sneb.jpg

P19: SNEB rocket pack slung below this display HF-24 the way it would look when loading it up. Once loaded the pack would sit flush with the under surface of the air frame. Original Photo - HAL; Current Source - Bharat Rakshak.com


SQUADRON SERVICE

HAL & IAF conducted 1800 test flights, between 1962 and 1967, to iron out the defects of the Marut. In April 1967 No.10 Flying Daggers Squadron became the first unit to be equipped with India's first indigenous combat aircraft. Close liaison between the IAF and the Hindustan Aircraft (as HAL was then named as) continued to progressively modify the Marut for the lo-lo-lo attack role.

During the early years Maruts with the IAF suffered from the non-availability of spares which in turn adversely affected serviceability. These chronic shortages affected the Marut fleet between 1965 and 1968, however as production picked up the situation improved markedly. But the aircraft had teething troubles that were not solved until 1970, and only a very meticulous reporting of problems and the professionalism of the pilots and engineers, prevented any fatalities from occurring.


Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter-p20.jpg

P20: HF-24, line maintenance and sortie preparation, circa 1980

There is wide consensus about excellent handling characteristics of the aircraft. Most pilots who have flown the aircraft describe it as pleasant to fly and excellent for aerobatics with fine control responses. And its ability to out-accelerate the Sabre jet, especially at low levels, was a useful asset in 1971. The Marut offered a stable weapon delivery platform and packed a formidable punch. While the Marut's pilots expressed an understandable desire for more thrust than the Orpheus 703 offered, they were unanimous in their view that the aircraft proved itself a thoroughly competent vehicle for the low-level ground attack profile. One defect which, I believe, remained was malfunction of roll control aerodynamic surfaces and the canopy flying off when all four 30mm cannons were fired simultaneously and the impact the recoil had on the electrics of the aircraft. HAL, I believe, claimed to have cured the problem but the IAF decided to be safe and blanked off the two upper cannons and operating only with the lower two in squadron service. The Marut was a robust aircraft with extremely good visibility for the pilot, and was aerodynamically one of the cleanest fighters of its time.

The Marut eventually equipped three IAF Squadrons. No.10 Squadron was the first to convert in April 1967, the No.220 the Desert Tigers converted in May 1969 and the No.31 The Lions in March 1974. Of the 145 Maruts produced, 130+ entered squadron service the rest were used for testing & development


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P21: Formation Flying: The HF-24 in the middle and in the background are twin seat conversion trainers. The second seat (rear one) was for the instructor and was fitted at the expense of the SNEB rocket pack and 3 of the 30mm cannons. Photo Source %% (see reference section)


PERFORMANCE IN COMBAT

Both Squadrons mounted on the HF-24 operated from Jodhpur in December 1971 and served exclusively in attacking enemy ground targets such as fuel dumps, lines of supply, communication nodes, Pakistani airfields, railway junctions, armoured vehicles and troop concentrations. The HF-24 also took part in the battle of Longewala providing support to the 4 Hunters from Jaisalmer, that led the Indian offensive, by attacking the supply lines to the Pakistani tank brigade. About 100 enemy tanks were destroyed or damaged and their bid to attack Jaisalmer was subverted.

The Marut's flew approximately 200 combat sorties during the two week war. On one strike mission they flew 200 nautical miles (~370 kms) into enemy territory to deliver their goods. The Marut also demonstrated that when flown clean it could tackle a Sabre jet. A Marut flown by Squadron Leader KK Bakshi of 220 Squadron also shot down a PAF F-86 Sabre on 7th December 1971 (Flying Officer Hamid Khwaja of 15 Squadron PAF). No aircraft were lost to air action although by the end of the war three Maruts had been lost to ground fire and one lost on the ground.

Maruts constantly found themselves under heavy and concentrated fire from the ground during their low-level attack missions. On at least three occasions, Maruts regained their base after one engine had been lost to ground fire. On one of these, a Marut returned to base without escort on one engine, from about 240 kms inside hostile territory. Another safety factor was the automatic reversion to manual control in the event of a failure in the hydraulic flying control system, and there were several instances of Maruts being flown back from a sortie manually. Throughout the December 1971 hostilities, the Marut squadrons enjoyed extremely high serviceability rates (in contrast to the late 1960s), this undoubtedly owed much to an improved spares situation and the original design's emphasis on ease of maintenance.


