The Temperamental Tempest

A brief history of the IAF’s first true Fighter Bomber

“And from the earth, the sky, the winds, he felt the powers flowing anew. It had begun. The Tempest”
“The Tempest”, William Shakespeare


HA532.jpg (34696 bytes)
A classic composition of a CTU Tempest II, HA 532 at Ambala. Picture courtesy: Air Mshl (Retd) S Raghavendran

It has been exactly a half century since the Tempest howled through Indian skies. The last Tempests stood down in Sep 1955, when the Target Towing Flight under the Armament Training Wing (ATW) at Jamnagar handed in their four aircraft in exchange for Toofanis (MD 450 Ouragons). The Tempest formed the backbone of the IAF's fighter fleet and almost single handedly dominated the critical ground support role during the1947- 48 conflict in Jammu and Kashmir. In its later career the Tempest II also played an important part in introducing young fighter pilots to fighter flying in what was certainly the' biggest beast of a fighter aircraft' at the time. Hastily developed for a very specialized ground attack role towards the end of WW II, the Tempest II had outlived its enabling technologies and was rapidly overtaken by the Meteor and Vampire jets by the end of 1948. With a manufacturer unwilling and then unable to support the aircraft's great proclivity for frequent spares supply, the Tempest II became increasingly difficult to maintain. Severe and fundamental problems with the revolutionary Centaurus engine's sleeve valve bearings led to a high engine - related accident rate in the IAF. In fact, during the Kashmir conflict the number of engine related non combat loses were of a much greater concern than actual combat related ones. This, coupled with a generally higher than average level of skill required to operate the aircraft, caused the Tempest II to be finally withdrawn from service in less than nine years. In fact the Tempest II was replaced in 7 Squadron by the earlier Spitfire XVIIIs and then by a slew of jet aircraft like the Vampire and Toofani (MD 450 Ouragon). 

Typhoon/Tempest Development.

The Tempest was a development of the earlier, controversial but effective Hawker Typhoon of tank busting fame. The Typhoon began life even as the Hawker Hurricane was just entering RAF service in 1937. Hawker's chief designer, the famous Sydney Camm based his preliminary design on two revolutionary 24-cylinder engines that promised to give twice the power of the then current 1030 hp Merlin engine. These were the Rolls Royce Vulture based on the combination of two Peregrine engines in an 'X' layout and the Napier Sabre which favoured the 'H' layout based on four banks of cylinders driving two crankshafts. Construction against the Air Ministry Specification F.18/37 began in Mar 1938 of two prototypes - the Tornado with the Vulture engine and the Typhoon with the Sabre (all Hawker aircraft followed the trend of being named in the 'winds' theme). Based on the potential of the two fighters an order for a 1000 aircraft with a mix of Tornados and Typhoon was placed in Mar 1940 but with the requirement of resources being concentrated for the manufacture of the Spitfire, Hurricane, Whitley, Wellington and the Blenheim at the time, production plans were postponed. In the meantime the Vulture on the Avro Manchester suffered a disastrous number of engine failures (with the Manchester being taken off operations) and the production of the engine was terminated following which the Tornado contract was cancelled. However before the Tornado project was scrapped one aircraft was fitted with a third new engine-the 2210hp, 18 cylinder, air cooled radial Bristol Centaurus. This sole test bed gave valuable service as the test bed for use of the engine on the Tempest II and its development, the Sea Fury. In the meantime the Typhoon, in spite of severe problems with the Sabre engine, lesser maneuverability than the Spitfire, but greater top speed (approx 40 mph above 14,000') was entering service with No 56 Squadron as the only fighter to match the Luftwaffe's Focke-Wulf FW 190. Initially without a suitable RAF role and with manufactures trying to desperately develop the airframe and engine into a reliable combination, the Typhoon emerged as the very epitome of close air support on the continent. Yet the aircraft served in no other theater, and with no air force except the RAF. Too specialized for a peacetime air force, the last Typhoon squadrons had disbanded by Sep 1945.

The Tempest is Born.   

Early in the Typhoon development programme the wing had been identified as a major limitation on the aircraft's performance. To overcome these deficiencies, the maximum depth of the wing was shifted back from 30 % to 37.5% MAC. The fineness ratio was also reduced to 14.5% at the root and the plan form was also changed to a semi-elliptical one not unlike the Spitfire's. The new thin wing meant that part of the fuel stored in the wing had to be relocated in a new 21 inch extension between the firewall and the oil tank by accommodating a 76 gal tank. Sydney Camm had designed radiators to fit into the inner wing sections with intakes along the wing leading edge (like the Mosquito) allowing a beautiful slim cowling that belied the bulk of the Saber engine. This aircraft was christened the Typhoon II. However, the severe problems with the Sabre engine and the cancellation of the Vulture, the Griffon 61 was considered as possible replacement. As the Bristol Centaurus in its very early stages of development was not expected to be ready in time to meet Typhoon II production time scales, the Air Ministry ordered six prototypes with five different engines and mark numbers were allocated as under.

Mk I - Sabre IV
Mk II - Centaurus IV (two prototypes)
Mk III - Griffon IIB
Mk IV - Griffon 61
Mk V - Sabre II

It was also considered that the projected developments would make the aircraft significantly different from the current Typhoon and it was politically expedient to change the aircraft's name as the Typhoon's reputation was at its nadir. The new Version thus came to be named the Tempest.

Radial.jpg (15568 bytes) The 24 cylinder sleeve valved radial Centaurus on the Mk II. Pic courtesy: The Hawker Tempest page.

In the event however, the Mk V became ready to fly long before the earlier marks and flew first on 02 Sep 42. The Tempest I flew on 24 Feb 43 but was axed along with the Griffon powered versions in favour of the Mk V and II whose Centaurus engine was showing great promise on the Tornado test bed. While great effort was being put into the Mk V, it was only considered as an interim version, with the Mk II being the ultimate Tempest. The Mk II prototype, LA 602 ultimately flew on 28 Jun 43 with a Typhoon style fin and rudder. Serious engine vibration was soon apparent and was to be the Mk IIs main problem throughout. The answer to the vibrations called for the original eight point rigid mounting to be replaced by a six point rubber mounting and fine balancing of the four bladed prop.

The prototype Tempest II LA 602 with the Typhoon fin and rudder. Picture courtesy: The Typhoon &Tempest Story by Chris Thomas & Christopher Shores. Click to Enlarge

The second Mk II, LA 607 flew on 18 Sep 43 with the definitive and more elegant faired-in fin and rudder. The aircraft now enjoyed lighter ailerons thanks to new spring tabs but further engine problems including overheating, exhaust malfunction, crankshaft lubrication and reduction gear seizure combined to delay entry into service further.

Click to Enlarge The second Tempest II prototype, LA 607 with the more elegant fin and in full SEAC markings. This aircraft was for many years the sole surviving Tempest II and is now owned by Kermit Weeks of USA. Pic Courtesy: The Typhoon and Tempest story by Chris Thomas & Christopher Shores.

When it did arrive at the Armament and Aircraft Experimental Establishment, (A&AEE) Boscombe Down, it was found that it was faster than the Mustang, Spitfire, Bf 109 and the FW-190 below 20,000'. It could just be out-turned by a Mustang and more easily by the Spitfire but could match the 190 and out-turn the 109 which was embarrassed by its leading edge slots which operated near the stall. The Tempest suffered most in its roll rate and the Air Fighting Development Unit (AFDU) concluded that the Tempest and the Spitfire XIV were so different that only Typhoon pilots should be allowed to convert to the Tempest and Spitfire pilots to later marks of the Spitfire. However, only three Typhoon units ever converted to the Tempest in the RAF. Surprisingly in the IAF only Spitfire pilots converted to the type, either from the Mk VIII, XIV or the T Mk IX when the Tempest was used in the fighter conversion role. The first production Tempests II came off the Bristol lines at Banwell only in Feb 45 by which time it had already been selected for use in South East Asia - to replace the RAF's ageing Hurricanes and lease-lend Thunderbolts and as part of 'Tiger-Force' against Japan. Tropical trials were carried out at Khartoum in the Sudan by six aircraft in an attractive and unique dark earth and stone camouflage and the trials were declared successful by the end of Aug 45. The first Tempest IIs were received by 13 OTU at Harwell in Jun 45 quickly followed by deliveries to front line squadrons. But with the war in Europe over and in the Pacific, coming to a dramatic close, The Mk IIs coming off production lines went directly to the MUs for storage and the production order was cut back and final production of this version totaled 452. The Mk VI was also produced with the Sabre V engine becoming the fastest Tempest with a top speed of 438 mph. The Tempest's high cruising speed made it an ideal choice to meet the RAF's requirement of a high speed tug for its growing fleet of jet aircraft. Eighty Tempest Vs were thus withdrawn and modified into the TT.Mk 5. These Tempests were the last of the type operated by the RAF when the TT.Mk 5 was withdrawn from 233 OCU at Pemberey in Jul 55. It was in the same month that the IAF retired its last TT modified Mk IIs from the Target Towing Flight at ATW Jamnagar.

