February 29, 2024

Back in August 2002, it was first reported that the Punjab Government and Chandigarh Establishment inked a deal with the Indian Air Force to set up an “Air Force Heritage Centre” in Chandigarh. Several aircraft were shipped just after that in the process of setting up the Centre, including the rare and historical Kanpur I airframe held by the Punjab Engineering College.

The AFHC was officially opened on 8th May 2023, at the former Printing and Stationary Department building in Sector 18 of Chandigarh.

Recently Dipalay Dey visited the Heritage Centre. He observed that there were five aircraft in total, and a cockpit section.

Gnat “E-257”

This Gnat was moved from the Traffic Training Park in Punjabi Bagh in New Delhi and given the spurious markings of “E-257”, which was the identity of the Gnat lost during the 71 war at Srinagar, in which the late Fg Offr Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon was awarded the highest Gallantry Award – the Param Vir Chakra. The Gnat, originally IE-1114, was removed from the Park when the metro was being built along the line. The aircraft arrived in August 2022 as seen in the photo on top left. It should be noted that IE-1114 is an original Folland-built Gnat , first flown in December 1963 and likely saw service in the 1965 and 1971 wars.

Subsequently, the aircraft was stuck on a pole but with the undercarriage in the extended position, just as it was displayed at the TTP in Delhi.

MiG-21M C-1592

The MiG-21 is represented by this “M” serial C-1592 . A rather unremarkable aircraft in terms of history, not much is known about its service. The installation has a metal stairs leading upto the cockpit so that visitors can get a view.. and a well-designed canopy shade to protect the perspex from the afternoon sun is a nice touch.

MiG-23MF SK-427

A MiG-23 MF air defence variant, SK-427, served with 224 Squadron, and later with 1 TETTRA as an instructional airframe.

HPT-32 Deepak X-2543

And from the surplus stores – comes yet another HAL HPT-32 Deepak Trainer. This aircraft X-2543 was the 21st Deepak Airframe built and it survived about two decades at the Air Force Academy in Dundigal before its withdrawal from service in 2009.

IAF Kanpur I BR470

Other than the Gnat, the airframe that comes with a good dossier of history is the IAF Kanpur I aircraft. Previously held by the Punjab Engineering College, this aircraft holds a place of pride at the Heritage Centre.

We have previously written about the aircraft in detail, and it was marked the “Warbird Discovery 2004”

The aircraft was in a slightly beaten-up condition during the handover and has undergone some “Desi restoration” since then to bring it up to specs. But the road to botched restorations is lined by good intentions, and this is exemplified by the replacement of the original wheels by what appears to be automobile rims.. Not cool, Heritage Centre, bring the original wheels back.

Finally, there are other exhibits at the Heritage Centre. an Avon engine and a cockpit section from a MiG-21M/Bis variant are notable. Dipalay looked around to see if there were any identification markings for the cockpit but failed to locate any.

The Avon engine looks partially complete, and missing the exhaust section.

Photos Courtesy: Dipalay Dey

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