December 4, 2023

The Gnat flight is back!  Vayu Bhawan's triumvirate of Gnats are now back on display after spending years in purgatory at the Air Force Museum in Palam.

As of 2014, The three Gnats are back on duty at the Vayu Bhavan entrance. During the time they were missing, they were taking shelter at the hangar for the Vintage flight in Palam. Pic Courtesy : Gp Capt Tarun Kumar Singha VSM* 

The Indian Air Force has its headquarters at Vayu Bhawan otherwise also known as the “Air House”. Vayu Bhawan is located at Rafi Marg in New Delhi and is the place where the Chief of Air Staff and his Principal Staff Officers sit.

The Vayu Bhawan is host to a unique display of Warbirds. Three HAL Gnat/Ajeets are displayed in a vic formation on poles on the front lawn facing the main entrance. The three aircraft were installed here sometime in the Mid-90s and are the only one of its kind display of Gnats in the country. 

Click to Enlarge

The Three Gnats mounted on poles at the Vayu Bhawan in New Delhi. Vayu Bhawan is the administrative headquarters of the Indian Air Force. Pic Courtesy : Stewart Lanham

The Gnat/Ajeet closest to the camera is IE1205. Leading the pack is E1975, which is an Ajeet. The rearmost aircraft is numbered IE246, but is believed to be either IE-1246 or E-246. Pic Courtesy Stewart Lanham Click to Enlarge

The aircraft have serials E-1975, IE-1205 and IE-246. The authenticity of the last serial number is in question, as no such serial can be found in most publicly available records. The aircraft could either be IE-1246 or E-246. If its the former then it would have been the last of the IE serialled Gnats.

Click to Enlarge Close up of E1975, as viewed from the front. Only this aircraft can be confirmed as an Ajeet. The hard points have been removed from under the wings, but the points where the hardpoints are attached to the wings can be barely be made out in the photograph. Pic Courtesy Stewart Lanham

E1975 is believed to have been one of the last Ajeets to be retired by No.2 Squadron in the late 80s. This is the only aircraft that can be confirmed to have been an Mark II Ajeet. The other two aircraft most certainly started life as the Mark I Gnat. I dont know if they were upgraded to Ajeet standard but its quite possible that they might have been.

IE1205 is another airframe whose identity is in question, for there is another Gnat aircraft with the same serial number on display in a park in Nagpur. Photographs of IE-1205 from the 60s have surfaced in our archives. We will feature them here in due course of time.

Aircraft Type Serial No Remarks
HAL Gnat IE-1205 Vayu Bhavan, Delhi
HAL Gnat IE-246 Vayu Bhavan, Delhi
HAL Gnat II E-1975 Vayu Bhavan, Delhi

Since Vayu Bhawan is located on a public throughfare, it is quite easy to take photographs of the aircraft on display. As it is known that the security guards have objected to picture taking on ocassions, visitors are requested to be extra careful.

In early 2008, the aircraft were removed from Vayu Bhavan and moved to the Indian Air Force Museum in Palam. The Construction of the Delhi metro forced Vayu Bhavan to remove these aircraft.

After spending years in the Museum, these aircraft were moved back and re-erected in front of Vayu Bhawan. Incidentally during the mounting process, the aircraft have changed position from their previous formation, with IE-1205 leading the way instead of E-1975. 

Photographs by Stewart Lanham

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