The Tempest Comes to India.

Flt Lt MPO 'Micky' Blake, the first Indian to fly the Tempest, poses with loaned RAF Tempest II PR 836 'Q' of No 3 Squadron RIAF painted by him with the then ubiquitous 'Plt Offr Prune' motif from the popular RAF journal 'TM'. The picture was taken at Kolar in May 46. Pic Courtesy: Gp Capt (Retd) MPO Blake. Click to Enlarge

The first of 180 Tempest IIs were shipped out to Karachi, Drigh Rd's 320 MU in Dec 45. The first aircraft went to 5 and 30 squadrons RAF at Bhopal in Mar 46 followed by 20 Squadron RAF at Agra and 152 Squadron RAF at Risalpur. As more Tempests were assembled it was the turn of the RIAF squadrons to convert. As was the case at the time, all RAF aircraft were 'loaned' to the RIAF and retained their original RAF serials (PR--- or MW---).

However, all Tempests operated by the RAF in India were 'officially' handed over to the RIAF on 25 Sep 47 and received serials in the 'HA---"series by early 1948. These numbered 159, including three, PR 548, 804 & 836 transferred in 'written-off' condition. 35 of these were handed over to the PAF along with No 1 and 9 Squadrons IAF on 25 Sep 1947. The RIAF received a further 89 Tempests refurbished by Hawker from RAF stocks of 113 held at 20 MU in May 1948 (the remaining 24 were sold to Pakistan). Once the Tempest II was withdrawn from RAF service, India was able to procure 20 more aircraft from RAF MUs which were delivered in two batches from 09 Jul 1951 (12) and 29 Aug 1951 (08) PR 834 becoming the last of 233 Tempest IIs delivered to India of a total 452 produced.

Click to Enlarge RIAF Tempest II MW 419 borrowed from 320 MU is painted in temporary RPAF markings on the eve of 14 Aug 47 to take part in Pakistan Independence day celebrations from Drigh Rd, Karachi. It was flown to No 3 Squadron RIAF at Poona the next day. Pic courtesy Pushpinder Singh.

A total of eight IAF squadrons converted to the type. No 3 Squadron was the first to start conversion at Kolar with No 5 Squadron RAF in Sep 1946, when it received a single Tempest II.  Flt Lt MPO 'Mickey' Blake becoming the first Indian to fly the Tempest II at Poona on 27 Sep 46.

No 8 Squadron followed in Oct 46, No 10 in May 1947, No 7 and 9 in Jun 47 and finally No 1 and 4 squadrons in Jul 47. Tempests also served in the fighter lead-in role alongside Spitfire VIIIs and XIVs with the Conversion and Training Unit (CTU) at Ambala and Hakimpet, and four Tempests served with a Target Towing Flight under the Armament Training Wing (ATW) at Jamnagar until their final retirement in Jul 1955.

Click to Enlarge 23 Tempest IIs from Nos 3&4 squadrons IAF carry out a fly-past over Rajpath in New Delhi on the first Republic day Anniversary celebrations on 26 Jan 51. Pic Courtesy: Air Chief Marshal IH Latif.
PR 555, one of the last Tempest IIs delivered to the IAF is seen at Bahrain during the ferry in late 1951. This aircraft is from the 29 Aug 51 purchase order for the last eight aircraft and became HA 407 in the IAF. It still wears the RAF camouflage from its last RAF unit-226 OCU Bentwaters. Pic Courtest: The Typhoon and Tempest Story Click to Enlarge

The Tea Cup Wars.   

On the partition of the erstwhile British India into Pakistan and India on 15 Aug 47, all 565 princely states were given the option to choose which country they would wish to be absorbed into, depending on their geographical and demographic circumstances. Of these, three princely states, Jammu & Kashmir, Junagad and Hyderabad vacillated due to demographic asymmetries although geographic realities for Junagad and Hyderabad made it imperative that they be absorbed into the Indian Dominion. Jammu & Kashmir and Hyderabad however chose to seek independence. The actions leading to the assimilation of these princedoms into India ranged from small showings of force to 'police actions' to full scale armed conflict. These actions were later to be called the "tea cup wars" because they were considered the left over loose ends of poor British foreign policy, and were hence linked to the British penchant for tea and the cup alluded to the relatively localized nature of conflict. It was the first time that independent India deployed its forces in defense of its impending sovereignty and the RIAF rose to the occasion like never before. Almost all these actions would not have been possible without the Tempest II.


On partition, His Highness Bahadurkhanji MahabatKhanji, the Nawab of Junagad, threatened to accede to Pakistan even though there was no common border between the state and Pakistan. The RIAF was called- in as a show of force and 8 Squadron deployed with its Tempests from Poona to Khambaliya on 04 Oct 47 and carried out patrols over Junagad state till Dec 47 when it moved back in preparation for deployment in J&K. Only token resistance was met in the form of belligerent state force troopers firing rifles at low flying Tempests. After a plebiscite that overwhelmingly opted for India, the Nawab abandoned his state and fled to Pakistan leaving his Dewan Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto (father of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, later Prime Minister of Pakistan) to control the populace rioting for food and essentials. Bhutto requested the Indian Government to assist and the Indian army was deployed in Feb 48. Junagad became a part of the Indian Union in the same month.

The Tempest's Finest Hour, The Race to save Kashmir.

Pending the accession decision of the Maharaja HH Hari Singhji of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), Pakistan and India had entered into a 'standstill agreement' to give the princely state some breathing time to decide. However pre empting the decision by the Maharaja and violating the standstill agreement, Pakistani irregular forces invaded the state on 22 Oct 47 in a bid to capture the Kingdom for itself. The local J&K state forces were overwhelmed within a few days and the invading Mujahideen and Lashkar forces stood a days march from the capital Srinagar. At this point the Maharaja of J&K acceded to India on 26 Oct 47 thus allowing India to step in and recover what it could of the shambles. The RIAF began an airlift into the besieged and continuously shelled airstrip at Srinagar with RIAF and Civil Dakotas in an air effort that was to surpass the Berlin airlift several fold in terms of combat air support in the face of constant enemy fire. Even as 200 men of 1st Bn, the Sikh Regt and 161 Brigade counter attacked and pushed the approximately 4000 invaders to a perimeter just out side Srinagar. Most of the IAF's fighter fleet had converted to the Tempest IIs by then except for No 2 Squadron and most were under strength and understaffed after the partition with some holding only five Tempests with a smattering of Harvards distributed singly amongst the squadrons for continuity training. However, two RIAF Spitfires and a lone Harvard were flown in from the No 1 Services Flying Training School (SFTS) at Ambala, the closest airfield at the time, to provide support to the defenders. Scrounging fuel in jerry cans from the Dakotas landing troops (no fuel was available at Srinagar) the Spitfires flew round the clock strafing the enemy at the gates of Srinagar.

Tempests in the Valley.

