+++ DISCLAIMER +++
Nothing you see here is real, even though the conversion or the presented background story might be based historical facts. BEWARE!
The Indian HAL HG-30 Bāja (‘Hawk’) had been designed and manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. in the early 60ies, when it became clear that the Indian Air Force was left without a capable and rather simple aircraft for these roles – the “jet age” had been in full development, but fast and large aircraft like the Su-7 or Hawker Hunter were just not suited for low-altitude missions against day and night visible ground targets in a broad area.
Indian military planners assumed that potential aggressor will first disable airfields, so the Bāja was designed to take-off from short unprepared runways, and it was readily available to be loaded with weapons and supplied through a flexible system of auxiliary airfields that required no special preparations, especially in mountainous regions.
The resulting HG-30 Bāja was a light, single-engine, low-wing single-seat aircraft with a metal airframe, capable of performing close air support, counter insurgency (COIN), and reconnaissance missions. The type featured a license-built Rolls Royce Dart turboprop engine and a reinforced, retractable tricycle landing gear for operations on rugged terrain. The unpressurized cockpit was placed as far forward and high as possible, offering the pilot an excellent view. The ejection seat was armored and the cockpit lined with nylon flak curtains.
The first HG-30 prototype flew in February 1962, and a total of 89 examples of the Bāja were built between 1963 and 1965, including two pre-production aircraft. These introduced some improvements like fixed wingtip tanks, a bulged canopy which improved the rear view or self-sealing and foam-filled fuselage tanks.
Armament consisted of four fixed 20mm cannons in the wings, plus unguided missiles, unguided bombs or napalm tanks under the wings and the fuselage on a total of 11 hardpoints. The inner pair under the wings as well as the centerline pylon were able to carry 1.000 lbs each and were ‘wet’ for optional drop tanks. The next pair could carry 500 lbs each, and the outer six attachment points were reserved for missile rails or single bombs of up to 200 lbs caliber. A total external ordnance load of up to 4.500 lbs could be carried, even though this was rarely practiced since it severely hampered handling.
The Bāja was exclusively used by the Indian Air Force, serving with 3rd (‘Cobras’) and 5th (‘Tuskers’) Squadrons in the Eastern and Western regions, alongside Toofani and Ajeet fighter bombers. Even though there was some foreign interest (e .g. from Israel and Yugoslavia,) no export sales came to fruition.
A tandem-seated trainer version was envisaged, but never left the drawing board, since Hindustan had already developed the HJT-16 Kiran jet trainer for the IAF which was more suitable, esp. with its side-by-side cockpit. Even a maritime version with foldable outer wings, arresting hook and structural reinforcements was considered for the Indian Navy.
The HG-30 did not make it in time into service for the five-week Indo-Pakistani war of 1965, but later saw serious action in the course of the Bangladesh Liberation War and the ensuing next clash between India and Pakistan in December 1971, when all aircraft (originally delivered in a natural metal finish) quickly received improvised camouflage schemes.
The 1971 campaign settled down to series of daylight anti-airfield, anti-radar and close-support attacks by fighters, with night attacks against airfields and strategic targets, into which the HG-30s were heavily involved. Sporadic raids by the IAF continued against Pakistan’s forward air bases in the West until the end of the war, and large scale interdiction and close-support operations were maintained.
The HG-30 excelled at close air support. Its straight wings allowed it to engage targets 150 MPH slower than swept-wing jet fighters. This slower speed improved shooting and bombing accuracy, enabling pilots to achieve an average accuracy of less than 40 feet, and the turboprop engine offered a much better fuel consumption than the jet engines of that era.
While it was not a fast aircraft and its pilots were a bit looked down upon by their jet pilot colleagues, the HG-30 was well liked by its crews because of its agility, stability at low speed, ease of service under field conditions and the crucial ability to absorb a lot of punishment with its rigid and simple structure.
After the 1971 conflict the Bāja served with the IAF without any further warfare duty until 1993, when, after the loss of about two dozen aircraft due to enemy fire and (only three) accidents, the type was completely retired and its COIN duties taken over by Mi-25 and Mi-35 helicopters, which had been gradually introduced into IAF service since 1984.
Length: 10.23 m (33 ft 6¼ in)
Wingspan: 12.38 m (40 ft 7¼ in) incl. wing tip tanks
Height: 3.95 m (12 ft 11¼ in)
Empty weight: 7,689 lb (3,488 kg)
Max. take-off weight: Loaded weight: 11,652 lb (5,285 kg)
1× Rolls Royce Dart RDa.7 turboprop engine, with 1.815 ehp (1.354 kW)/1.630 shp (1.220 kW) at 15,000 rpm
Maximum speed: 469 mph (755 km/h) at sea level and in clean configuration
Stall speed: 88 km/h (48 knots 55 mph)
Service ceiling: 34,000 ft (10,363 m)
Rate of climb: 5,020 ft/min (25.5 m/s)
Range: 1,385 miles (2,228 km) at max. take-off weight
4× 20mm cannons (2 per wing) with 250 RPG
A total of 11 underwing and fuselage hardpoints with a capacity of 4.500 lbs (2.034 kg); provisions to carry combinations of general purpose or cluster bombs, machine gun pods, unguided missiles, air-to-ground rocket pods, fuel drop tanks, and napalm tanks.
