September 29, 2022

The white tigers emblem is prominently displayed on the Sea Harrier IN-621 at the NAM. It has been stripped of all usable parts and rests on specially made trestles.

One of the suprise attractions of the Naval Musuem when it opened was the exhibition of a BAe Sea Harrier FRS 51 [IN-621]. It was a surprise exhibit because the Sea Harriers were very much still the frontline fighter aircraft of the Navy and no one expected one on museum duty so soon, even an accident related written off aircraft.

The Indian Navy took charge of the BAe Sea Harrier FRS Mk51s to replace the age old Sea Hawk fighters in December 83. The Sea Harrier now formed the equipment of INAS300 ‘White Tigers’ and were based both on the Vikrant as well as the Viraat. 23 Single seater FRS Mk51s and 8 two seater T Mk60s were procured between 1983 and 2003.

This clean side view of the Sea Harrier shows the complete xternal fuselage of the aircraft and the drop tanks. The cockpit has been stripped clean of all instrumentation and parts. Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge Usually a glance in the massive airintakes would show up the turbofan’s blades – but cleverly placed engine intake covers obscure the fact that the engine is not there.

As many as 9 FRS 51s and 2 T60s were written off in accidents. IN-621 is believed to be one of the written off aircraft which has been salvaged for static display. The aircraft has been taken on charge in Sept 91 and had a very short career before it turned up at NAM at its opening.

The aircraft is just a bare shell – with every single usable part stripped off as a possible spare. There is nothing in the cockpit, no engine or parts inside the rear fuselage, no undercarriage etc. The NAM had got specially made jigs that hold up the Harrier in the air.

A look inside the engine bay reveals nothing apart from a few Hydraulic lines and some ballast to keep the shell stable. Click to Enlarge

The aircraft has some cleverly placed accessories – like the engine inlet covers which would hide the fact that there were no turbine blades visible and no engine. Or the Drop tanks under the wing which would obscure the conspicuous absence of the swiveling nozzles.

Recently another Sea Harrier crashed in the Arabian sea, but was salvaged within days. The aircraft was also intact except for some buckled fuselage near the cockpit which would mean its flying days are over. That aircraft could be another potential exhibit elsewhere. Full marks to the NAM team for getting a Sea Harrier on display so soon. Its like getting to see a MiG-27, or a MiG-25 or a MiG-29 on view at the IAF Museum. But thats not likely to happen so soon.

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