CONTINUED DEVELOPMENT

Dr. Kurt Tank and his team returned back to Germany in 1967 and the leadership for developing the Marut further passed onto Group Captain Suranjan Das who also served as the Chief Test Pilot. The Indian team at HAL successfully developed a two seat conversion trainer which moved into squadron service as the HF-24 T Mark 1. A prototype with an Indian developed experimental after burning Orpheus engine designated Mark 1R was lost while being test flown by Group Captain Suranjan Das. His death and challenges with the afterburner led to the demise of this line of development.


A PRE-MATURE END

The Marut served on in the IAF through the 1970s. The IAF developed two Air Staff Requirements namely the Deep Strike Penetration Aircraft (DPSA) and the shorter range Tactical Attack & Strike Aircraft (TASA). The IAF was not interested in waiting for HAL or DRDO to develop the Marut further to meet either of these requirements although with the right effort and sans the bureaucracy the TASA requirement could have been met by a Marut powered by the Rolls Royce Adour that powered the Sepecat Jaguar. The IAF went on to select two very fine aircraft to meet these requirements - the Sepecat Jaguar for the DPSA and the Mig-23BN followed by the Mig-27M for the TASA. Unlike the Indian Navy and the Chinese Air Force who both supported their home industry with orders for step by step improvements the IAF chose not to do this. Speaking in favour of the IAF - those days the Indo-Soviet friendship was at its peak and the Soviets were offering license production for the Mig-27M, a superb tactical attack aircraft, with Rupee trade payments and the IAF must have felt this was a better alternative than to spend yet several more years dealing with HAL's development journey. Maybe HAL was not to blame. Maybe the early demise of the Marut was sown in the overly ambitious specifications laid out in 1956-57. The last Marut was withdrawn in 1990. Today one can only wonder what could have been possible if HAL and other development agencies like DRDO had the focus and competence of ISRO and the IAF had a long term view like the Indian Navy which working with Mazagon Docks & Cochin Shipyard has built up some meaningful indigenous capability in design and construction after having started in the early 1960s same as the HF-24. To develop a nations aviation industry you have to think in terms of a 50 year horizon and go step by step.


Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter-p21-jaguar.jpg

P22: Sepecat Jaguar, Deep Penetration Strike Aircraft with the IAF today. It carries a 4.5 tonne warload and can fly a lo-lo-lo strike mission with a radius of ~800 kms with a meaningful payload of guided weapons.



Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter-p22-mig27.jpg

P23: Mig -27 fulfilled the Tactical Attack & Strike Aircraft TASA role. Its variable geometry wings swing forward on take off to increase lift and swing back to a high sweep angle for high speed flight


In mid-1980s the ASR was laid out for the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft. Once again it was an ambitious set of specifications calling for capabilities and technology such as fly by wire flight control systems, multi-mode pulse doppler radar and an afterburning turbofan engine in the 10,000 kgf class. These were technological assets which only the Americans (F-16 & F-15) had successfully put into service at that time, the French were about to (Mirage 2000) and the Soviets were still developing. Partly due to, once again, putting out highly stretched specifications and partly the bureaucratic approach of the agencies involved the Tejas took three decades to develop, has just been inducted into the IAF for operational breaking-in and is still maybe a year short of full scale operational service. The more things change the more they stay the same.

The current generation of engineers & designers working on the Tejas cannot be blamed for woolly headed thinking of 33 years ago. We should cheer them and support them as they work to put the country's second indigenous fast combat aircraft into full operational service this year. Aerodynamically speaking the Tejas is a superb design and this time around with the adoption of the General Electric F404 afterburning turbofan we also have a winner of an engine. Jai Hind.


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P24: HF-24 scale model at home. You can't take the boy out of a man

REFERENCES

World Guide to Combat Planes by William Green, 1966; Macdonald Publishers

Observers Book of Aircraft by William Green, 1965; Fredrick Warne & Co

Articles by K.Chatterjee in Bharat-Rakshak.com

Combat Aircraft by Bill Gunston, 1976; Salamander Books

Green, William, Chopra, Pushpindar Singh and Swanborough, Gordon. Editors - 'The Indian Air Force and its Aircraft. IAF Golden Jubilee. 1932-82' Ducimus Books, UK. [Photo Source marked as %%]

Last edited by V.Narayan : 23rd January 2015 at 23:52.
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Old 24th January 2015, 08:17   #2
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Default re: Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section). Thanks for sharing!

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Old 24th January 2015, 11:29   #3
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Default Re: Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter

Wonderful dsecription, V.Narayan. Never knew reading about fighter aircrafts could be so interesting till I read your post.

BTW, did Marut serve the nation in 1971 war that we had?