On 28 Oct, No 10 Squadron moved four aircraft from Agra to Ambala and a single Tempest staged via Amritsar to carry out recconnaisance west of Srinagar along the road to Kohala. The next day four Tempests attacked enemy forces all along the Srinagar perimeter and around Pattan As these aircraft forward deployed to what was to become No I Advance Landing ground (ALG) at Amritsar, No 7 Squadron under Sqn Ldr SB Noronha moved five Tempests to Ambala on 30 Oct 47. Few days later the two Spitfires based in Srinagar were reinforced by two Tempests of No 10 Sqn. Tempests flew continuous tac/R sorties locating and attacking enemy positions along narrow defiles, deep gorges and thickly wooded hills. On 3 Nov the enemy attacked at Badgam, only few kilometers south of the Srinagar airfield. The onslaught was stopped in the last moment with support of the Spitfires and Tempests of 7 and 10 sqn. The raider's main position had been identified at Shelatang a village along the road to Baramulla west of Srinagar and on 07 Nov the Indian Army and Air force launched a joint operation that routed the enemy with the main force escaping across the Jhelum at Domel. Although, Baramulla and Uri were re captured, the Indian advance was forced to wait for the precarious supply situation to catch up. The RIAF provided continuous close support and recce effort from Srinagar and Amritsar. Tempests struck at Uri, Rawalkot and Kotli areas and attacked the key bridges at Muzzafrabad and Domel. Flt Lt Ulrich Anthony D' Cruz was shot down by ground fire and taken POW whilst flying a 7 Squadron Harvard II in this action. He was later awarded the Ashok Chakra class II (later the Kirti Chakra) for his gallantry.

Flt Lt Dilbagh Singh briefs Plt Offr Umaid, both of 10 Squadron at Amritsar. Note black single letter ID.  Click to Enlarge

RIAF Tempests flew round the clock offensive air support, reconnaissance and interdiction missions. On several occasions the Tempests attacked enemy troops just yards from own troop positions preventing them from being overrun by the overwhelming numbers and firepower. But the cost was high, flying low to make accurate identification, allowed several thousand small arms to be trained on the attacking aircraft and it was seldom that a Tempest returned without damage. Several pilots were injured by ground fire especially later in the war around the enemy stronghold of Tithwal.

Unable to bypass and infiltrate Uri, the invaders opened a second front to the south and captured and held Rawalkot, Bagh, and Rajauri, putting most of Jammu under their control, and by Dec 47 laying siege to Poonch which was to last over a year. In the North West the invaders took the Gilgit agency in Oct 47 and moved south unchecked to capture Gurais and then further south taking Traqbal, 35 miles from Srinagar overlooking the picturesque Wullar Lake. Lacking an airfield close enough to provide close support in the Jammu area, the Army prepared a grass strip at Jammu by Dec 47 allowing 10 Squadron to move in and take part in operations in the Akhnoor-Chammb-Naushera area. No 10s rocketing and strafing Tempests The coming of the extreme winter forced a break in operations for both sides that lasted almost three months. This brought to an end to what was to be later called the "first phase" of the war.

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HA 426 of No 7 Squadron at Jammu in Dec 48. Note the Battle Axe emblem ahead of the cockpit. Pic courtesy: Air Chief Mshl H Moolgavkar via Jagan Pilarisetti.

Jammu airstrip was closed due to the weather and Indian forces concentrated in resupplying and reinforcing several garrisons under siege. The situation was critical in Mirpur and Kotli, both of which were supplied by air-drops of food and ammunition in dozens of missions flown by Dakotas of the No. 12 Sqn, but frequently also by Tempests of No 7 and No 10 Sqns.

The Second Phase.

No 8 Squadron was moved to Jammu on 16 Jan 48 under Sqn Ldr Padam Singh Gill bringing the total fighter bomber strength in the valley to three squadrons with a floating population of an average 20 Tempests and four Harvards. In this second phase of the war both sides (the invaders now being openly supported by regular Pakistan army combatants) dug-in and began to build up for what both sides knew would be the decisive phase for J&K. All through the winter Dakotas, initially 'air dropping' and then by landing under howitzer fire at a primitive strip at Poonch, supported Brig Pritam Singh's besieged garrison. Tempests of 10 Squadron also modified their over load 60 gal drop tanks to drop supplies and ammunition. This operation was later to earn the sobriquet "Mehar Singh's Operation Poonching" after Air Cmde Mehar Singh, overall commander of air operations in the valley. By early 1948 the Pakistan Army had several small garrisons in Jammu, and especially in the "Gilgit Agency", Skardu, Aston, and Chilas. Most importantly the enemy had bolstered their anti aircraft defences, quite significantly, by positioning 40mm Bofors and 3.7 in AAA along the valleys after manhandling them up the defiles. The first loss to ground fire was 8 sqn's Fg offr Amrit Singh Bakshi who lost his tyres and brakes to small arms fire on 29 Jan 48. In the recovery at Jammu the aircraft lost control and somersaulted. Bakshi survived with burn injuries but was invalided from fighter flying.

Click to Enlarge 7 Squadron Tempests are loaded with 60 lb rockets and 1000lb bombs while a Dakota of 12 Squadron is seen parked in the background. Pic Courtesy:
60lb Rockets being loaded on a Tempest at Jammu. Note the Harvard in the background in SEAC Markings. Click to Enlarge
Tempest-Brief_Small.jpg (20121 bytes) Pilots pore over a map at Jammu. Note that the Tempest is sporting the RAF 'B' Roundels.

The Third Phase.

This phase of the Kashmir War came in the spring of 1948. Tempests opened the phase in early Feb 48 by softening targets ahead of 50th Para brigade's advance on Kot and provided close support at the battle of Naushera, the biggest of the campaign. Exploiting the successes at Naushera, Indian forces pressed towards Jhangar, once again being continuously shepherded by strafing, bombing and rocketing Tempests and recaptured it on 15 Mar 48. On the same day, Fg Offr Donald Michael of 8 Squadron was hit whilst attacking targets at Naushera in PR 749. During the landing at Jammu his damaged port tire disintegrated and the Tempest somersaulted several times before coming to rest on its back and in two pieces. Michael was extricated just in time before  the aircraft exploded.

The next day Fg Offr Balwant Singh also of 8 Squadron was shot down and killed by ground fire in PR 597 whilst attacking targets in the same area. Similarly Flt Lt Sardindu Dasgupta of 10 Squadron was lost on take off from Jammu when his aircraft (PR 660) crashed due to engine failure on 22 Mar 48.

RIAF Dakotas of 12 Squadron also unnerved the enemy by rolling out, by hand, 500 lb and 1000 lb bombs from the cabin over enemy troops in the Rungad Nullah area of Poonch. On 23 Apr, 10 Squadron carried out daring raids against the strategic Domel and Kishenganga bridges with several Tempests being damaged by 40mm fire. On one such occasion, Flt Lt JC (Lofty) Plomer operating from Jammu was hit by ground fire which, unknown to him, destroyed his left tire. On landing the ac's basic tendency to swing to port was magnified ten fold and Flt Lt Plomer was just able to stop the aircraft without nosing over. However, several other pilots suffered serious consequences when they landed with shot away brakes or tyres and ended up on their backs.

On 28 Apr RIAF Tempests led the way to the attack on Traqbal on Wullar lake and continuous rocketing and bombing under difficult weather managed to dislodge the entrenched Frontier Force Rifles, Chitral and Gilgit scouts and regular Pakistan army elements leading to the capture of Tithwal in May and Gurais in Jun 48. On 12 May 48, Fg Offr Derek Austin O Brien was lost in a non combat accident whilst trying to dead stick PR 601 with a stuck throttle at Jammu and Flt lt Aloysius William Barrette of 8 Squadron fatally crashed soon after take off during an air test from Jammu in HA 431 on 08 Aug 48.

The formidable Zoji La was captured on 01 Nov 48 with the ingenuous use of Stuart light tanks of 7 Cav supporting the Gurkhas, Patialas, Rajputs, Marathas and Jats. RIAF Tempests supported 77 Para brigade by strafing enemy dug in positions and mortar nests on either side of the Zoji la defile and beyond with the Tempests having to climb 23,000 ft mountains and flying through valleys with crests 5000' high. However, in spite of brave attempts to supply the State Force's Skardu garrison by Tempests, it was overrun on 14 Aug Jul 48. Tithwal was a particularly AAA infested objective and several Tempests were severely damaged in attacks during its capture.

