HAL Ajeet

The HAL Ajeet (Invincible or Unconquerable) was a development of the British Folland Gnat fighter that was built under licence in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.

HAL Ajeet
Class Aircraft
Type Fighter
Manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics
Origin India
Country Name Origin Year
India 1976
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
India 1977 1991 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Hindustan Aeronautics 89 View

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 cheap 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.

Role Fighter
Manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited
First flight 1976
Introduction 1977
Retired 1991
Primary user Indian Air Force
Number built 89 (including 10 upgraded Gnats)
Developed from Folland Gnat

General characteristics

  • 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

End notes