India gained Independence and along with it an excellent aircraft factory at Bangalore. This factory set up by WalChand Hirachand in 1940 was taken over by the Government and in 1941 its management was handed over to the US-Army Air force. They used this factory to overhaul their C-47(transport Plane), B-24 (heavy Bomber), B-15 (light Bomber) and Catalina’s. At the end of the war the plant was handed back to the Government of India. In 1951 it was put directly under the Ministry of defense, government of India.
Role of Krishna Menon
Krishna Menon took over as the Defense Minister in 1957. He was a left leaning politician who was greatly enamored with the Soviet Union. He pushed Pandit Nehru for the Induction of Soviet aircraft into the IAF. At that time theIAF had solely relied on British and American planes. The British and Americans were averse to giving any license for the manufacture of their planes in India, while the Soviet Union under Nikita Khrushchev readily consented to allow license manufacture of the Soviet Air craft. This was a political decision by the Soviet leadership and they were able to make a foray in Indian Military aviation.
The Aircraft that first entered the IAF was the MIG 21 FL. This was a delta wing configuration plane. This was a Mach 2 plane with a single Tumanski R-11 turbojet engine that developed a thrust of 13,490 lbs. it had a radius of action of 450 miles and could achieve a speed of 1,350 miles per hour. The Mikoyan Guryevich MIG 21 is recognized as one of the great fighters of the last century. The aircraft carried 2, K-13 missiles and was more than a match for its American counterparts.
Licensed production of this plane started in 1966 from the HAL plant at Nasik and Hal churned out 6 variants of this plane. The final version developed by HAL was the MIG 21 BIS. The MIG 21 formed the back bone of the IAF interceptor squadrons and HAL manufactured hundreds of these planes. HAL also signed a contract with the Russian company for overhaul of MIG engines and engines from Russia were also overhauled at Nasik.
Continuing the association with Russia, which was the successor state of the erst while Soviet Union the IAF inducted the Sukhoi SU 30 MKI. Earlier in the late sixties the IAF had used the SU-7 fighter-bomber in a tactical and ground role. This aircraft though good suffered a loss of speed while turning back after a ground attack. This was referred to as the ‘Sukhoi Sink” and the aircraft was most vulnerable at that time. This resulted in many SU- 7 being shot down in the 1971 war by the stinger shoulder fired missiles.
The SU-30MKI is however a different kettle of fish. This plane is a twin-engine, twin seated plane which is highly maneuverable and a latest generation air superiority fighter/bomber. It has the latest fly by wire technology; engine thrust vectoring, in-flight refueling capability as well as 24 hour capability in any type of weather. Thus it is an all-weather day night air superiority fighter. Licensed production of this plane is on at HAL and the first plane was tested in 2005 at Nasik.
The SU 30 is a multi role aircraft and can also be used for ground attack.
The Fifth Generation Fighter AircraftModel of FGA
The Russian connection has now been strengthened further with the planned production of the fifth generation Fighter aircraft (FGFA). This is being manufactured in collaboration with Russia. This aircraft will incorporate the latest technology with stealth as well have high maneuverability. It will have highly integrated avionics and electronics on board and the plane will be capable of network centering warfare capabilities. Research and planning of this plane is on and once developed will be a state of the art machine. It will be a twin seated and twin-engine plane.
The Russian connection with the Indian Air Force is strong and likely to last for a long time.