Folland Gnat

Folland Gnat

infobox Aircraft
name = Gnat
type = Fighter
manufacturer = Folland Aircraft

caption = A former Red Arrows aircraft, "XR537"
designer = W.E.W. Petter
first flight = 18 July 1955
introduced = 1959, RAF
retired = 1979, UK
status =
primary user = Royal Air Force
more users = Indian Air Force
Finnish Air Force
produced =
number built = 449 (including HAL Ajeet)
unit cost =
developed from = Folland Midge
variants with their own articles = HAL Ajeet

The Folland Gnat was a small, swept-wing British subsonic jet trainer and light fighter aircraft developed for the Royal Air Force, and flown extensively by the Indian Air Force. It was designed by W.E.W. Petter, and first flew in 1955. Its design was such that it could be built without specialised tools by countries that were not highly industrialised.Verify source|date=March 2008 Although never used as a fighter by the Royal Air Force (RAF), the "Gnat T.1" trainer variant was widely used. As the mount for the RAF Red Arrows aerobatic team, the Gnat became well known.

The Gnat also achieved export success, particularly with India, the largest foreign operator who manufactured the aircraft under license. India then developed the HAL Ajeet, a modified and improved variant.

Design and development

The Gnat was the creation of W.E.W. "Teddy" Petter, a British aircraft designer formerly of Westland Aircraft and English Electric. Petter believed that a small, simple fighter would offer the advantages of low purchase and operational costs. New lightweight turbojet engines that were being developed enabled the concept to take shape. One of the hallmarks of the Gnat's design was its compact size. However, to achieve such a size, its systems were closely packed, making maintenance more difficult. Some of its systems were not noted for their reliability and the aircraft suffered from high operating costs. There were also issues that its cockpit was cramped and obstructed the instructor's forward visibility. Furthermore, the limited weapons load and reduced fuel capacity – both designed to reduce overall kerb weight – meant that it could not operate for protracted periods. Despite the shortcomings, the Gnat and its predecessor the Folland Midge were praised by the RAF evaluation and the test pilots. The lower cost of the Gnat, its compact dimensions, as well as "good press" for the aircraft in air shows, were among the factors that prompted a spurt in its export sales.

Operational history

Royal Air Force

In Britain, the Folland Fo.144 Gnat Trainer served in the RAF as the Gnat T.Mk 1. It was notable as the demonstration aircraft of the Red Arrows aerobatic display team between 1964, when the team was formed, and 1979, when it was replaced by the Hawk T.1A.

When the RAF replaced and sold off its Gnat T.1 trainers, many were bought by private collectors and subsequently appeared (along with some single-seat Gnats) in the Charlie Sheen movie "Hot Shots!".

One of the few remaining Gnats in the UK has recently been restored to flight status at Bournemouth Airport, in Southern England. "G-NATY" (formerly "XR537") is the only genuine former Red Arrows Gnat on the European display circuit. The aircraft can be viewed at the De Havilland Aviation hangar at Bournemouth Airport in Dorset, southern England. Like many ex-military jet aircraft, there is one ("G-FRCE") based at North Weald Airfield in Essex. [ [ UK Aircraft sales] ]


The Finnish Air Force received the first of its 13 Gnats on 30 July 1958. It was soon found to be a problematic aircraft in service and required a lot of ground service. Finland initially considered license manufacturing the aircraft but eventually decided not to. On 31 July, 1958, the Finnish Air Force Major Lauri Pekuri broke the sound barrier for the first time in Finland at Lake Luonetjärvi with a Folland Gnat.

All Gnats were grounded on 26 August 1958, for six months after the destruction of GN-102 due to a technical error, and the aircraft soon became the subject of severe criticism. Three other aircraft were also destroyed in other accidents. The Gnats were removed from active service in 1972 when the Häme Wing moved to Rovaniemi, and when the new Saab 35 Drakens were taken into use.


