September 29, 2022

In 2001, a new addition to the inventory of vintage aircraft collection of the Air Force Academy came in the form of an HAL HF-24 Marut 1T [D-1691]. When the Commandant was looking towards expanding the collection of the aircraft at the Academy, he remembered someone mention about an HF-24 withdrawn from use at Bhatinda. A couple of phone calls to confirm its presence and lot of string pulling, the HF-24 was allotted to the Academy. Personnel from Bhatinda, dismantled the aircraft and shipped it to Dundigal. The fuselage was flown in an Il-76, while the wings, undercarriage and tail portion came by road.

Click to Enlarge The fuselage section of the HF-24 shows the twin seat layout under the cockpit canopy. The fuselage is resting on a trailor. To the left of the picture in the rear can be seen a SA-2 launcher.
The rear seaction of the Marut showing the serial number D-1691 . Maruts are the only other aircraft besides the Mystere and the Toofani on which the serials were painted in such large letters. Click to Enlarge

It was only after its arrival that the personnel at the AFA realised to their delight that this was a rare two seater version! The fuselage had markings of No.31 Lions squadron on its forward fuselage. The ejection seats were still there in the cockpit. The Undercarriage however was too badly damaged, with the tyres being out of shape and the oleos too our of action. There were no engines in the aircraft though.

The dismantled wings lie some distance away. The bad condition of the undercarriage and tyres can be seen in this picture. Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge The nosecone of the Marut lies besides the wing sections.

When the aircrew dismantling the Tail section at Bhatinda found out that they were not able to fit the tail section due to the elevator surfaces sticking out, they sawed through the Tailplanes and elevators as they were unable to remove them. Getting this portion of the aircraft into a proper shape is the most difficult task ahead of the Restoration team working on the AFA.

The Commandant of the Air Force Academy examines his 'Newest' Warbird. Air Vice Marshal Bhojwani takes a look through the cockpit of the aircraft. Note the leaping Lion emblem in yellow near the nose, signifying its history with No.31 Squadron 'The Lions'. Click to Enlarge

The aircraft was still in a dismantled state and needed assembly before being displayed. The lack of proper undercarriage left only one option to the academy, that is to display this aircraft on a pole, instead of a platform. A spot across the road from the Academy's War Memorial was earmarked for displaying the Marut. When the Marut was to be finally completed and displayed on a pole, it would have been the largest aircraft to be so displayed, till now only Gnats and a Mystere have been displayed likewise on poles.

Just days away from the work being started, the Commandant of the Academy was posted out, and the project to put the Marut in one piece was on the back burner again.

However in 2004, the Academy team started thier work in earnest on putting together the Marut. A new spot was chosen – a secluded plot of area to the right side of the main entrance road from the Academy's main gate.

Marut on a pole! The freshly painted Marut is a majestic site when viewed from below.
Ample night lighting is provided to illuminate the aircraft. Click to Enlarge

The aircraft was completely assembled and mounted on a pole in a banking/climbing attitude at the earmarked spot. Ample night lighting has been provided to the area to highlight the aircraft.

Viewing the aircraft from a distance, one would not get an idea as to how large this aircraft really is, but as you walk underneath it, its massive size leaves you awestruck.

Click to Enlarge The side profile of the aircraft shows the incorrectly applied second roundel on the nose.
The rear three quarter view of the Marut. Click to Enlarge

A closer examination of the aircraft shows that the old 'Desert Tigers' marking on the nose has not survived the repaint. However an incorrectly painted roundel on the forward fuselage has come up. This is noticeable in the above picture of the aircraft's side profile.

A major amount of work on the tail empennage had been carried out. The earlier noticed 'sawn off' elevator slabs look almost mint – no sign of any patchwork or metal work is evident there. It is assumed that the engines and ejection seats have been removed before the aircraft was mounted on the pole.

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