March 4, 2024
Kerala is Sea Hawk territory
Click to Enlarge The Hawker Sea Hawk FGA 6 [IN-174] at the Jawahar Bal Bhawan on the Museum Road in Trivandrum. Pic Courtesy : Sandeep Unnithan

The first sighting of a Warbird in Kerala was the result of various emails. One sighting sent by Susheel Kurien was interesting. He said “The aircraft I saw in Trivandrum in 1999 is outside the government guest house in Kowdiar on the main road that runs from the Kowdiar palace…I just cant remember what it was, but I do know it is a jet (maybe a gnat ?) “ . Wg Cdr V G Kumar later confirmed it as a Sea Hawk .

Sandeep Unnithan, a regular contributor to WoI, happened to visit Trivandrum later. He did not miss the opportunity to click this aircraft. According to him, the aircraft was donated to the Jawahar Bal Bhavan at the Kanakakunnu Palace by the Southern Naval Command in 1980. It is located on a road known as Museum Road.

A close up of the mounting platform used on IN-174 shows the unique way the aircraft is displayed. The White Tigers emblem has been painted in Yellow in error. Pic Courtesy : Sandeep Unnithan Click to Enlarge
Old Picture of IN-174 This 1971 picture of a Sea hawk taking off from the flat decked INS Vikrant shows IN-174 parked on the deck.

Seahawk IN-174 is one of the first batch of FGA.Mk6s acquired directly from the United Kingdom. This type of aircraft can be distinguished from the latter acquisitions of Mk100 and Mk101 by its shorter Tail fin. The aircraft seems to be in good condition all around.

So it seemed an open and shut case as far as Mr. Kurien’s email was concerned. But it turned out that there really was a Gnat at the location mentioned! On a flight to the US, the webmaster bumped into George Joseph, an aviation enthusiast from Chicago. George confirmed that there was a Gnat as recently as 1999 at the RBI Building at Kowdiar, but it cannot be seen when he went to his native place in 2001.

The details of the missing Gnat cleared up when Sree Kumar, who authored the B-24 Liberator articles for our site confirmed that the HQ of Southern Air Command was located at the same place and the Gnat was the obligatory warbird of the Command HQ. The HQ had since then moved to Uloor area, and the Gnat had dissappeared from its main road display. What was interesting observation by Sree was he reported that prior to the Sea Hawk IN-174 being displayed at the Bal Bhavan, there was an amphibous aircraft on display at the same location for some years. He last saw it in 1973. But the Sea Hawk has been there in the present location since 1994. What was the Amphibous aircraft about?

Most certainly it had to be a Shorts Sealand operated by Navy. This new mystery of the amphibian was solved when Capt Gireesh Kumar from Pune emailed us that the aircraft in question is the Sealand now displayed at the Naval Aviation Museum in Goa. The aircraft was moved from its Bal Bhavan location in the late 70s.

Aircraft Type Serial No Remarks
Sea Hawk IN-174 Front of RBI Building Kowdiar.
HAL Gnat -NA Possibly at SAC HQ
HAL Gnat -NA Kerala Science and Technology Museum

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