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Ajeet

The HAL Ajeet is an Indian single-seater interceptor and light attack aircraft, developed from the Folland Gnat lightweight fighter, and first flown in March 1975. It is armed with two 30 mm Aden Mk 4 cannon in the sides of the inlets and up to 1500 lbs of disposable stores carried on four hardpoints, two under each wing.

In 1972, the IAF issued a requirement for an improved Gnat II, at first specifying that the new version was to be optimized as an interceptor, but then expanding the specification to include the ground-attack role. HAL modified two Gnats for testing subsystems for the new design, and the first two examples of the new aircraft flew in 1975. The improved Gnat was named "Ajeet", Sanskrit for "Invincible" or "Unconquered", and the two initial prototype Ajeets were modified from the last production Gnats built by HAL. The first production Ajeet flew on 30 September 1976, and deliveries to the IAF began in 1977. The Ajeet was difficult to tell apart from a Gnat at a casual glance, but it incorporated many changes and improvements. The most visible change was that the Ajeet had four stores pylons, with a total carriage capacity of 900 kilograms (one ton), instead of the Gnat's two stores pylons.

Estimates for the number of Gnats supplied to India, assembled by HAL, or built completely by HAL vary even more widely, likely because of confusion between the number assembled and the number built. It is not known if the number of Ajeets built includes the two Ajeet trainers. A total of 79 Ajeets were built by the time production ended in 1982, and ten Gnats were upgraded to Ajeet standards.

The Ajeet trainer never reached production. One prototype was built in 1982 and crashed in that year, a second prototype flew in 1983, and then the program went into limbo and eventually died.

The last Ajeets were phased out of Indian service in 1991. No Gnats or Ajeets remain in operational service.





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