DonMich05 Small Fg Offr Balwant singh in peak cap at rear right was shot down and killed on 16 May 48. Flt Lt Don Michael stands on the left, Flt Lt Scorpy Ghosh standing on the right. The CO of 8 Squadron, Sqn Ldr P.S.Gill is seen in the light jacket, and the other two behind him are Fg Offrs Vernie Vaz and Dhan. Pic Courtesy: Wg Cdr (Retd) Donald Michael via
A poor yet rare pic of Flt Lt 'Lofty' Plomer in MW 414 en route to Skardu on a recce msn. Pic courtesy Wg Cdr (Retd) JC Plomer. Click to Enlarge

Tempests had to fly through a hail of 40mm fire from both sides of the heights overlooking the approaches to Tithwal and Fg Offr D G Baptiste of 7 Squadron was lost to AAA on 12 Sep 48 in HA 411. He was later awarded the VrC for gallantry during a two month period in which he flew almost 80 missions and was wounded several times.

In the words of Brig Umrao Singh, commanding No 19 Inf Brigade, -"the enemy would undoubtedly have overrun the Indian positions but for the Tempest". In fact pilots were being directed and congratulated 'real time' with the aid of a 'Visual Control Pilot' (VCP) who relayed target information from a Tempest, Harvard or Auster to Tempests operating 'cab rank' fashion.

The Final Phase.

With the main threat swinging to the North, 7 Squadron was moved up from Amritsar to Srinagar in Aug 48 under Sqn Ldr ED Massilamani with eight Tempests and one Harvard. On 03 Oct 48, 7 Squadron suffered its fourth and last loss near Pandu when Fg Offr UG Wright baled out after being shot down in HA-363. After a harrowing escape and evasion during which he was fired at during the parachute descent he managed to return and link up with Indian troops.

Plt Offr Ivor Patrick Carrapiett, the youngest casuality of the war was declared missing in action when his Tempest HA-416 failed to return from a mission to Chamb on 05 Nov 48. Interestingly, Patrick's father moved to Karachi in Pakistan after the war to take up a senior position in the Pakistan railway. His younger son joined the Pakistan air force and was at Shorkot Rd (today Rafiqui) during Sqn Ldr 'Jimmy' Bhatia's and Flt Lt Tambay's (32 Squadron on SU-7s) strike on the airfield on 04 Dec 71. The younger Carrapiett is said to have recovered Tambay's body and returned his belongings after the war.

Tempests played an equally important role in the strikes against hostiles at Pir Badesar and the dominating Pir Kalewa which finally led to the action enabling the link up with, and relief of the Poonch garrison on 20 Nov 48. Tempests twins alternated with field artillery to keep constant pressure on the enemy and established the location of Pakistani 7th Arty Div's 25 pounders shelling Poonch, these targets being finally destroyed with rockets. The taking of Ramgarh fort and Pt 6944 on the west flank of Bhimbar Gali was to be a classic close support action with Indian forces carrying out a final bayonet charge against the enemy trenches whilst Tempests strafed and rocketed the trenches at close quarters. On a chance reconnaissance, enemy airfields were located at Gilgit and 40 NMs south, at Chilas. Tempests flew several strikes against the landing strips in Oct and Nov 48, cratering & damaging both and destroying several hangars, barracks and radio installations. This attack destroyed Pakistani plans to build an offensive air capability in the North. Already, with Tempests prowling the valleys, Pakistani re supply by Dakotas had been limited to hazardous night flying through the valleys. With the war shifting to the northeast, 10 Squadron the first to move into the theater was relieved and moved to Palam in Oct 48. In Oct and Nov 48, 8 Squadron joined with 7 Squadron at Srinagar to launch large formations to strike Bagh and the old and newly built forts at Skardu. The fort at Skardu was attacked on several occasions as also the Pir's house at Rondu with satisfying results. These missions were flown over arctic conditions with normal temperate clothing worn by the pilots leaving little chance for survival in case a pilot was forced to abandon his ac. Sorties called for negotiating the 26,000' mastiff of the Nanga Parbat .

Towards the south-east, 77 parachute brigades advance on Kargil and Dras, which had been captured by the enemy in May was continuously supported by Tempests in Nov 48 until the Gurkhas in the Leh garrison were firmly linked on 24 Nov 48. With both sides becoming increasingly exhausted and reaching a stale mate in the west, a UN enforced cease fire was agreed to from midnight, 31 Dec 48, with the Line of Control (LOC) becoming the de-facto border. RIAF Tempests continued to carry out reconnaissance over the troubled areas near Jammu with occasional strafing to dissolve any build up of offensive activity especially at Bagh and Kotli. The last major action was the concentrated enemy shelling of Naushera with nearly 5000 shells being lobbed into these confines in less than eight hours. Patrolling 7 Squadron Tempests also encountered heavy AAA fire around these areas for the last time on 14 Dec 48. The last targets attacked by mostly 7 Squadron Tempests were the bridge at Hajira and troop concentrations at Palak and Sadabad in the last week of the war. Thus ended India's first military action post independence.

The Tempest Gallant.

Of a total 29 (plus one Ashok Chakra second class to Flt Lt Ulrich Anthony D' Cruz of 7 Squadron on Harvard II.) gallantry awards awarded for action during the 47-48 operations, 16 went to Tempest crew and the rest to the equally courageous Dakota crew and one to a Spitfire pilot of the Advanced Flying School. This was the first time that gallantry medals promulgated by an independent India were awarded. However, as the action commenced soon after independence it took a little while for the awards to be thought out, designed and passed by government. Hence it was only 1949 by the time these awards were in place and most of the awards were promulgated on 26 Jan 1950, the day India moved from dominion to republic status. Six further awards were announced on 20 Nov 50 and one last MVC to Wg Cdr H Moolgavkar on 08 Dec 51

Maha Vir Chakra: A total four MVCs were awarded of which three went to Tempest pilots. They were:

Wg Cdr Minoo Merwan Engineer
Wg Cdr Hrishikesh Moolgavkar
Sqn Ldr Sidney Basil Noronha

Vir Chakra: A total of 25 VrCs were awarded of which 15 went to Tempest crew and one to a Spitfire pilot, Flt Lt Leslie Richard Dickinson Blunt. They were:

Wg Cdr Ranjan Dutt
Sqn Ldr Ezra D'Sylva Massillamani
Sqn Ldr Zafar Ahmed Shah
Sqn Ldr George Douglas Clarke
Flt Lt KM David
Flt Lt Devaiah Subia
Flt Lt Michael Patrick Owen Blake
Flt Lt Aloysius William Barrette
Flt Lt RS Kalyaniwala
Flt Lt Baldev Singh Dogra
Flt Lt Randhir Singh
Flt Lt Roshan Lal Suri
Flt Lt Narasimha Murthy
Flt Lt Arthur Srihari
Fg Offr GC Wilkes
Fg Offr GB Cabral

Click on the names to view complete citations.  Courtesy of Air Marshal Bharat Kumar

Skirmish on the Deccan, Operation Polo.    

Even as Pakistan and India fought over the accession of the J&K kingdom in the north, the Nizam of Hyderabad Dominion, Nawab Mir Osman Ali Khan attempted to carve out an independent state from the ruins of the Mughal Empire on the Deccan plateau in central India. Threatening retaliation with some 22,000 state troops and a purported 200,000 irregular Razakar volunteers, he began attacking Indian union villages outside his state and attempted to involve the Pakistani military and the UNO. Unable to accept further intimidation and to prevent a Kashmir like stalemate, the Indian Union launched a police action to assimilate the Hyderabad princely state into the Indian union.

This operation was planned by Lt Gen EN Goddard GOC-in-C southern command with overall command with Lt Gen Rajendrasinghji, DSO and came to be known as Operation Polo.

No 3 Squadron under Sqn Ldr KS Bhat was moved from Cawnpore to Poona to support the western thrust while No 4 Squadron under Sqn Ldr Ghisad moved from Cawnpore to Gannavaram airstrip, located on the outskirts of Vijaywada in the east. The Indian Ist Armoured Div attacked from Vijayawada in the East and Sholapur in the West with action commencing at 0400 on the 13 Sep 48. A small Forward Air Control Team (FACT) was attached to Skinner's Horse and 9 Dogras under Lt Col Ram Singh attacking along the Sholapur-Secunderabad axis. Both squadrons had commenced flying regular air recce sorties from July 48 onwards.

