A group of retired Indian Air Force personnel has come forward to restore to its full glory a Gnat combat aircraft that has been gathering dust in front of a cultural centre in Kozhikode.

Since the Gnat fighter aircraft was once the showpiece of the IAF, it is quite natural for retired personnel of the IAF to be dismayed by the sight of a rusted Gnat aircraft, says P.M. Mani, secretary of the Kozhikode chapter of Air Force Association.

The members of the association are now busy renovating the old Gnat aircraft kept at the S.K. Pottekkat Cultural Centre at Puthiyara here.

"Ex-sentinels of the sky cannot but be excited by the sight of an old Gnat," said Mr. Mani.

This aircraft was first developed by Folland Company in the U.K. to guard the frontiers. The then Defence Minister V.K. Krishna Menon and the then High Commissioner Vijayalakshmi Pandit had taken the initiative to buy 88 Gnats.

Later Gnat was manufactured at Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. in Bangalore and the new version was renamed 'Ajeet'. IAF personnel view Gnat as a small sleek combat aircraft that pilots can manoeuvre easily to dodge hostile aircraft during dog fights in air.

Indian pilots had won all-round appreciation by flying these aircraft in the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars. These fighter aircraft were called "sabre slayer" as they were used to destroy Sabre jets of Pakistan in the war.

"So we want this Gnat at the S.K. Pottekkat Cultural Centre to be restored to its full glory before the Independence Day programmes on August 15," said Mr. Mani.

Engaged in the restoration work at the S.K. Pottekkat Cultural Centre are president of the Kozhikode chapter of Air Force Association Flight Lieutenant T. Ramachandran Nair, warrant officers P.V. Asokan, Sasi Kumar, Sergeant K. Karunan, and Ramesh Babu, and secretary of the association P.M. Mani.

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