Times They Are Achangin’.

The blog has slowed down a bit. Finding it extremely difficult to balance a game of golf and also sitting a few hours on the computer, in this sapping heat. To be honest, I did think one fine morning, when I was up at 5 am, to forgo the golf and sit on the comp and work on the blog. The blog came out a very poor second. So till the rains bring some respite, please bear with this snail’s pace.

Another reason for the delay is because I am enjoying a very nice book, “Memoirs” by Gp Capt Jacob Chakko. In fact, a part of it, is the inspiration for  this particular post.

Sometime in mid 1952  Flt. Lt. Chakko was sent as head of a technical team to undergo training for the induction of the  Ouragan – Toofani into the IAF. While this was going on, talks were on in Paris for the deal  in the face of stiff opposition and competition from the British. So much so, that AVM Engineer, who was present there, had to telephonically contact Prime Minister Nehru at 4 am. Nehru made it abundantly clear that the Toofani it would be. There the matter ended – deal done!

About 75 aircraft were ferried in an old French aircraft carrier, Dixmude, which berthed at Bombay harbour. From there they were off loaded, at night, carried in knocked down condition on Queen Marys and taken to the freshly set up Aircraft Erection Unit (AEU), at Santa Cruz. While Flt Lt Chakko set up the assembly line, Wg Cdr Suranjan Das was the Commanding Officer.

The whole process from initial evaluation to induction was completed within two years! Discussions in 1952, orders placed for about 75 aircraft in mid 1953 and deliveries took place and were completed by mid 1954!

Similarly in 1954 a team headed by Air Cmde PC Lal, along with Gp Capt Moolgavkar, Wg Cdr Suranjan Das, Wg Cdr Roshan Suri, Wg Cdr Srinivasan, Wg Cdr UK Nair, Sqn Ldr Sarwate and Flt lt Jacob Chakko was picked out to “study, test and recommend new aircraft and weapons systems that would fulfill the operational requirements of the next 10 – 15 years.”

Their first stop was again Paris, where they evaluated the Mystere IV A.  during the testing, Wg Cdr SC Das experienced extremely severe vertical oscillations at high speeds at lower levels. Jacob Chakko was asked by Air Cmde Lal to assist with the problem. It was he who then designed the Dashpot, familiar to all Mystere pilots, to control these oscillations. By now, discussions had progressed considerably and AVM Aspi Engineer arrived in Paris to finalise the deal.However there was another hitch over the radar gunsight, which the French were unwilling to part with.

“AVM Engineer made it abundantly clear that without the new radar gunsight all negotiations were off. He ended his offer to buy with the simple but firm statement: ‘No gun sight – no Mystere.’ This was firm. This was unequivocal………….The French agreed to let the IAF have their new radar gunsight…..The next few days were filled with working out the details of purchase and  signing the letters of intent.” As simple as that!

From France the team moved to the UK where they assessed and finalised deals for the Hunter, Canberra and the  Gnat, which was still under development.  Surprisingly, the gnat was chosen even though the Brits tried their best to palm off the hugely unsuccessful Swift. At that time Folland were developing a small fighter, the Midge, which was later to be developed as the Gnat.  Flown by Gp Capt Moolgavkar and Wg Cdr Das,  they both gave it their thumbs up. Air Cmde PC Lal, with Nehru’s blessing, settled for the Gnat and agreed to accept it while still being developed.

It seems unbelievable to-day, but this is how things worked then. The experts and operators themselves decided what they wanted and had the freedom to choose and decide on the spot. All three aircraft, the Hunter, Canberra and Gnat were tested out in 1954 and entered service in 1957 – 58.

Times sure have changed! And how.


One Response to Times They Are Achangin’.

  1. Dara says:

    Another example of our changing standards, that comes to mind, is the example of the Frontier Mail. This train which has been running since 1928, used to take 24 hours between Bombay Central (Mumbai) and Old Delhi right till the 1980s or so, when I last travelled on it.

    Today it takes a little over 22, a difference of about 2 hours in 80 years. To top it all, it is clasified as ‘super fast!’ and one has to pay an extra charge for this small mercy. By these yardsticks, it was perhaps considered super sonic in 1928.

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