On the first day-13th Sep- two Tempests from 4 Squadron struck Warangal airfield whilst an enemy parade was on. The duo damaged the strip with 1000 lb bombs and strafed a light aircraft. On the 14th two 3 Squadron Tempests were called out from Poona at last light to engage hostiles at Hospet and Tungu bridge. On the return one aircraft ran out of fuel and the pilot bailed out while the other crashed while diverting at an unlit Sholapur airfield. On the second day, 3 Squadron was called in on the 14th to rocket Razakars harassing Maj Gen JN Chaudhuri's 5/5 Gurkhas attempting to cross an 8 Km defile near Talmud on their advance to Rajasaur. The Razakars retreated after a few rockets and Rajasaur and then Kalyani were taken by nightfall.

4 Squadron was called into soften Suriapet town held by elements of the Hyderabadi 3 Golconda Lancers on the morning of the 15th. The 2/5 Gurkhas then rapidly mopped up the remaining Hyderabad forces. Tempests from the unit strafed the airstrip at Warangal town and subsequently at Hakimpet, while 3 Squadron from the west bombed Bidar using both Tempests and Harvards, an action that assisted the taking of Bidar in the early hours of the 17th Sep. Tempests attacked Hakimpet airfield on the afternoon of the 17th and Indian Union forces entered Secunderabad and Bolarum the next day at 1600 hrs accepting the surrender of the Arab commander Maj Gen El Edroos, bringing to an end what was to be called the 100 hrs war. Hyderabad state finally acceded to the Indian Union on the 24th Nov 48.

Keeping The Peace & Retirement.   

With the end of the teething troubles of partition and independence, the Tempest squadrons settled into their peace time stations at Palam and Poona. However, engine troubles continued to claim aircraft and lives and the skill required to land the Tempest continued to cause several write offs. The arrival of the Jet engined Vampire were the first signs of the Tempest's demise. As the IAF began a rapid expansion to an all jet force, several Tempest squadrons began converting to Vampires, 7 Squadron being the first in Dec 49. By this time it had already been decided that the Tempest would be relegated to the fighter lead-in role to train pilots for the new jet fighters. A conversion training flight was set up at Ambala in Sep 49 with Spitfire T Mk IXs, XVIIIs and Tempests to provide 16 hrs/six weeks of supervised Tempest training. This unit eventually moved to Hakimpet two years later and operated till the end of 1952. The brute power of the Tempest and its impressive air to ground firing demonstrations continued to impress crowds but it was also by then, known that the significant spares and engine problems would mean withdrawal of the type earlier than expected and by late 1952 only 10 & 4 squadrons operated the type at Halwara and Poona. 4 Squadron became the last operational unit on the type when it handed over its Tempests for Vampires in Apr 54. The Tempest claimed its last life on 28 Apr 54 when Plt Offr PN Bali lost the engine soon after take off and crashed with full armament load at the end of RW 27 at Poona. Several of these last Tempests included HA 559,569,604,609,611,614, 632 and 635.

Four of these aircraft were requisitioned in mid 1954 to form a Target Towing Flight with the modification of an underbelly hook at ATW Jamnagar and were designated the Tempest IIA. The flight operated for a year and was decommissioned in Jul 55 bringing to an end the era of the Tempest. Most Tempests languished outdoors at Cawnpore, exactly where the story of the Indian Tempests began in 1946, until sold as scrap in the mid 60s. Many 4 Squadron machines lay in the grass of Poona until purchased by European and American restorers in the 70s and one machine, HA 623 (MW 848) survives at the Air Force museum today.

True to its name, the Tempest was a strong influence on the IAF; it played a pivotal role in India's first conflict, held everyone's attention with its power, fury and angry temperament and vanished from the scene as soon as it had come. In its wake, it left the IAF a feel of its first 'heavy fighter' and laid the bedrock of battlefield interdiction and battlefield air support tactics for the future.

Eight  fighter squadrons and two other units had the pleasure of flying the Tempest II in RIAF/IAF service.

No 1 Squadron 'The Tigers'

From Yelahanka to Risalpur (from Spitfire Mk VIIIe under Sqn Ldr Ranjan Dutt) in May 47. Convert to Tempest II at Peshawar in Jul 47 under Sqn Ldr AR Pandit. Operations over Swabi and Kalukhan. Selected for assets to be handed over to PAF No 5 Squadron on partition. Last flight ferry of PR 600 (by Flt Lt LM 'Baba' Katre and PR 718 Peshawar-Miranshah-Risalpur. Stood Down night of 14-15 Aug 47. All aircraft left behind and Indian personnel repatriated via train from Kohat.

Click to Enlarge PR 894 seen at 322 MU Cawnpore/Chakeri whilst with 20 Squadron RAF. This aircraft was handed over to I Squadron RIAF and then to the PAF in Aug 47 where it became A 132. Pic courtesy: George Cull via Aeroplane Monthly Jul 1985.
Personnel of No 1 Squadron pose just before partition at Peshawar. Identifiable are: sitting L-R U/K SNCO, Flg Offrs Dandekar, Mundle, Arthur Turner, SR 'Jackie' Powar, LM Katre, Flt Lt GK John, Sqn Ldr Ranjan Dutt (CO), Flt Lt Rao, Flg Offr Joe Cohen, RL 'Reggie'Sayce, Plt Offr Bobby Rathan, Flg Offr U d'Cruz and U/K SNCO. Picture courtesy: PAFMuseum  and identification by Gp Capt (Retd) SR Powar. 001 1947 Small

No 2 Squadron 'Flying Arrows'

Conversion started at Pune in May 1947 under Sqn Ldr A Murat Singh. Sqn Ldr Meyers of RAF providing the initial conversion training. Squadron received 7 Tempests from No.8 Squadron. Squadron remained in Pune till end of 1947 when it was disbanded.

No 3 Squadron 'The Cobras'

Convert with No 5 Squadron RAF Apr 46 at Kolar under Sqn Ldr Atma Ram. Command to Sqn Ldr MD Suri from 30 Dec 46. To Kohat Apr 47. Detachments at Risalpur and Miranshah relieving No 5 Squadron RAF. To Poona pre-Partition in Aug 47. Enroute fly Independence Day flight past over National Stadium, Kingsway with eight Tempest II (along with 10 Sqn). Command to Sqn Ldr Randhir Singh on fatal accident of MD Suri in bad weather on 28 Aug 47.

PR 836 'Quenie' of 3 Squadron is seen after a landing accident at Risalpur on 14 May 47. Sqn Ldr ML 'Bolshie' Mishra being injured. This aircraft is also seen above with Flt Lt MPO Blake at Kolar and is the subject of an art work below. Pic Courtesy: Gp Capt (retd) MPO Blake. -

Sqn Ldr AR Pandit takes over 28 Sep 47 then to Sqn Ldr KS Bhat on 28 Nov 47 (due Pandit's landing accident on 11 Nov 47 in PR 646 of 5 Squadron RAF). Take part in 'Operation Polo', against Hyderabad state forces in Sep 48. Command to Sqn Ldr Ken David then to Sqn Ldr John McKenzie on 11 May 50 (on fatal crash of Ken David on 28 Apr 50). To Halwara Aug 51 with detachment to Palam. To 307 wing Ambala in Apr 52. Convert to Vampires in Dec 52.

No 4 Squadron 'The Oorials'

From Miho (Hiroshima), Japan to Chakeri 19 Jul 47. Convert to Tempests of 20 Squadron RAF. To Gannavaram/Vizag Jul 48 for Op Polo. Carry out 32 strike sorties against Warangal and Hakimpet airfields in Sep 48. To Poona Oct 48. Detachment to Palam for first anniversary of Republic day celebrations in Jan 51. Fly last Tempest IIs to Chakeri in Apr 54 becoming last operational unit to operate Tempests in IAF service under Sqn Ldr 'Zoot' Zaheer. Convert to Vampire FB Mk 52 at Adampur under Sqn Ldr VJM Bhatnagar.