And, can't the project be taken up again, and new technology be incorporated in it to make it worth the use again? I mean, why are we banking on the Rafale when we can have the indigenously developed Marut (refreshed) and the tejas take up the role of air defence which are far cheaper to buy and maintain than the rafale. The logic of the Government is very unclear.

Could you please clear the air on this too.

Thanks anyway for the wonderful description. My son, who is still young to choose his stream, needs to have a go at your thread. May be this becomes the base for his future. Thanks a ton.
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Old 24th January 2015, 13:04   #4
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Default Re: Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter

Quite an interesting read!

On a slightly OT note, I've heard many say that Marathahalli, an area in Bangalore close to the HAL, owes its name to a Marut aircraft that crashed there during a test sortie. Marut + Halli (village).

I'm not sure about the veracity of the story though.
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Old 24th January 2015, 13:22   #5
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Default Re: Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter

Quote:
Originally Posted by V.Narayan View Post
.
Could you give some info - pertinent to the Sukhoi SU-7BM? I'll demand a new thread. XD
Quote:
Originally Posted by deepfusion View Post
Wonderful dsecription, V.Narayan. Never knew reading about fighter aircrafts could be so interesting till I read your post.

BTW, did Marut serve the nation in 1971 war that we had?

And, can't the project be taken up again, and new technology be incorporated in it to make it worth the use again? I mean, why are we banking on the Rafale when we can have the indigenously developed Marut (refreshed) and the tejas take up the role of air defence which are far cheaper to buy and maintain than the rafale. The logic of the Government is very unclear.
While the HAL HF-24 was an excellent design in all respects- on closer observation, one thing is extremely evident- It is a Space (or is it Jet ?) age aircraft- that is, early 'Fifties tech is very much evident.

The roles of the HF-24, and the Tejas LCA are quite different. And I'll also say another thing, the LCA got delayed by 3 decades- simply due to red tape. The HF-24, took far lesser time, simply because of the fact that in the immediate post-independence era, we- as a nascent country were quite sincere to ourselves.

If you notice- The 'going down' phase of our country- being plaqued down by red tape, corruption et cetera began just AFTER the Emergency period. I notice that by and large, in the 'Fifties and 'Sixties, India was quite a nation to look up to.

Let us not forget- It was we who came up with the idea of the non-aligned movement.

I'm still a pro-Communist- aka pro-Soviet. Long live Lenin! (and Mikoyan-Gurevich as well!). LOL.
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Old 24th January 2015, 17:19   #6
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Default Re: Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter

Awesome effort sir.
That's quite a lot of knowledge in so little space.

First you amazed us with the thread on Ajeet, then you swept us off with the thread on the Navy Hawker Seahawks and now you have knocked us out with another masterpiece.

Your threads are all very informative.
All the data spread on a platter.

Me, big fan.
Keep them coming please.
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Old 25th January 2015, 08:46   #7
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Default Re: Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter

My dad and I read this together.
We both thoroughly enjoyed this. And dad went on to tell stories of '71. He was posted in Jammu & Kashmir, mostly in the middle of the conflict.
He got very nostalgic
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Old 25th January 2015, 15:52   #8
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Default Re: Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter

Quote:
Originally Posted by FINTAIL View Post
Could you give some info - pertinent to the Sukhoi SU-7BM? I'll demand a new thread. XD
FINTAIL how could I ever refuse ....not an depth review but a teaser nevertheless

In the mid to late 1960s the IAF was in urgent need for a tactical ground attack fast jet that could provide rapid support to the Army. This required an aircraft that could fly fast at low altitudes, deliver at least a 1000 kg warload to the target and be nimble enough to fight its own way back out of enemy territory. The Marut while still under development was no where near operational service and the Hawker Hunters (from UK) while a stable platform were not always able to defend themselves against Pakistani interceptors. With shortage of foreign exchange we had few alternatives other than the USSR. The Soviets had the Sukhoi Su-7BM in production and offered it to us at Rs 87 lakhs a piece with payment in Rupees not in dollars - this was about Rs 25 crores in today's terms. The IAF bought 170+ Su-7's that equipped 6 squadrons in 1971 and later.


