An Indian military aircraft, which played a pivotal role in the 1947-48 India-Pakistan war, has been fully restored to its original glory and is set to begin its flight back to India on Monday.

The refurbished DC-3 Dakota will become the third aircraft to join the Indian Air Force (IAF) vintage fleet at Air Force Station Hindon Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh when it arrives on April 25, joining the Tiger Moth and a Harvard aircraft. It will be used in aerial displays.

The WWII aircraft has undergone an extensive £580,000 refurbishment in the UK by Reflight Air Works Ltd. It was in service between 1946 and 1987 and was mainly used for transportation purposes.

Now air-worthy again, it will travel to India in short legs through multiple airspaces from Monday, stopping in various countries en route, with specially trained Indian and British pilots, as well as plenty of spares, on board.

Gifted to the IAF by MP and industrialist Rajeev Chandrasekhar, it has been named ‘Parashurama’ after the sixth avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism. “He appears at a time when overwhelming evil prevailed on earth to correct the cosmic equilibrium by destroying the evil forces,” Air Commodore Anil Sabharwal said, at its symbolic fly off at RAF Benson on Thursday.

Dakotas were introduced in the 1930s as part of the 12th Squadron of the then Royal Indian Air Force and were the main workhorse in Ladakh and the Northeast region. They did not carry weapons, rather troops and supplies during WWII. Significantly Dakotas helped carry troops of the Army's 1 Sikh Regiment to Srinagar on Oct 27, 1947, during the 1st Indo-Pak War.

It now has the tail number VP 905, the same as the first DC-3 of the IAF which airlifted troops in the J&K operations. “Because of those soldiers, we were able to save Srinagar from the invading forces,” Sabharwal said.

Chandrasekhar's father Air Commodore (retd) M K Chandrasekhar was a Dakota pilot in the IAF.

Diplomats from the High Commission of India in London inspected the aircraft inside its hangar before RAF pilots drove it out onto the runway and switched the engine on in damp, misty conditions. Parashurama will depart for India from Coventry on Monday, weather permitting, Sabharwal said.

The IAF decided to build a vintage flight unit in 2012 inspired by the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and has been gradually adding assets, he said.

“We have got a great relationship in aviation with the UK, whether it is refurbishing the earlier planes or buying Jaguars and Hawks,” Deputy High Commissioner Dinesh K. Patnaik said. “We are looking at having Hawks with arms on for training our frontline aircraft. Defence acquisitions will be on the agenda during Modi’s bilateral visit to the UK next week.”


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