Indo-Pak War of 1965

Serving primarily with the Indian Air Force, the Gnat is credited by many independent and Indian sources to have shot down seven Pakistani Canadair Sabres (licence built F-86s) in the 1965 war. [ [ Warbird Alley] ] [ [ Folland Gnat] ] [ [ Bharat Rakshak] ] Spick 2002, p. 161.] The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) claims only three Gnat victories over F-86s in air to air combat, [ [ Pakistan Air Force war claims] ] while two Gnats were downed by PAF fighters. During the initial phase of the 1965 War, an IAF Gnat, piloted by Squadron Leader Brij Pal Singh Sikand, landed at an abandoned Pakistani airstrip at Pasrur and was captured by the PAF who first claimed that two Pakistani F-104 Starfighters forced the Gnat down; [ [ A Gnat Surrenders] -] however, the Indians claimed the pilot landed by mistake. [ [ 1965 War] Note: Later, a retired PAF historian, Air Cmde Kaiser Tufail, determined that the Gnat actually landed before the F-104s arrived on the scene, giving credibility to the Indian version.] [ [ Defence Day] ] This Gnat is displayed as a war trophy in the Pakistan Air Force Museum, Karachi. After the ceasefire, one Pakistani Cessna O-1 was shot down on 16 December 1965 by a Gnat. [ [ IAF History] ]

Indo-Pak War of 1971

The Gnats were used again by India in the Bangladesh Liberation War against Pakistan. [ Squadron 22 "Swifts"] ] [ Folland Gnat F1] - RAF Museum] The most notable action was the Battle of Boyra where the first dogfights over East Pakistan took place. The IAF Gnats downed two PAF Canadair Sabres in minutes and badly damaged one. The Pakistan Air Force claims that one Gnat was shot down, which was proved incorrect. Brij Pal Singh Sikand, the Gnat squadron commander had been a POW in the 1965 war. Another notable dogfight involving a Gnat was over Srinagar airfield where a lone Indian pilot held out against six Sabres, [ Air Battles - December 1971] by Wg Cdr Salim Baig Mirza, PAF] scoring hits on two of the Sabres in the process, [ Official Citation of the PVC to NIrmal Jit Singh Sekhon] ] [ Param Vir Chakra] ] before being overwhelmed. Gnat pilot, Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon, was posthumously honoured with Param Vir Chakra (India's highest gallantry award) becoming the only IAF personnel to be given the award.

"Sabre Slayer"

By the end of 1971, the Gnat proved to be a frustrating opponent for the technically superior Sabres, and had lived up to its Indian Air Force nickname of "Sabre Slayers" since all its combat "kills" during the two wars were against Sabres. [Bingham 2002 ] [ [ Book review of Three countries, One people By D S Jafa] - Hosted on India Today, 20 September 1999] The Canadair Sabre Mk 6 was widely regarded as the best "dogfighter" of its era. [ [ Canadair CL-13 Sabre] - Royal Canadian Air Force] [ [ Sabre] ] [ [ Warbird Alley] ] Tactics called for Gnats taking on the Sabres in the vertical where they were at a disadvantage. Moreover, because the Gnat was lightweight and compact in shape, it was hard to see, especially at low levels where most of the dogfights took place. Apart from air defence operations, the aircraft performed multiple roles in the Bangladesh Liberation War being used in anti-shipping operations, ground attack, bomber/transport escort and close air support with "devastating effects" on the PAF. The success of the indigenously produced Gnats against the more sophisticated Pakistani-flown planes was viewed as a significant achievement. [Ross 1991, p. 193.]

The IAF were impressed by the Gnat's performance in the two wars, but the aircraft had problems including hydraulics and unreliable control systems. To address these issues, the IAF issued a requirement for an improved "Gnat II" in 1972, 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. Over 175 of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited-built licensed version, the Ajeet ("Unconquerable"), were produced in Bangalore, while about 40 were purchased directly from Folland.

Gnats served in India from 1958-1978, and several remain in use in private hands. Some IAF Gnats, one of which had participated in the 1971 war in East Pakistan (present day Bangladesh) were presented to the Bangladesh Air Force. [ [ Warbirds of India] ]


* Fo.141 Gnat : Single seat lightweight fighter aircraft.
** Gnat F.1 : Single-seat lightweight fighter version for Finland and India. This was also built in India under license as the HAL Gnat.
** HAL Ajeet : Single-seat Mark. 2 development of the Gnat F.1
** HAL Ajeet Trainer : Two-seat tandem trainer version for the Indian Air Force. This version was derived from the HAL Ajeet and differed considerably from the Gnat T.1 used by the RAF
* Fo. 144 Gnat trainer : Two-seat advanced trainer aircraft.
** Gnat T.1 : Two-seat advanced trainer version for the RAF.