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Photo 1: Whale of a fighter with a cigar shaped air frame 55' long and 16' high powered by a massive 9600 kgf (kilogramme force) after burning turbojet engine. The Su-7's flew about 2600 of the ~7200 sorties flown by the IAF in the December 1971 war. All of these were lo-lo attack sorties often against well defended targets. This is an artists rendition. Source : Jerry Boucher Collection


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Photo 2: The Su-7, despite being huge, had short legs due to a combination of a thirsty turbo jet (rugged, reliable but thirsty) and highly swept wings that gave great speed and acceleration at the cost of payload lifting capacity. Hence it always carried two 500 litre drop tanks on the centre fuselage pylons. At low altitudes a Su-7 could out fly even a Mig-21. It could hit 620 knots/1150 kmph ie Mach 0.94 at sea level while carrying fuel tanks and stores. In clean condition it easily crossed Mach 1.0 at low altitudes and accelerated faster than the Starfighters or Mirage-III's the PAF could send up. The aircraft had an initial climb rate of 31,500 feet/ minute compared to 20,000 feet/minute of the maneuverable Gnat which itself was a hot ship in those days Original Photo - IAF. Current Source Bharat Rakshak


Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter-3-layout.png

Photo 3: Red - Lyulka after burning turbo jet with 6800 kgf dry thrust (ie normal thrust) and 9600 kgf with after burning or reheat. At 9600 kgf it consumed fuel at ~500 litres per minute! But it could accelerate the aircraft from subsonic to 1160 knots /2150 kmph in 2 minutes // Purple - big big wing with a high 62 degrees sweep - gave speed & acceleration at cost of payload and hence a short range // Brown - called wing fences. They shepherd the fast flowing air to hug the wing surface and thus improve aerodynamic control.// Orange - two free pylons to carry weapons typically two 500 kgs bombs or 4 250 kgs bombs or 64 57 mm rockets // Blue - the centre two pylons permanently carried drop tanks to augment the poor endurance // Green - two 30 mm cannons in wing roots



Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter-4-tail.jpg

Photo 4: Wing Commander H.S. Mangat, was intercepted by PAF MiG-19s whilst on a photo-recce mission and his Su-7 hit by a Sidewinder air to air missile. The explosion carried away half the rudder, the elevators, ailerons and flaps and were all heavily damaged. Mangat disengaged successfully and then returned to his base despite the extensive damage to his aircraft, a tribute to his flying skill and to the toughness of the Su-7.The tail is displayed at the IAF museum. Not a single Su-7 was, in fact, lost to enemy air action, even though a number of aircraft were damaged in air combat. Flight. Lieutenant. J.S. Ghuman's Su-7 was similarly hit by a Sidewinder and despite damage Ghuman flew back to base with the rear part of the missile embedded in the tail and aft fuselage of the aircraft!
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Old 25th January 2015, 18:13   #9
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Default Re: Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter

This was another amazing read. Nicely penned down with a good load of pictures doing the talking. The little anecdotes of the heroics of the pilots gives me goosebumps. Looking forward for some more of this coming from you.
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Old 25th January 2015, 22:43   #10
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Awesome posts once again, your tribute to our old warbirds keep getting better and better. Marut was one elegant bird, if only for the engines we would have had one of the best fighters, but with its redundant flight controls and twin engines it was a natural GA aircraft.
Always been a fan of aircrafts, but never have indian warbirds been depicted so well and all in one place. Keep these posts coming.
Could you please share some insights on our canberras (served us long) and the Vampires (the ones that taught us to fly Jets).
Really looking forwards to your next post.
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Old 26th January 2015, 09:28   #11
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Default Re: Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter

Quote:
Originally Posted by deepfusion View Post
BTW, did Marut serve the nation in 1971 war that we had?

And, can't the project be taken up again, and new technology be incorporated in it to make it worth the use again? I mean, why are we banking on the Rafale when we can have the indigenously developed Marut (refreshed) and the tejas take up the role of air defence which are far cheaper to buy and maintain than the rafale. The logic of the Government is very unclear.....Could you please clear the air on this too.
Dear deepfusion, the HF-24 did serve in the December 1971 war. The 2 squadrons that were then in service flew about 200 combat missions all of which were ground attack against railway facilities, tank concentrations, supply lines, ammunition dumps and such critical military targets. You can read more on it in the article above under the heading 'Performance in Combat'. Out of interest on 7th December 1971 Squadron Leader KK Bakshi was on a bombing mission and just after he had released his weapons he got attacked by a Sabrejet. Both aircraft flew head on towards each other just the way they show in war movies except this time it was for real. I guess their closing in speed would be in excess of 1800 kmph and both fired at each other. The Sabre pilot pulled up for a fraction of a second and got pulverized by the 30mm shells from the Marut and crashed. Bakshi nursed his damaged but still flying aircraft back to Jodhpur. Photo of KK Bakshi below.

