Dr. Kurt Tank was a German aircraft designer during World War II when Adolf Hitler ruled. He is famous for designing the Focke- Wulf 190 and the 4 engine Condor. After the defeat of Germany, Dr. Kurt escaped to Argentina. His tenure in Argentina was not much of a success and he came to India as a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology at Madras.

Heading the HAL design team

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru came to know about the presence of DrTank in Madras and offered him the post of chief designer at Hindustan Aeronautics at Bangalore. India was trying to develop an indigenous fighter jet and Nehru thought to incorporate the German designer a coup of sorts.

The Western powers led by the USA were not enamored of Nehru's brand of pro- Soviet neutralism and denied the latest fighters to India.World politics at that time was dominated by USSR and USA.The Indians thought to be self-reliant and develop their own jet and it was a boon that Dr. Kurt Tank joined the team.

The HF-24

Dr. Tank joined the team and soon brought out the first jet fighter ever made outside the developed world. He conceived and launched the Hindustan Fighter-24 or Marut which means the Wind god. The plane was a twin-engine single-seat fighter-bomber. However, the plane was underpowered and only achieved a speed of 1.1 Mach in a dive, though it was designed as a Mach II plane.The aircraft was inherently safe and in two decades of service with the IAF rarely suffered any crash.

The Marut could carry 2x500lb bombs or rockets. It had built-in machine guns. Due to its slow speed, it was mainly used for ground attack and a tactical role.

The plane first flew in 1961 and remained in service till 1990. Three squadrons of the IAF were equipped with the Marut.The plane was used in the 1965 and 71 wars with Pakistan and no aircraft was lost due to enemy action.

But the lack of more powerful engines hindered its development. But within the constraints, the HF-24 has left a mark in the history of Aviation in India. A bigger achievement is that it was the first jet fighter manufactured outside the developed world.

Dr. Tank left India in 1969 and settled in Bavaria. A Marut is displayed at the Air Force Museum at Palam and one is exhibited in Bavaria. In India, the wheel has turned a full circle and the HAL made Tejas advanced interceptor is on the verge of induction into the IAF