- HA 590 (MW382) of No 4 Squadron sometime in 1951 at Poona. Pic courtesy: Air Chief Marshal IH Latif.
Sqn Ldr IH Latif (later Air Chief Marshal and Chief of the Air Staff) CO 4 Squadron IAF, Gp Capt Atma Ram, Stn Commander Poona, Sqn Ldr John McKenzie, CO 3 Squadron IAF and Sqn Ldr Radhakrishnan, Oi/C Flying, pose in front of a Tempest II at Poona in May 1950. Pic courtesy: Air Chief Marshal IH Latif. -

No 7 Squadron ' The Battleaxes'

To Risalpur from Miranshah 17 Apr 47 to convert to Tempest II (after handing over Spitfire Mk VIII & few XIVs to Drigh Rd) under No 3 Squadron RIAF at Risalpur, the CO Sqn Ldr ML Mishra going solo on 02 Jun 47. Command to Sqn Ldr SB Noronha, Personnel evacuated by air to Agra on 16 Aug 47 leaving all aircraft behind to RPAF. Then equipped with five Tempest II and one Harvard. Five Tempest II detachment to No 1 ALG, Amritsar in Nov 47 to support of 161 Brigade HQ. Permanent move to Palam under Sqn Ldr ED Massillamani in Feb 48 with eight Tempest and single Harvard IIB. To No 1 (Operational) Wing at Advanced HQ at Srinagar till of end of hostilities 01 Jan 49. Then Palam, absorbing Aircraft Testing Unit (ATU) with three Vampire Mk IIIs on 01 Jul 49 with Sqn Ldr CD Subia taking over on 22 Jul 47. Command to Sqn Ldr BS Dogra on 16 Dec 49 and last Tempest IIs flown to Chakeri on 30 Dec 49. Convert to Spitfire XVIIIs with No 101 PR Squadron (on PR Mk XIXs).

- A Vampire Mk III (one of three first received) flown by Sqn Ldr CD Subia leads Fg Offr 'Nobby'Clarke (both from ATU) in a Tempest II and Flt Lt Ramachandra (from ARD) in a Spitfire FR XVIII up from Kanpur in Apr 49. The ATU was later amalgamated with No 7 Squadron on 01 Jul 49. Note the Spitfire still in RAF markings and the white wingtips of the Tempest II. Pic courtesy: Flt Sgt Man Mohan Singh via Gp Capt (Retd) MPO Blake.

No 8 Squadron 'The Eighth Pursoot'

Arrive Kolar from Trichinapoli in Oct 46. Convert to Tempest IIs but retain few Spitfire Mk VIIIs. To Poona 13 May 47 then Palam Feb 48 under Sqn Ldr Padam Singh Gill. Detachment to Jammu 16 Jan 48. Command to Sqn Ldr Amrit 'Aunty' Lal Beri from Apr 48 and move to Palam Jul 48. dett to Jaipur 19 Jan 49 and back to Palam 28 Feb 49. Hand over Tempests fro Vampires on 15 Nov 51.

8 Squadron Tempest II at Jammu 1948. L to R Plt Offr Nagina Singh (Eng), Fg Offr BK (Scorpy) Ghosh, Plt Offr Vernie Vaz, Flt Lt Micky Blake, Sqn Ldr Padam Singh Gill (CO), Fg Offr Dhan, Fg Offr Livvy Mathur, Plt Offr Bhatnagar. The aircraft still retains the old RAF style single alphabet repeated on the engine cowl lip 'A'. Pic courtesy: Gp Capt Micky Blake

No 9 Squadron, 'Gargoyles'

Returned from Mingaladon (Yangon) to Bhopal at end of WW II on Spitfire Mk VIII then Mk XIV. Ferry 27 Apr 47 and hand over Spitfires to Drigh Rd Karachi and few to Ambala and move to Peshawar to convert to Tempests under CO Sqn Ldr Akhtar 'Tubby' Khan. Convert May '47 under supervision of ex 30 Squadron RAF pilot. Selected for assets to be handed over to PAF on partition. Leave all aircraft behind to PAF and escape to India via various means including one pilot stealing a Tempest and flying via refueling stop at Rawalpindi to Palam.

No 10 Squadron 'The Daggers'

Convert to Tempest II at Chakeri under Sqn Ldr H Moolgavkar from May 47. Detachment to Palam for fly past over National Stadium on Independence 15 Aug 47 and over Red Fort on 16 Aug 47. Detachment to Ambala from 30 Oct 47 to take part in operations against Pakistani invasion of Jammu & Kashmir. Operate detachments at Amritsar and Srinagar from Nov 47. Command to Sqn Ldr ZA Shah Dec 47. To Srinagar May 48 then Palam Oct 48. Command to Sqn Ldr CG Devasher 10 May 49 then GK John in Jul 50 and then PW Powar in Aug 50. Detachments to Ambala and Jodhpur in May 50 and move to Barrackpore Feb 51. To Halwara Apr 52 and command again to Sqn Ldr GK John from Jul 52 then to Sqn Ldr CHL Digby in Oct 53. Move to Palam in Dec 53 and convert to Vampire FB Mk 52.

Tempest HA 464 of No 10 Squadron rests on its nose after Flt Lt Dilbagh Singh aborted take off and retracted undercarriage on 30 Jan 52 at Agra. Photo courtesy: Hony Flt Lt B Daniel, then duty medical assistant in crash bay ambulance. -
- No 10 Squadron poses with the Jamsahib of Nawanagar at Jamnagar. Standing L-R are U/K EO, Flg Offrs Nirmal Singh, CR Bose, MM Singh, SK Mitra, IS Loughran, Umed Singh, BN Mishra, BS Sikand and Flt Lt Nair EO. Seated L-R Flt Lt DG Michael, MM Basu (Doc), Sqn Ldr J Bouche' CI, ATW, Miss Naushad (18 yrs) daughter of the Jamsahib, Sqn Ldr Pundalik B Pawar, CO, Mrs Jamsahib, Flt Lt Dilbagh Singh, Flt Lt Arthur Berry, Fg Offr MS Grewal. Pic courtesy: Vayu and Wg Cdr (Retd) IS Loughran.

Conversion Training Unit (CTU)

The First Course on Tempest IIs commenced Sep 49 at Ambala with 49/50 pilots course initially as a conversion flight under Flt Lt Mc Neil and then under CO Sqn Ldr AV Samsi. Moved to Hakimpet in Sep 51 and commenced training with No 55 pilot's course with a mix of Spitfire T Mk IX and Tempest II, under Chief Instructor Sqn Ldr EZA Shah VrC. Tempests stood down on last day of 1952 with completion of 58 PC.

- The last course at CTU Hakimpet 1952: Instructors (in khakis) and pupils of 58th PC: L to R: BK Dhiman, MS Rane, MW Tilak, unid'd instructor, RC Mariano, CHL Digby, KK Malik, MN Singh, "Tempest" Murthy, Lt Jayachandran IN, Stan White, RL Badhwar, Koul, KD Hoon, Arthur Berry, Danny Satur, BK Singh. Pic Courtesy Wg Cdr (Retd) CHL Digby via
HA 621(MW 828) & 622 (MW 741) of CTU up from Hakimpet in1952. Pic taken from a Spitfire T Mk IX. Pic Courtesy: Aircraft of the IAF by Pushpinder Singh -
More Photos of the CTU Tempests at this link

Target Towing Flight, Armament Training Wing (ATW)

Commenced operations as a flight with four Tempest II under Sqn Ldr PP Singh from Jamnagar in mid 54. Handed in Tempests for Toofanis (MD 450 Ouragon) Jul 1955 becoming last unit operating the Tempest II in IAF service. Coincidentally the RAF had also decommissioned their last Tempest TT Mk 5s from 233 OCU at Pemberey in the some month.

- HA 635 (MW 388) was acquired from surplus RAF stocks in mid 1948. Here it is seen at Cyprus during the ferry. This aircraft was ultimately converted to the Target Towing role and used by ATW at Jamnagar. It was also one of the last Tempests to fly when it was withdrawn in Sep 1955. Pic courtesy: The Typhoon and Tempest story.


