Golden jubilee of India's first combat aircraft celebrated

Commander-in-Chief of Strategic Forces Command (SFC), Air Marshal K J Mathews termed it a "phenomenal aircraft" and recalled that he had flown it for 300-odd hours as a pilot officer and flying officer.

At a function organised by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited here, HAL's Chief Test Pilot Squadron Leader Baldev Singh said: "The Marut indeed was an aircraft ahead of its times", while HAL's Director (Design and Development) N C Agarwal spoke on the design and development stages of the project.

On June 17, 1961, with Gp. Capt Suranjan Das at the controls, the HF-24 tail number BR 462 took to the air for the first time. HAL built 129 single seater's and 18 trainers from 1964 to 1977.

During 1971, the Maruts used their devastating firepower on Pakistani troops, vehicle concentrations and transportation systems in Naya Chor sector and along the Rohri-Khanpur railway line.

Officials said the Maruts also encountered occasional air opposition, though not a single aircraft was lost to aerial combat. The last sortie of the beautiful and versatile aircraft was flown on October 8, 1984 on the Air Force Day by Wg Cdr Vikram Pethia.

The aircraft retired gracefully, and now rests, in all her majesty, at the Air Force Academy, Dindigul in Tamil Nadu.

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