Perhaps most famous for its use by the British Royal Air Force Yellow Jackets, later called the Red Arrows, the Folland Gnat was born out of the need for a lightweight jet fighter with relatively low operational costs. However, the British soon lost interest in the Gnat as a fighter and choose to designate it as a trainer and used it to replace the aging de Havilland Vampire T.11.
The Gnat was a slightly larger evolution of the Folland Midge, a high-performance aircraft that was a foot shorter and 1,000 pounds lighter than the Messerschmitt Me 109. The prototype Gnat first flew in 1959 with an extended nose and broader wings to lower landing speeds.
The Folland Gnat possessed all of the flight characteristics of a modern jet fighter and was capable of speeds over Mach one in a shallow dive. Although they proved to be difficult to maintain, Gnats remained in service for nearly two decades. The Gnat saw service in Finland as a fighter. Several hundred were manufactured under license in India as the HAL Ajeet and saw service in numerous wars with Pakistan.