March 5, 2024
Nal AFS is home to six different warbirds, including a rare Sukhoi-7. We take a look at three of them - including the last of the operational BNs that found life in retirement

Air Force Station, Nal started off as a kutcha (Dirt strip) runway was constructed by the end of 1942 and occupied by the British. After the 2nd World War the airfield was vacated by the British and taken over by state Public Works Department. From Sep 1942 till Sep 1950 the royal family of Bikaner operated a flying club at this base. In Sep 1950 the airfield was handed over to IAF and a new runway was constructed in 1963. Nal became a full-fledged airfield and was named No. 9 Care & Maintenance Units (C&MU). In Jul 1972, it was renamed as No. 3 Forward Base Support Units (FBSU). Subsequently, on 17 April 1989 the airfield was named as 46 Wing.

The Airfield and station has been home to MiG-21 Squadrons in the past, and today the field boasts six Warbirds, four MiG-21s, one MiG-23 BN and a rare Sukhoi-7 BMK.

Two of the MIG-21Ms are right outside the main gate acting as twin gate guards. C1586 and C1608 were placed there sometime around 2018. The aircraft can be seen at the main gate to the south west of the airfield.

Just after entering the base is this MiG-23BN, SM286. This BN has been on site as far back as 2011, perhaps even earlier. A placard near the aircraft identifies it as the “200th” MiG-23 to be overhauled. As seen in the image, the aircraft is all silver scheme but sports the badge of the Valaints – 221 Squadron which was the last to operate this type. Previously the aircraft was seen flying with the Valiants in November 2008, one of the last eight airworthy types the Squadron was operating at that time.

SM286 in flight – it was the last of the eight BNs still operational in November 2008 – Photo by Simon Watson

The identity of the Sukhoi-7 displayed at Nal is currently unknown, as are the other two MiG-21s.

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