*Finnish Air Force
**Häme Wing
***HavLLv 11
***HavLLv 21;IND
*Indian Air Force
**No.2 Squadron
**No.9 Squadron
**No.15 Squadron
**No.18 Squadron
**No.21 Squadron
**No.22 Squadron
**No.23 Squadron
**No.24 Squadron;UK
*Royal Air Force
**4 Flying Training School, RAF Valley
**Central Flying School
**Red Arrows aerobatic team
**Yellowjacks aerobatic team;YUG
*SFR Yugoslav Air Force received only two aircraft, construction numbers FL14 and FL17, machines originally marked as G-39-8 and G-39-9 respectively, and became Yugoslav AF inventory registration numbers 11601 and 11602. They were used for evaluation and tests by VOC (Flight test center).


*A number of Gnats survive including a number of airworthy examples (particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom) and others on public display:
* Gnat F1 XK724 is on display at the RAF Museum Cosford, Shropshire, England.
* Gnat F1 XK741 is on display at the Midland Air Museum, Coventry, England painted in Finnish colours.
* Gnat F1 11601 is on display at the Belgrade (Beograd) Aviation Museum.
* Gnat F1 XK740 is on display at Solent Sky, Southampton, Hampshire, England.
* Gnat T1 XM694 (N694XM) is on display at Pima, Arizona, United States.
* Gnat T1 XM697 is on display outside BAe Systems factory at Hamble, Hampshire, England.
* Gnat T1 XP505 is on display at the Science Museum, London, England.
* Gnat T1 XP542 is on display at Solent Sky, Southampton, Hampshire, England.
* Gnat T1 XR537 is operated by De Havilland Aviation, Bournemouth Airport. Fully airworthy following a restoration project and registered on the civilian register as G-NATY, painted in its former RAF Red Arrows livery and displaying its former military registration XR537.
* Gnat T1 XR571 is on display at the headquarters of the Red Arrows, RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire, England.
* Gnat T1 XR977 is on display at the RAF Museum Cosford, Shropshire, England.
* Gnat T1 XS105 (N18GT)is on display in flying condition at the Planes of Fame Air Museum, Chino, USA
* One Indian Gnat which was captured by Pakistan Air Force is on display at PAF museum Karachi.

pecifications (Gnat F.1)

aircraft specification

plane or copter?=plane
jet or prop?=jet

ref="The Great Book of Fighters" [ Green, William and Gordon Swanborough. "The Great Book of Fighters". St. Paul, Minnesota: MBI Publishing, 2001. ISBN 0-7603-1194-3.]
length main=28 ft 8 in
length alt=8.74 m
span main=22 ft 1 in
span alt=6.73 m
height main=8 ft 1 in
height alt=2.46 m
area main=136.6 ft²
area alt=12.69 m²
empty weight main=4,800 lb
empty weight alt=2,175 kg
loaded weight main=
loaded weight alt=
max takeoff weight main=9,040 lb
max takeoff weight alt=4,100 kg
engine (jet)=Bristol-Siddeley Orpheus 701-01
type of jet=turbojet
number of jets=1
thrust main=4,705 lbf
thrust alt=20.9 kN
max speed main=695 mph at 20,000 ft
max speed alt=1,120 km/h at 6,100 m
range main=500 mi
range alt=805 km
ceiling main=48,000 ft
ceiling alt=14,630 m
climb rate main=20,000 ft/min
climb rate alt=101.6 m/s
loading main=
loading alt=
*2x 30mm ADEN cannons
*2x 500 lb (227 kg) bombs or 18x 3 in (76 mm) rockets

ee also

* Folland Midge
* HAL Ajeet
similar aircraft=
* Northrop F-5
* T-33 Shooting Star
* T-38 Talon
* List of aircraft of the Royal Air Force
see also=
* Red Arrows



In Popular Culture

The Gnat made its major role in a comedy movie "Hot Shots!" as a Naval fighter.


* Bingham, Victor. "Folland Gnat – Red Arrow and Sabre Slayer". Hailsham, East Sussex, UK: J&KH Publishing, 2002. ISBN 1-900511-78-9.
* Burnet, Charles. "Folland's (G)Natty Fighters." "AIR Enthusiast Twenty-four", April-July 1984. Bromley, Kent, UK: Pilot Press Ltd., 1984.
* Ross, Andrew L. "The Political Economy of Defense: Issues and Perspectives". Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1991. ISBN 0-31326-462-7.
* Spick, Mike. "Illustrated Directory of Fighters". Osceola, Wisconsin: Zenith Press, 2002. ISBN 0-76031-343-1.

External links

* [ De Havilland Aviation Ltd - operates the only airworthy former Red Arrows Gnat in Europe, XR537 (G-NATY)]
* [ Thunder and Lightnings]
* [ Cockpit restoration of XM692 ]
* [ The Wolfpack in action]

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