|The prototype Ajeet, E1083, preserved outside HAL's headquarters in Bangalore|
|Manufacturer||Hindustan Aeronautics Limited|
|Primary user||Indian Air Force|
|Number built||89 (including 10 upgraded Gnats)|
|Developed from||Folland Gnat|
Design and development
The Indian Air Force (IAF) operated the Folland Gnat light jet fighter from 1958, with over 200 aircraft being license built by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The aircraft proved successful in combat in both the 1965 and the 1971 War with Pakistan, both in the low-level air superiority role and for short range ground attack missions, while being inexpensive to build and operate. It had unreliable systems, particularly the control system, however, and was difficult to maintain. The Indian Air Force therefore issued a requirement for an improved Gnat in 1972. Although the original requirement called for an interceptor, it was later modified to include a secondary ground-attack role. The aircraft was given the name "Ajeet", Sanskrit for "Invincible" or "Unconquered".
The changes from the original Gnat were considerable. They included:
- Improvements to the hydraulics and control systems (these had been a source of difficulties in the Gnat).
- Fitting of improved Martin-Baker GF4 ejection seats.
- Upgraded avionics.
- The addition of slab tail control surfaces.
- Improvements to the landing gear.
- Additional internal fuel capacity, with wet wings to free the underwing pylons normally carried by the Gnat for weapons.
- Installation of two more underwing hardpoints.
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited modified the final two Gnats on the production line as prototypes for the Ajeet, with the first one flying on 6 March 1975, with the second following on 5 November. Testing proved successful of the Ajeet, and it become the first production aircraft flew on 30 September 1976. Visually, the Ajeet appeared similar to the Gnat, with the presence of two extra hardpoints being the only obvious distinguishing features from the older aircraft.
The Ajeet entered service with the IAF in 1977 and was retired in 1991. It never saw combat.
A HAL project for a trainer based on the Ajeet was begun, leading to the initial flight of a prototype in 1982. Unfortunately this aircraft was lost in a crash later that year. A second prototype flew the following year, followed by a third. But a lack of government interest and the imminent phaseout of the aircraft meant no more examples were produced. The two surviving aircraft were sent to the only unit in the IAF operating the Ajeet, No.2 Squadron. The aircraft served with the Squadron until the phaseout of the Ajeet in 1991. Survivors are listed at List of surviving Folland Gnats.
- Gnat Mk 2 : The original Indian Air Force designation for the Ajeet Mk 1.
- Ajeet Mk 1 : Single-seat lightweight ground-attack and interceptor fighter aircraft.
- Ajeet Mk 2 Trainer : Two-seat advanced jet training prototype.
Specifications (HAL Ajeet)
Data from Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1982-83 
- Crew: 1
- Length: 9.04 m (29 ft 8 in)
- Wingspan: 6.73 m (22 ft 1 in)
- Height: 2.46 m (8 ft 1 in)
- Wing area: 12.69 m² (136.6 ft²)
- Aspect ratio: 3.56
- Empty weight: 2,307 kg (5,086 lb)
- Loaded weight: 3,539 kg (7,803 lb) clean take-off weight
- Max. takeoff weight: 4,173 kg (9,200 lb)
- Powerplant: 1 × TJE HAL/Bristol Siddeley Orpheus 701-01 turbojet, 20.0 kN (4,500 lbf)
- Maximum speed: 1,152 km/h (622 knots, 716 mph) at sea level
- Combat radius: 172 km (93 nmi, 107 mi) low level, with two 250 kg bombs
- Service ceiling: 45,000 ft (13,720 m)
- Wing loading: lb/ft² (kg/m²)
- Climb to 12,000 m (39,375 ft): 6 min 2 s
- Guns: 2× 30 mm ADEN cannons with 90 rounds each
- Bombs: Up to 1985 lb (900 kg) of external stores on four underwing hardpoints
- Related development
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Related lists
- Chopra 1977, pp. 284–286.
- Chopra 1977, pp. 286–287.
- Chopra 1977, pp. 287–288.
- Chopra 1977, p.288.
- Chopra 1977, p.287.
- Taylor 1982, pp. 93–94.
- Chopra, Pushpindar. "Ajeet". Air International, June 1977, Vol 12 No 6. Bromley, UK:Fine Scroll. pp. 284–290.
- Taylor, John W R (editor). Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1982-83. London:Jane's Yearbooks, 1982. ISBN 0-7106-0748-2.
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