Tempest Markings   

All Tempest IIs that came to the RAF in India wore the three tone, light sea grey, RAF dark green and light grey scheme with sky fuselage band and colour of the spinner depending on the sqn. Since all came after the war, they dispensed with the two-colour wing roundel (also to prevent confusion with the Japanese Hinamaru). Almost all carried the type 1A 36 inch fuselage roundel with yellow border and a fin flash with the white just one inch wide. Serials were all 8 inch and night. Fuselage codes were typically white and 36 inch high until they were replaced by a single letter white (rarely black also) ID or removed completely.

Click to Enlarge MW 742 from the first batch of 100 Mk IIs built at Langley seen in RAF markings with full SEAC bands. This aircraft was purchased from Hawker in May 48 and became HA 566 in RIAF service. Pic Courtesy: The Hawker Tempest page.

Several Tempests were also painted with white South East Asia Command (SEAC) bands on nose, empennage, tail and fin. Some aircraft had these hurriedly over-painted in black leading to camouflaged aircraft having black tail and wingtip bands. In 1946 all Tempests were ordered to be painted in overall silver with a single black 36 inch ID code letter. The RIAF inherited all the three schemes as RAF squadrons departed India. In the initial hurly-burly of partition and the setting up of new bases, new equipment and new training centers (with almost all spares, equipment manuals and administrative records lost to the Pakistan Air Force at Drigh Rd, Karachi) very little changed from the RAF paint schemes and Tempests, as did other types, continued to operate in RAF schemes.

The RIAF issued a new paint scheme vide AFO (I) Tech1/48, National Markings for Aircraft) in Jan 48 requiring a navy blue 'Chakra' to be painted in the standard six positions and with the fin flash to continue with saffron forward. No evidence exists to indicate that the 'Chakra' was used on camouflaged Tempests. However, Hawker did supply several all silver aircraft in the second bought-out batch in factory painted blue chakras. Similarly, serials also remained unchanged till late in 1947 when the Indian colours were applied over the RAF roundels. Although the initial fin flashes appear to have simply replaced blue with green and red with saffron, some one with great foresight replaced red with green and blue with saffron in the roundels. This has allowed identification of nationality in black and white pictures by confused historians ever since. In keeping with the logic of the roundels, the fin flashes were subsequently reversed on all IAF aircraft commencing around late 1948 and completed only by the 60s; however, widths of each of the three Indian colours have always been equal.

- Fg Offr 'Tich' Davison of 3 Squadron was forced to carry out a belly landing whilst ferrying from Risalpur to Palam in PR 680 'D' on 17 Apr 47. The Squadron was ferrying in to take part in the Independence fly past. Note the sky tail band and wing tips painted over in black. 3 Squadron spinners were red. Photo courtesy Gp Capt (Retd) MPO Blake
Tempest II PR 836 'Q' as flown by Flt Lt MPO 'Micky' Blake of 3 Squadron RIAF at Kolar in 1946. The aircraft is still in RAF paint scheme and markings. Flt Lt Blake had painted the popular RAF mascot, Plt Offr Prune, from the RAF training manual 'TM' on the right side of his windshield. This aircraft (amongst three) was irreparably damaged in a landing accident on 14 May 47 at Miranshah. Sqn Ldr ML Mishra, CO 7 Squadron being injured. It was handed over to the RIAF in written off condition on 25 Sep 47. Art work by author -
- PR 668 of 20 RAF is seen ground running at 322 MU Cawnpore/Chakeri in the post war silver dope overall. The fitter is seen climbing out of the cockpit whilst he attends to other ac. This aircraft was handed over to the RIAF in the first batch, almost certainly going to 10 Squadron RIAF which received aircraft of 20 Squadron RAF, An art work of the aircraft is below. The photo has been taken from a nearby Dakota cockpit. Pic courtesy: George Cull via Aeroplane Monthly Jul 1985.
Hawker Tempest II PR 668 'E' of No 20 Squadron RAF at 322 MU Cawnpore/Chakeri just before handover to the RIAF. The earlier grey/green can be seen under the scuffing of the silver dope ordered for all RAF post war Tempests. Art work Tom Cooper -
- HA 426 'L'of No 7 Squadron RIAF is seen at Jammu in the RAF temperate camouflage it was handed over in Dec 46. The aircraft sports the latter 'green forward' fin flash and the Battle Axe emblem. Eight 60 lb T-10 rockets can be seen carried. Photo (courtesy Air Mshl S Raghavendran) of similarly painted Tempest is placed below. Art work by author
Several Tempest IIs (as also other fighter types) received the temporary 'Chakra' markings hurriedly painted over the RAF roundels. Hawker also supplied a few aircraft in these markings painted ex factory. All charka painted aircraft had the 'saffron forward' fin flash. The chakra was replaced by the RAF-style roundels around mid 1948. HA 547 (PR 874) was the first of 89 aircraft directly supplied by Hawker in 1948. Art work Tom Cooper -
- Tempest II PR 596 of No 3 Squadron RIAF at Miranshah May 1947. The aircraft carries the SEAC bands on nose, wingtips and fin as well as 3 Sqn's trademark red spinner. Signs of the original RAF roundel being painted-over are clear and the 'Cobra wrapped around a dagger with wings' symbol of 3 Squadron has been applied under the left windscreen. This aircraft was lost in a landing accident at Miranshah on 18 Jun 47. Flt Lt Randhir Singh being injured. Art work by author
HA 626 (MW 391) from the second batch is seen in the very unassuming overall silver scheme but with the earlier 'saffron forward' fin flash at Jamnagar whilst with No 10 Squadron IAF. The Sqn's "Winged Dagger" badge designed by then Flg Offr IS 'Locky' Loughran can be seen. Art work Tom Cooper -
- Plt Offr IS Loughran of 10 Squadron poses by his Squadron crest artwork at Jamnagar in Jan 52. Pic courtesy:
A Tempest equipped with underwing rocket rails - in RAF roundels. -

One of the peculiar markings to appear on RIAF Tempests was the white wingtip. This required both wingtips to be painted white on both surfaces up to the aileron outer edge. The reason for this scheme is not clear yet. When the silver Tempests were relegated to the advanced training role at CTU, all the original 'white areas' simply changed to black with a black rudder being added for easier identification of training ac. The night serial when occurring on the black tail band became reverse silver. Several Tempests also acquired black anti glare panels towards the end of their careers. When engaged in the target-towing role at ATW, these black bands and wingtips were replaced by yellow, except for the rudder.

HA559.jpg (62568 bytes)
A Tempest II in full black tail band, rudder and wing tip markings of the CTU. It also sports the single letter ID used at several times in the ac's career. HA 559 'E' (MW847) an ex 4 Squadron aircraft is seen in the photograph below whilst parked at Kanpur awaiting scrapping in 1961. Art work Tom Cooper
HA635d.jpg (66473 bytes)
Tempest II HA 635 (MW 388) was from the second lot of 89 aircraft supplied directly by Hawker from RAF stocks in the UK. It was one of the last four Tempests flown in the IAF. Here it is seen in the markings of the Target Towing Flight under ATW at Jamnagar in May 1955. It still carries it's ex No 4 Squadron IAF blue spinner but has taken on a yellow tail band and wing tips for the role. It also sports a black anti glare panel on the nose. Artwork Tom Cooper

Flying the Tempest:     All Indian pilots who flew the Tempest came from Spitfire backgrounds but with varying experience. For those who came out of the Second World War on Spitfires, the Tempest was a huge lumbering hunk of metal with an engine that ran much rougher than the Spitfire's sweet Merlin/Griffon. Initially it was not a pleasant aircraft to fly, but like all difficult airplanes in the years before and since, when you flew her well you had the satisfaction of having achieved something. "It was an aeroplane that you had to keep your eyes on, the moment you relaxed, it would bite you!" the "Bite" being the rather ready tendency to swing to starboard on landing. Even on take off with full boost the Tempest needed full rudder and opposite brake to keep her straight. In consequence, as Air Mshl S Raghvendran remembers, section take offs particularly in significant crosswinds, if accomplished correctly, were something to be proud of. One of the reasons for this was the loss of control caused by the blanking of the rudder by the flaps when the tail was lowered. Many pilots attempted to raise the flaps before lowering the tail and lost control while looking inside. On the other hand, several experienced pilots found the swing problem to be overstated. Sqn Ldr ML Mishra CO 7 Squadron who went solo on 02 Jun 47 felt that the Tempest was a - "glorified Harvard, except that one knew the direction it would swing to". Air Chief Marshall IH Latif who commanded 4 Squadron on Tempests doesn't recall any particular problem with landing the Tempest. On landing, the powerful brakes were almost a necessity if you wanted to keep her straight but it was easy to nose over with too much brake. In case of failed brakes or damaged tyres, the pilot's notes required that a wheels-up landing be resorted to. As a consequence, during the 47-48 ops, a large number of Tempests were landed wheels up and significantly damaged when, ground fire shot away brakes or tyres. Once in the air the aircraft displayed crisp control and having much more power than the Spitfire, became a much livelier machine. However, the much larger cockpit of the Tempest did not allow the pilot to feel part of the machine as he did in the little Spitfire.

