Surya Kiran debut new smokewinders at Indian Air Force Day 2020

NEW DELHI | The aerobatic team of the Indian Air Force, Surya Kiran, have re-introduced smoke to their performance for the first time since upgrading to the BAE Hawk Mk.132.

Photo: Indian Air Force

Two of the team’s jets were streaming white smoke today (Thursday 8th October) while performing at the Air Force Day parade, the team’s traditional season opener, at Hindon Air Force Station near New Delhi.

This is a milestone for the nine-ship team, who were well-known for painting the sky with the Indian tricolour using their Kiran Mk.II jets until they were temporarily disbanded in 2011. Reformed in 2015 on the BAE Hawk Mk.132, the team have been unable to produce smoke since then. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., who produce Hawks under license in India, was tasked with modifying Surya Kiran’s BAE Systems-built jets, but have faced technical problems, reportedly caused by the challenges of completing domestic modifications to a foreign-built aircraft.

Hawks used by the Red Arrows and the Saudi Hawks, meanwhile, were fitted with smoke systems in the UK by BAE Systems, while the Midnight Hawks opted to shirk modifications by using smokewinders.

Traditional smoke systems, such as those of the Red Arrows and Surya Kiran’s retired Kiran Mk.II jets, require a smoke tank to be fitted to the outside of the aircraft. Desil contained within the tank, sometimes mixed with coloured dye, is then injected into the aircraft’s hot exhaust, where it is vapourised. Smokewinders, meanwhile, are self-contained smoke generators which can be fitted to weapon hard-points before each display.

Photo: Indian Air Force

So far, only the number eight and nine jets have used smokewinders during the display, producing only white smoke trails. It is not clear whether smokewinders are to be used by the team perminently, or if they are an interim solution pending the addition of a conventional smoke system to the aircraft. Either way, it seems we can expect the use of smoke to be expanded in the coming display seasons, as the team plan for all nine aircraft to produce coloured smoke in the near future.

The use of smoke is not only aesthetically pleasing for spectators, but also improves flight safety by helping pilots gauge wind conditions and spot other aircraft during more dynamic manoeuvres.