October 7, 2022

The story of the AFTC and its early days

Members of the ‘Air-Nuts’ modelling group in Banalore visit MiG-23MF SK-440 at the Air Force Technical College, located at Jalahalli.

From the Indian Air Force’s earliest years, it was clear that an important element in building it would be the establishment of a training centre for technicians and technical officers. The first such establishment in India (and indeed in South and South-East Asia) was set up in Jalahalli West, just outside Bangalore, in 1949. It was then known as the Technical Training Centre (TTC); sometimes also referred to (possibly erroneously) as the Technical Training College. When the TTC was first established the staff were mostly British.

The IAF had begun its post-Independence expansion and needed trained engineering graduates, so in the early years engineering degree holders were offered two years ante-dating of seniority, to join one of the Technical branches: Tech/Engines, Tech/Armaments, Tech/Electrical and Tech/Signals. Such engineering graduates went through the TTC to undergo additional theoretical and practical training oriented towards Air Force equipment and procedures. Some military subjects were also taught.

The first Tech/Engines and Tech/Electrical courses passed out in 1949. No 1 Tech/Signals course passed out in 1950. By 1957 the TTC had an Indian Commandant, Group Captain MJ Kripalani, and an entirely Indian faculty. The TTC’s modern successor, still in Jalahalli, is the Air Force Technical College. It still discharges the same function, training the IAF’s technicians, from entry level to senior technical management programmes. Some things have changed; the IAF’s Technical branches have been integrated, and re-named the Aeronautical Engineering (AE) branch. But much remains the same; the AFTC is still an indispensable component of the enormous infrastructure required to keep the IAF flying.

Click to Enlarge Officer Cadets earmarked for the Technical stream undergo instructions at the Cutaway MiG-21 F-13.

To assist in the training of the officer cadets, the AFTC has had a number of aircraft seconded to it as instructional airframes. Over the years, some of the airframes have made their way to the west. The most famous of the lot is the Collings Foundation’s B-24 Liberator, which was for many years an instructional airframe at Jalahalli. It was also one of the first aircraft that the AFTC received.

Another aircraft is a Spitfire XIVe MV293, which was with the college for many years till it was procured by Doug Arnold of UK who ran the Warbirds of Great Britain organisation in 1978 and restored it to full flying condition.

One of the photographs shown at the AFTC Museum is this very first group photo of the AFTC Officers and the civilian british instructors. The Liberator forming the background to the photo. Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge Doug Arnold (seen in the background in suit) and Spitfire XIV MV293 – marked T-20 at that time. The aircraft is all disassembled for shipment. Photo Copyright: Peter Arnold.

Besides the two that ‘got away’, the AFTC Jalahalli has several other aircraft in its collection. At last count, it had fourteen aircraft on its establishment. Six of these aircraft have been gathered together in early 2005 and placed at the Parade Ground. These included the lone Vampire F.3, two HT-2s, two Iskras and the Gnat Mk.1 E323.

Aircraft Type Serial No Remarks
De Havilland Vampire F.3 HB-546 Parade Ground
HAL Chetak Z-406 Air Force Technical College, Jalahalli
HAL Gnat I E-323 Parade Ground
HAL Gnat I -NA- Cutaway Instructional Ac
HAL HPT-32 Deepak X-2542 Instructional Airframe at AFTC, Jalahalli
HAL HT-2 IX-472 AFTC Jalahalli
HAL HT-2 IX-502 Parade Ground
HAL HT-2 IX-506 Parade Ground
MiG-21 F-13 -NA- Cutaway Instructional Ac AFTC, Jalahalli
MiG-21 FL C-589 Instructional Airframe at AFTC, Jalahalli
MiG-21 FL C-590 Instructional Airframe at AFTC, Jalahalli
MiG-23 MF SK-440 Instructional Airframe at AFTC, Jalahalli
TS-11 Iskra W-1767 Parade Ground
TS-11 Iskra W-1776 Parade Ground

The AFTC’s collection is seperate from that of the adjoining AFS Jalahalli, which has another half a dozen aircraft which includes a pair of Sukhoi-7s.

Notable airframes with AFTC are without doubt the Vampire F.3 and the Cutaway MiG-21 F-13, both of which are very early aircraft and unique in their background. Their story is told more in detail in the accompanying links.

It can be said without doubt that the AFTC Jalahalli has one of the largest collection of Preserved Aircraft in southern India, next only to the collection of Air Force Academy, Dundigal.

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