"This bird of war lacks a nose, its sheen has gone and its wings are sometimes used to dry the laundry. But there's still no denying the faded majesty of the Mystere Mark IV fighter-bomber that sits in the compound of the Rajya Sainik Board (RSB), across the road from the Tis Hazari courts.
Hardly anyone knows it is there and the supplicants who throng the courthouse never glance across the road at the plane that incongruously sits there. Visitors to the Jammu and Kashmir State Tourism Board office can hardly fail to see the plane parked in the forecourt, but there is nothing to explain why it is where it is.
It was one of the 110 Mystere IV-As that the Indian Air Force bought from French firm Dassault in 1957. In May that year, squadron leader Dilbagh Singh, who went on to become Chief of Air Staff, flew a Mystere Mark IV to demonstrate the first official supersonic bang over India.
The Mysteres performed exemplarily in both the 1965 and 1971 wars against Pakistan. They were instrumental in immobilizing enemy armour during the battle of Chawinda in 1965 and the routing of the Pakistan Ist Armoured Corps' 67th Infantry Brigade at Fazilka in 1971. After the war, the Mysteres were decommissioned and sent off to different institutions.
Sources said the aircraft arrived at its unlikely location "from Hindon air base sometime after 1987 when the RSB set up base here." The single-pilot plane sits on a platform in the RSB compound but remains unmarked and unregarded in every other respect. Those in know say it more than money is needed to showcase the plane. "It's the right attitude that's missing".
The IAF washes its hands off the whole matter, reportedly offering to do no more than dismantle it and take it away because it would cost at least Rs 80,000 to refurbish it. IAF PRO, Wg Cdr T K Singha points out, "Once these planes are given to institutions etc, they become the guardians."
So a war veteran of the skies now rusts in the shadows, even as the shiny Delhi Metro streaks by right above it. "
On another note, the Indian Express carried a photograph of Gnat IE246 returning to its old display location at Vayu Bhavan. Due to the Delhi Metro Construction work, the three Gnats had been removed and moved to the IAF Museum as a temporary measure. Now atleast one of them is back home. Photo by Tashi Tobo Yal of the Indian Express.
Tip of the hat to Livefist for highlighting both the photos.