In early fifties there was need for a swift intercepter for the Indian Air Force. A committee under Air Commodore PC Lal was formed to evaluate an aircraft for the IAF. The requirements of the Air Staff were examined. Opinion of Air Force Pilots was also sought.
After due deliberation the committee recommended buying the Folland Gnat for the IAF. This plane had been flown by Indian Air Force pilots in the UK earlier as well and they had given a favorable report. The ministry of defense and the government accepted the recommendations and the first batch of Gnats were inducted into the IAF towards the end of the fifties. As per government stipulation and on the insistence of Krishna Menon of was the Defense Minister the British company agreed to assemble the plane in India. Accordingly Hindustan Aeronautics at Bangalore was commissioned to assemble this plane. At that time the Gnat was only chosen by the IAF and even the Royal Airforce did not opt for this plane. Perhaps that was the reason the English company agreed to assemble the plane in India.
The Gnat was rechristened the Ajeet and began to fly with IAF colors. It was a small plane with a maximum speed of 0.98 Mach. That gave it a subsonic connotation. The plane carried 2 rapid fire guns and also could carry 2 five hundred bombs under its wings. The plane in air combat was a hit as opposing aircraft found it difficult to hit it because of its small size and rapid rate of climb as well as turning radius.
The Gant was thrown into combat against the Pakistan Air Force in the 1965 and 71 wars. The plane fought many legendary battles with the F86, Sabre Jet of tha PAF. The Gnat from most independents had the measure of the Sabre jet, many of which were shot down in air combat. Improvements in the Gant were made at HAL and the Mark 2 and 3 versions were developed. The Gnat continued in the IAF for over 2 decades till it was phased out. It is a irony of aviation history that a plane selected only by the IAF and rejected by RAF proved such a success. A Gnat is kept in the Air Force Museum at Palam, Delhi.