- A CTU Tempest pair takes off from Ambala. Pic Courtesy: Air Mshl S Raghvendran.

The CTU conversion called for 06:00 hrs on the Spitfire T Mk IX then 12:00 hrs on the Mk XVIII and then a similar 16:00 hrs on the Tempest II with a check ride halfway on the Spitfire T Mk IX. Pilots coming from Harvards didn't find the Spitfire Mk XVIIIs easy to handle on take off. The immense torque coupled with the requirement to change hands on the stick to raise the undercarriage caused four fatalities and six write-offs in one four week period during the 52nd courses conversion onto the Spitfire in 1949. One pilot remembers that they were hurried onto the Tempest to make sure some of them survived the course. The Tempest's true calling was of course the ground attack role. Its greater stability made it a great gun and rocket platform and its latter gyro gun sight also made it much more accurate. While many Spitfire pilots did not find it as "exhilarating", they all appreciated its war like capabilities. It was by no means the 'pilot's aeroplane' that the Spitfire was, but it was the aeroplane for the job that had to be done. Its outstanding performance in rocketing, strafing and bombing the enemy during the precarious ground situations of the 47-48 ops must surely overshadow its nagging engine and ground handling problems.

A Tempest Cockpit. Pic courtesy: Dan Patterson, in "Cockpit", 'An illustrated history of WW II aircraft interiors' by Donald Nijboer,  Cockpit.jpg (20482 bytes)

The Survivors

Of the total 452 Tempest IIs built, 124 were handed over to India and a further 109 were bought bringing the total to 223. By the end of 1955 a few examples survived as decoys mostly at Poona while the rest were scrapped at Kanpur/Chakeri. Of these, one example, HA 623 (MW848) has been maintained in pristine condition at the IAF museum at Palam.

- HA 559 an ex 4 Squadron aircraft along with several of her sisters awaits scrapping at Chakeri in 1961. Pic Courtesy: the Typhoon and Tempest Story.
HA 623 (MW 848) seen on display at the IAF Museum, Palam. This was one of the last 4 Squadron aircraft decommissioned in 1954. -

By the late 50s, apart from the second prototype LA 607 and a single Mk V SN 219 (NV 778) in the UK, the only remaining Tempest airframes in the world (all PAF airframes being scrapped) were tucked away in the tall grass of Poona. Realising that IAF Tempests were the only Mk IIs left, the Indian Government in 1977 put up 11 Spitfire and Tempest airframes for auction as a complete lot at Jodhpur and Poona. Of these six composite Tempest airframes (HA 557 (MW404), 564 (MW376), 586 (MW 763), 591 (MW 810) and 604 (MW 401)) were exported to the UK by a team led by the late Doug Arnold while HA 580 (MW 758) and HA 457 (PR536) were also exported by other restoration groups. HA 591 was restored to static display condition and re exported to Nelson Ezell in the USA and HA 586 has been registered as G-TEMT in the UK and has been selected to fly. HA 604 has been registered as G-PEST and has been traded with the Imperial War Museum in the UK. One almost complete airframe HA 457 (PR 536) was acquired by the RAF museum (after being restored by the Fighter Collection at Duxford). This aircraft was an ex 5 Squadron RAF aircraft and was handed over to No 3 Squadron RIAF in 1946. It was recovered in 1977 and restored to static condition in its original RAF markings OQ-H in Nov 1991. Several RAF fuselages stored at the RAF museum at Hendon are also planned to be mated to IAF Tempest wings from this batch and by the end of the first decade of the millennium we just might hear a Tempest howl through the skies again.

Ex-IAF Tempest Survivors Today

Serial No RAF Serial No Current   Location
HA-623 MW-848 Indian Air Force Museum, Palam, India
HA-457 PR-538 Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon, UK
HA-557 MW-404 Under Restoration in Texas, USA by Chris Miller
HA-564 MW-376 Stored in France
HA-580 MW-758 Stored in UK
HA-586 MW-763 (G-TEMP) Under restoration with Tempest Two Ltd, UK
HA-591 MW-810 Stored Texas, USA
HA-604 MW-401 (G-PEST) Tempest Two Ltd, UK

Further Reading:
  • Battle Damage!-  a 47 War story by Wg Cdr Donald Michael
  • My experiences in the 47 Operations - Gp Capt MPO Blake VrC
  • The Catterpillar Club - A Tempest bale out story by AVM C V Parker.
  • No.58 Pilots Course at Conversion Training Unit, Hakimpet  by K S Nair
  • Pilot's Notes - Hawker Tempest II - PDF File
  • Hawker Tempest Serials (Select "Tempest" tab)
  • Indian Hawker Tempest losses before 1947  -
  • Indian Hawker Tempest losses after 1947  -
  • Maha Vir Chakra Awardees of the 1947-48 Kashmir Operations
  • Vir Chakra Awardees of the 1947-48 Kashmir Operations  (Courtesy : Air Marshal Bharat Kumar)
  • Tempestous Times - Indian Hawker Tempest Survivors overseas by K S Nair
  • The RAF Museum's ex-IAF Hawker Tempest  by K S Nair
  • The Hawker Tempest Website   by Christer Landberg
  • First Indo-Pakistani War, 1947-1949 -


As always, most of the research on British types has been accomplished by mainly British enthusiasts. Most of the background material for this article, especially production serials and IAF serial tie-ups, has been based on the thorough work done by Christopher Shores and Chris Thomas in their book "The Typhoon and Tempest Story". I am truly indebted to them. Several Journals and books also provided valuable information but most importantly, ex IAF Tempest pilots formed the backbone of my IAF research. Their help with photographs, information and anecdotes were invaluable. A list of these 'contributors', in no particular order, is placed below.

Publications and Online Resources
The Typhoon and Tempest Story by Chris Thomas and Christopher Shores, Arms and Armour Press GB 1988
The Aeroplane Monthly Magazine
Vayu Aerospace and Defence Review magazine
'My Years in the IAF' by Air Chief Marshal PC Lal  The Hawker Tempest Website by Christer Landberg
'The Battle Axes' by Pushpinder Singh
'The Cobras' A history of No 3 Squadron IAF
"Cockpit", 'An illustrated history of WW II aircraft interiors' by Donald Nijboer, The Air Combat Information Group Website

Air Chief Marshal (Retd) H Moolgavkar
Air Chief Marshal (Retd) IH Latif
Gp Capt (Retd) MPO Blake
Gp Capt (Retd) SR Powar
Air Mshl (Retd) Douglas King-Lee
Wg Cdr (Retd) Donald Michael
Air Mshl (Retd) MSD Wollen
Wg Cdr (Retd) JC Plomer
Wg Cdr (Retd) Ian loughran
Air Mshl (Retd) S Raghavendran
Gp Capt (Retd) Kishen Advani
Gp Capt (Retd) Kapil Bhargava
Wg Cdr (Retd) WH Marshall
Air Mshl (Retd) M Mc Mahon
Hon Flt Lt B Daniel
Jagan Pillarisetti
Pushpinder Singh
Tom Cooper
George Cull
Peter Arnold

Indian Air Force Museum, New Delhi
The Imperial War Museum, Duxford UK
The Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon, UK