April 14, 2024

The vertically mounted HAL Ajeet E-254 at the Defence Exhibition Pavillion at Pragati Maidan grounds in New Delhi. The MiG-21 C-1168 can be seen to the left behind the minivan.

Pragati Maidan, or ‘Arena of Progress’ is a sprawling exhibition ground that houses a collection of pavillions for exhibitional purposes. It is located on the Mathura Road and covers more than 7 acres of area. Usually open from 9.30 to 5.30pm, the grounds attract a modest fee for entry and are kept open till 8.00pm on public holidays.

One of the pavillions in at the Grounds is the Defence Pavillion, operated by the Ministry of Defence. It was only in the middle of 2002 that we first learnt of the aircraft displayed here when Aditya Gupta of Delhi informed us of the types and identities. In October 2002, we got a chance to personally visit the area and take pictures.

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The serial number of the HAL Ajeet can just be made out as E-254 , almost obscured under a coat of silver paint. The aircraft was being prepared for the re-opening of the exhibition and recieved a fresh coat of paint.

The defence pavillion has a Vijayanta Tank displayed on one side and a trio of an Ajeet, MiG-21 and an SA-2 Missile displayed on the other. The Ajeet E-254 is mounted vertically on its tail. And the MiG-21 is displayed on a lawn nearby. The Ajeet has recently been given a fresh coat of silver dope, that has also obscured the IAF roundels, finflash and the serial. However a close look does show the older paint showing thru the thin layers of the paint. The aircraft was originally built as a Gnat by HAL and was upgraded to Ajeet standard later on.

Click to Enlarge MiG-21 FL C-1168, believed to be a veteran of the 71 war is seen here in front of the Defence Exhibition building.
Another view of the MiG-21 FL C-1168. Note the SA-2 missile in the background on its launcher. Click to Enlarge

C-1168 is an FL that was built just before the 1971 conflict. The aircraft is in the same condition as the Ajeet. The serial number is hard to make out under the fresh paint. It is however one of the last FLs manufactured by HAL, with the FLs Serials ending in the C-1170 range.

Aircraft Type Serial No Remarks
HAL Gnat E-254 Pragathi Maidan, Defence Exhibition
MiG-21 FL C-1168 Pragathi Maidan, Defence Exhibition

Keeping company to the MiG and the Ajeet is a hugh SA-2 missile installed besides the Ajeet on its original launcher. We have not been able to go inside the Exhibition as it was closed for maintenance at that time.

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