B-24s for India

Last revised August 19, 1999






India became independent of Britain on August 15, 1947. It just so happened that lots of Liberators had been left behind in India by the USAAF, the RAF and the RCAF when the war in the Pacific ended, and these planes were salvaged for use by the newly-independent Indian Air Force. The first Liberators for the IAF were refurbished by Hindustan Aircraft. Ltd. of Bangalore in November of 1949 and were delivered to No 5 Squadron. This unit eventually got 16 Liberators. Later, No. 6 Squadron was reformed and provided with another 16 refurbished Liberators and No 16 Squadron was established as a Liberator-equipped training unit.

The Indian Liberators were employed primarily in the maritime reconnaissance role and were usually equipped with an ASV-15 radar with a retractable radome in the bay where the ball turret had been located. Sonobuoys and depth charges were the typical offensive load.

No 5 and 16 Squadrons traded in their Liberators for English Electric Canberras in 1957. The Liberators of No. 6 Squadron remained in service. These aircraft participated in the Indian takeover of the Portugese colonies in India in 1961, flying reconnaissance missions along the approaches of Diu and Daman. On December 18, 1961, Liberators of No. 6 Squadron dropped surrender leaflets over Goa. The last Liberators left Indian service in 1968, the IAF being the last air force to fly the type.

Three former IAF Liberators survive today. IAF serial number HE877 (ex USAAF B-24J 44-44175) is with the Pima County Air Museum in Tucson, Arizona, and IAF serial number HE773 (ex USAAF B-24L 44-50154) is with the National Aeronautical Collection in Trenton, Ontario in Canada. The Bob Collings Foundation has a B-24J (USAAF serial number 44-44052) which had served with the RAF under the serial number KH191. It saw service with the RAF in the Pacific and was abandoned in India at the war's end. From 1948 to 1968, it served as a patrol bomber with the Indian Air Force (I don't have the serial number). It was then crated and sent to India, where the Collings Foundation bought the aircraft and currently operates it as as a flying museum.

I don't have a list of IAF serials for Indian-operated Liberators. Can anyone out there help?

Sources:

  1. Famous Bombers of the Second World War, William Green, Doubleday, 1959.

  2. British Military Aircraft Serials, 1912-1969, Bruce Robertson, Ian Allen, 1969.

  3. Liberator: America's Global Bomber, Alwyn T. Lloyd, Pictorial Histories Publishing Co, Inc, 1993.

  4. The Consolidated B-24J Liberator, Roger A. Freeman, Profile Publications, Inc. 1969.

  5. B-24 Liberator in Action, Larry Davis, Squadron/Signal Publications Inc, 1987.

  6. General Dynamics Aircraft and Their Predecesssors, John Wegg, Naval Institute Press, 1990.

  7. Boston, Mitchell, and Liberator in Australian Service, Stewart Wilson, Aerospace Publications, 1992.

  8. Consolidated B-24D-M Liberator IN USAAF-RAF-RAAF-MLD-IAF-CzechAF and CNAF Service, Ernest R. McDowell, Arco, 1970.

  9. United States Military Aircraft Since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian, 1989.

  10. American Combat Planes, 3rd Enlarged Edition, Ray Wagner, Doubleday, 1982.

  11. Jane's American Fighting Aircraft of the 20th Century, Michael J.H. Taylor, Mallard Press.