April 23, 2024
A rare PR variant of the Canberra, and a veteran of the 1971 war is well preserved at the Air Force Academy in Dundigal.

The Indian Air Force retired its sole squadron of English Electric Canberras on 11th May 2007 at Agra,  exactly fifty years after the aircraft was inducted into service. At the time of retirement there were about a dozen or so examples of varied marks that were operational and airworthy.  One of them, a PR.67 variant P1099 , was then flown to Dundigal. It was then parked permanently next to the main Sekhon block.

The photos above show the aircraft immediately after it was placed on parking duty next to the block. The engines have been removed and presumably re-used to transport other Canberras to other locations – a practice common with the IAF at that time.

Canberra PR67 P1099 has the distinction of being the last PR variant inducted into the IAF. The aircraft saw service with the RAF as WJ816 and was acquired on 27th August 1971, just a few months before the 1971 India-Pakistan war broke out.

During the 1971 war conflict, the aircraft was flown on operational sorties by 106 Squadron. At least one flight was undertaken by the CO, then Wg Cdr R S Benegal

As seen in the above photographs, originally the aircraft was in an all-silver scheme. Later in the late 80s it received the familiar grey/green camouflage scheme that adorned the bomber force.

I happened to visit the Academy in 2019 and was pleased to find the aircraft freshly painted in an accurate scheme, complete with the black anti-glare panel. The cockpit canopy has been painted over to protect it from the elements. The aircraft also had a permanent platform on which it was mounted.

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