Now onto your very interesting question on building a refreshed Marut. The time for that I suspect has passed. As FINTAIL indicates to survive and fight in today's ever more hostile enemy airspace the aircraft has to be designed to ever higher specifications. The Marut was a great aerodynamic design for the early '60s just like the Fiat 1100 was a solid design for cars at the same time. A pepped up Marut will not be up to the job anymore with the almost 100% radar coverage and Surface to air Missiles our neighbours now have. It is simpler to just design a new aircraft just like today Tata & Maruti would rather design and introduce the Tata Zest or the Maruti Ciaz than say let's take the Fiat 1100 and improve it. The Rafale in my opinion is a very very good aircraft and suits the high end of both our long range interception as well as our deep penetration strike. The LCA will be its short legged - lower cost partner bringing in numbers so that we have a healthy mix of quality and quantity. A lot of biased press gets written these days against this aircraft or that often I suspect with select information leaked by competitors. One thing about our IAF is that they have always picked aircraft that have later on proved to be world beaters - Hunter, Gnat, Mig-21, Mirage 2000, Mig -27, Alouette et al. I am confident the Rafale will serve us well. We need to license build an advanced aircraft that will stay in service of the parent nation (in this case France) for the next 25 years or so, where the parent nation is reliable politically and the aircraft in question has room for further improvement.

Quote:
Originally Posted by schakravarthy View Post
On a slightly OT note, I've heard many say that Marathahalli, an area in Bangalore close to the HAL, owes its name to a Marut aircraft that crashed there during a test sortie. Marut + Halli (village).
.....I'm not sure about the veracity of the story though.
Sorry schakravarthy I have no knowledge of this incident.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FINTAIL View Post
The roles of the HF-24, and the Tejas LCA are quite different. And I'll also say another thing, the LCA got delayed by 3 decades- simply due to red tape. The HF-24, took far lesser time, simply because of the fact that in the immediate post-independence era, we- as a nascent country were quite sincere to ourselves.
FINTAIL, I could not agree with you more. In the time our DRDO and the Tejas design team (1983 to 2015) have taken the aircraft to testing for operations status the Indian Navy going step by step designed and built first the Godavari class frigates, then the Brahmaputra class which is a Godavari Mark II, then the excellent Delhi class destroyers, then the Shivalik class frigates and now the Kolkatta class destroyers which are a Delhi Mark II plus plus. Not to mention that they have also designed and are constructing an aircraft carrier and a nuclear powered submarine. The Navy achieved this by first keeping the design of its warships in-house done by men in white uniforms and not by our bureaucratic and egoistical scientists. Second it went step by step. Third they built a partnership with Mazagon Docks and ensured it was always headed by a technical Admiral. Common sense and leadership matter a lot. Clearly my sympathies are with the IAF.
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Old 26th January 2015, 14:17   #12
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Default Re: Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter

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Docks and ensured it was always headed by a technical Admiral. Common sense and leadership matter a lot. Clearly my sympathies are with the IAF.
In those days- They never had CAD. They had CS. (aka- Common sense! )

'Wonder when did HAL lose the good 'ol CS. The failed jet engine for the Tejas project- Honestly, they should've known better. The mighty MiG-21 is being replaced by what I rightly call a useless contraption, that is- The LCA.

3 decades for such a thing? Honestly!? Tremendous waste on our resources.

And- on the other side of the same town (Bangalore, that is!)- The Mangalyaan project was sanctioned in 2012, by 2013 was on its way, and voila! 2014 came, and it was orbiting the Mars- Hi! Martians!

Get the drift? The MiG 21 will remain, immortal. I just loved 'em Soviet Aircrafts, particularly as my grandfather frequented the Soviet Union back in the 'Fifties, as a part of the Navy.

I've grown up listening him compare South Bombay to Leningrad. Wow- those were the days! The Soviet cities were legendary.

Last edited by FINTAIL : 26th January 2015 at 14:19.
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Old 26th January 2015, 15:49   #13
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A wonderful read indeed! Thanks for putting all this information up in one place.
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Old 27th January 2015, 07:31   #14
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Default Re: Indian Aviation: HAL HF-24 Marut, the first Indian Jet Fighter

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The mighty MiG-21 is being replaced by what I rightly call a useless contraption, that is- The LCA.
V.Narayan sir, Thank you very much, for a most interesting write up on the HF24 Marut. Would love to hear your expert views on whether the LCA is really a 'useless contraption' or a worthy successor to the MiG-21 Bison. With the Rafale deal in the soup, coupled with Obama's visit, do you think we could end up buying the F-18 Super Hornet? Would also love to see you do threads on Tpt aircraft like the Packet, Dakota, the 4 engined AN-12.
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Old 27th January 2015, 08:16   #15
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Thanks very much for this write up. Very informative.
Jeroen
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