The kit and its assembly
This fictional COIN aircraft came to be when I stumbled across the vintage Heller Breguet Alizé kit in 1:100 scale. I did some math and came to the conclusion that the kit would make a pretty plausible single-seat propeller aircraft in 1:72…
Finding a story and a potential user was more of a challenge. I finally settled on India – not only because the country had and has a potent aircraft industry, a COIN aircraft (apart from obsolete WWII types) would have matched well into the IAF in the early 70ies. Brazil was another manufacturer candidate – but then I had the vision of Indian Su-7 and their unique camouflage scheme, and this was what the kit was to evolve to! Muahahah!
What started as a simple adaptation idea turned into a true Frankenstein job, because only little was left from the Heller Alizé – the kit is SO crappy…
What was thrown into the mix:
• Fuselage, rudder and front wheel doors from the Heller Alizé
• Horizontal stabilizers from an Airfix P-51 Mustang
• Wings are the outer parts from an Airfix Fw 189, clipped and with new landing gear wells
• Landing gear comes from a Hobby Boss F-86, the main wheels from the scrap box
• Cockpit tub comes from a Heller Alpha Jet, seat and pilot from the scrap box
• The canopy comes from a Hobby Boss F4U Corsair
• Ordnance hardpoints were cut from styrene strips
• Propeller consists of a spinner from a Matchbox Mitsubishi Zero and blades from two AH-1 tail rotors
• Ordnance was puzzled together from the scrap box; the six retarder bombs appeared appropriate, the four missile pods were built from Matchbox parts. The wingtip tanks are streamlines 1.000 lbs bombs.
The only major sculpting work was done around the nose, in order to make the bigger propeller fiat and to simulate an appropriate air intake for the engine. Overall this thing looks pretty goofy, rather jet-like, with the slightly swept wings. On the other side, the Bāja does not look bad at all, and it has that “Small man’s A-10” aura to it.
Putting the parts together only posed two trouble zones: the canopy and the wings. The Corsair canopy would more or less fit, getting it in place and shaping the spine intersection was more demanding than expected. Still not perfect, but this was a “quick and dirty” project with a poor basis, anyway, so I don’t bother much.
Another tricky thing were the wings and getting them on the fuselage. That the Fw 189 wings ended up here has a reason: the original kit provided two pairs of upper wing halves, the lower halves were lacking! Here these obsolete parts finally found a good use, even though the resulting wing is pretty thick and called for some serious putty work on the belly side… Anyway, this was still easier than trying to modify the Alizé wings into something useful, and a thick wing ain’t bad for low altitude and bigger external loads.
Painting and markings
As mentioned before, the garish paint scheme is inspired by IAF Su-7 fighter bombers during/after the India-Pakistani confrontation of 1971. It’s almost surreal, reason enough to use it. Since a 1:72 Su-7 takes up so much shelf space I was happy to find this smaller aircraft as a suitable placebo.
I used Su-7 pictures as benchmarks, and settled for the following enamels as basic tones for the upper grey, brown and green:
• Humbrol 176 (Neutral Grey, out of production), for a dull and bluish medium grey
• Testors 1583 (Rubber), a very dark, reddish brown
• Humbrol 114 (Russian Green, out of production)
For the lower sides I used Testors 2123 (Russian Underside Blue). The kit received a black ink wash and some dry painting for weathering/more depth. Judging real life aircraft pics of IAF Su-7 and MiG-21, the original underside tone is hardly different from the upper blue grey and it seems on some aircraft as if the upper tone had been wrapped around. The aircraft do not appear very uniform at all, anyway.
Together with the bright IAF roundels the result looks a bit as if that thing had been designed by 6 year old, but the livery has its charm – the thing looks VERY unique! The roundels come from a generic TL Modellbau aftermarket sheet, the tactical codes are single white letters from the same manufacturer. Other stencils, warning signs and the squadron emblem come from the scrap box – Indian aircraft tend to look rather bleak and purposeful, except when wearing war game markings…
In the end, a small and quick project. The model was assembled in just two days, basic painting done on the third day and decals plus some weathering and detail work on the forth – including pics. A new record, even though this one was not built for perfectionism, rather as a recycling kit with lots of stock material at hand. But overall the Bāja looks exotic and somehow quite convincing?
Tagged: , 1:72 , Indian , Air , Force , IAF , dizzyfugu , whif , what-if , model , kit , conversion , fantasy , airplane , HAL , Hindustan , HA-30 , baja , falcon , COIN , CAS , ground , attack , turboprop , 1971 , Ambala , unguided , missile , bombs , Su-7 , Pakistan , War