March 4, 2024
An ex-2 Sqn Gnat in a Public Park
A HAL Gnat [E 325] is preserved in Chembur Gardens in Bombay. India Today’s correspondent Sandeep Unnithan is now carrying out a campaign for proper maintainance of this warbird.

In a park at Chembur can be seen a HAL Gnat on display. The Gnat [E-325] has been marked as an ‘Ajeet’ and boasts the markings of 2 Squadron. Photographs of this aircraft were first sent by Sandeep Unnithan and Kapil Chandni. At that time itself the condition of the aircraft was stated to be bad , though it could not be made out from the photographs we had.

The serial number of the Gnat indicated that it was one of the early batches manufactured in the late 60s after the 1965 war. Its quite possible that it was upgraded to Ajeet standard, but even though it was painted as ‘Ajeet’, it still retained only two of the hardpoints of the Gnat.

The HAL Gnat [E 325] carries the markings of No.2 Squadron, IAF on its nose. In style with the arcane ‘Official Secrets Act’, a board in front of the aircraft states that ‘Photography is prohibited’ in Marathi — a situation one would expect at a top secret airbase – not a park in Mumbai!. (Pic Courtesy : Sandeep Unnithan ) Click to Enlarge

At that time Sandeep had indicated that the aircraft needed some maintainance and upkeep. Though I was not able to see it in the pictures, a recent visit to the aircraft in Mumbai revealed much.

The aircraft was displayed on a platform surrounded by a small metal fence. The starboard side of the aircraft revealed the bad condition and damage due to exposure to the elements for years.

Closeup of the Cockpit section of the Gnat , erroneously marked as “Ajeet”, Note the cost of the aircraft enscribed on the panel as Rs.30 Lakhs – 63000 $ (Pic Courtesy : Sandeep Unnithan ) Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge The starboard side of the Gnat shows the damaged control surfaces and panelling of the aircraft.

Quite noticeable at first look is the Flap/Aileron of the starboard wing which was hanging by one of its hinges on the wing. Probably somebody tried to climb onto the wing from that side and the damage is quite visible. The Elevator in the rear is also out of alignment indicating some heavy pressure/weight on it.

Though not visible at first glance, is the damage to the spin of the aircraft. The panels aft of the cockpit seem to have been ‘crushed’ out of shape.

Click to Enlarge Closeup of the Tail plane Elevator which seems to have broken out of its hinges.
Closeup of the starboard ‘Flaperon’ which is hanging by one of its hinges. Also note the damage to the spine of the aircraft just above the flaperon. Click to Enlarge

The Gnat needed a thorough wash and repainting as well as repair to the control surfaces. Through our interaction at a subsequent enthusiasts meet, there is no dearth of volunteers who will come forward to clean, repair and repaint the aircraft. Hopefully someday they will be able to pool together the resources and restore the Gnat to its former glory.

Yogesh Naik of the Times of India, did a story on the Gnat in October 2009. In that report he established that the aircraft served with No.2 Squadron at Amritsar during the 1971 War. He was able to get confirmation through the logbooks of atleast two of the pilots who flew it.

Recommended Reading:

Check out the Gnat aircrafts at Chembur by Yogesh Naik , Times of India 8 Oct 2009

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