Sabre veterans celebrate Gnat's golden jubilee

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Bangalore, Nov 22 (UNI) Veteran air warriors, members of the Gnat fraternity, came together today to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the country's first fighter jet aircraft.

Organised jointly by the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and Indian Air Force, the occasion witnessed nostalgic amalgamation of the veteran pilots, who came to be known as 'Sabre slayers' for virtually wiping out the Sabre F-86 fighters belonging to Pakistan Air Force during the 1965 and 1971 wars against Pakistan.

The British-made small trainer-cum-fighter was also nicknamed Pocket Rocket and Mighty Marvel.

Nearly 200 pilots, engineers and others associated with the Gnat squadrons and their wives attended the glittering function.

IAF Vice Chief Air Marshal P V Naik, who was the chief guest of the function, extolled the quality of pilots, engineers, technicians and all those belonging to the Gnat brotherhood for the service to the nation.

''I went straight to supersonic and it was my personal loss that I couldn't fly the subsonic Gnat. Gnat was a combination of poetry and menace. The looks of this aircraft was like poetry but had a menacing striking power. The Boyra engagement (during the 1971 war), which saw three Sabre F-86s being brought down by the 22-squadron, represented the growing strength of the IAF,'' he said.

Air Marshal C S Naik, an exceptional engineer and a Cranfield graduate, who launched the first flight test department in HAL, said Gnat was the only aircraft which India had purchased even though it was underdeveloped at that time. This was in comparison to India's neighbours having superior fighter planes.

Air Marshal (retd) M S D Wollen, who is credited to triggering the beginning of the Pakistani debacle in the Bangladesh war, said the names of Wing Commander Suranjan Das and Sq Leader Sudhakaran, who died while flying Gnat, should be remembered on the occasion.

Air Marshal (retd) D Lazarus, another flying member of the Gnat family, compared Gnat with Sabre, saying the Indian plane had just two guns and could carry on 300 odd rounds while Sabre had four and a capacity of 3,400 rounds.

UNI RS AKM SW RK1816

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