Military


Pakistan Air Force Combat Experience

Some people may think PAF has only fought against the Indian Airforce, but there are a number of other conflicts in which the PAF took an active part against enemies other than the IAF. Pakistan Air Force was given a title "saviors of the nation" during the 1965 War. PAF personal have since met all the difficulties to uphold that title. PAF is nothing without its men, and PAF does more than most of the much bigger Air Forces to train the richest pilots on the planet. PAF has a policy of maintaining a minimum of two pilots per aircraft. But PAF trains more pilots than that. Almost as many as the much bigger Indian Air Force, which is atleast two and half times bigger in aircraft numerical strength. PAF sends its pilots abroad mainly to Middle East as advisors, and incase of conflict in the Middle East PAF pilots performed along with their Arab allies. On several occasions PAF pilots emerged victorious in the air battles between them and Israel.

The pilots of PAF are still making history in the Middle East. Just recently, United Arab Emirates cancelled it's order of 80 Block 60 F-16s just because US would not let UAE train Pakistani pilots on that aircraft. This tells how much influence and prestige the PAF holds among the Arab Air Forces. There is no doubt that Pakistani pilots fly Saudi Tornadoes and F-15s and UAE's Mirage 2000s.

War with India - 1947

Within three weeks of independence, Indian hegemonic designs sparked off the first war between Pakistan and India. Pakistan's young air arm was called upon to fly supply missions with one of the two war weary Dakotas. Contending with the unpredictable weather, the difficult terrain, and the enemy fighters was an uphill task. The strength was replenished with two more Dakotas only as the skirmishes resumed the following winters. In the narrow valleys of Kashmir, the stirring tale of Flying Officer Mukhtar Dogar defiantly scissoring his lumbering Dakota with pursuing RIAF Tempests taking pot-shots at him defined the fighting doctrine of the PAF, defend Pakistan and learn to fight outnumbered. Within the span of a year this young air force had completed 437 mercy drops, delivering more than 500 tons of supplies and food.

In December 1947, besieged and isolated in their mountain strongholds, wintery wastes, high passes and valleys, the 250,000 people and soldiers in Gilgit Agency and Azad Kashmir were desperate for food and supplies. All PAF could muster in serviceable condition were two war-weary Dakotas at Mauripur in Karachi. One flew at once to Risalpur, where it began operations under Wing Commander M.Asghar Khan, first commandant of the RPAF College. The old workhorse had spent its power in the war. Its wheezing engines had to struggle to reach 10,000 feet and then struggle some more to maintain the altitude. It was not the plane to fly among the highest mountains in the world where scores of peaks, many still unsurveyed and unnamed, touch more than 20,000 feet. But there was no choice.

With its ceiling limit, the only route the Dakota could follow to Chilas, Bunji, Gilgit and Skardu - the main supply points - was the course of the narrow Indus Valley flanked on either side by mountains rising from 7,000 feet to the lofty heights of Nanga Parbat's 26,660 feet. Few planes had ever flown this route before.

Weather was unpredictable and the valleys narrow and, by any aviation standards, unnavigable. There were no weather forecasts and the only training captains and crews had were some dummy drops at Risalpur, which in no way resembled the narrow dropping zones in the valleys. These were so narrow that there was hardly room for the Dakota to turn around, and no available ground for an emergency landing. No wonder those who undertook this exercise soon began to call the Indus 'The Valley of No Return'. For the first run early in December, the PAF deployed both its serviceable Dakotas, laden with rice, wheat and sugar in double gunny bags of thirty-six kilos each.

The PAF crews began a daily dawn-to-dusk shuttle, the old Dakotas zig-zagging their way through the valleys and hills in rain, storm cloud, fog and blinding sunshine, which continued throughout the winter, not ending until April 15, 1948. Just two days after, Mohammad Ali Jinnah visited the flying training school at their Risalpur base, and said: "There is no doubt that any country without a strong Air Force is at the mercy of any aggressor. Pakistan must build her Air Force as quickly as possible. It must be an efficient Air Force second to none". Supply runs began again in October 1948 and two more Dakotas had been brought into service.

On 04 November 1948, while returning in Dakota from an air supply mission to Skardu, Flying Officer Mukhtar Dogar was attacked by two IAF Tempest fighters. One of his crew members was martyred and the navigator was injured under the heavy enemy cannon fire. Dogar continued to evade the Indian fighters by flying down to the tree top level over the twisting Indus River in a narrow valley. He became the first recipient of Sitara-i-Jurat in PAF.

Within the span of a year this young air force had flown on little more than an often turbulent wing and a prayer and yet completed 437 mercy drops, delivering more than 500 tons of supplies and foods.

First Kill - 1959

The first pilot to shoot down an IAF aircraft was Flying Officer Younus. In his F-86F Saber, on 10 April, 1959 he shot down an Indian Canberra which was on a Photo Recce mission high over Rawalpindi on an Eid day.

War with India - 1965

The seven years of rigorous training with realistic threat perception, planning and preparation had enabled PAF to inflict a humiliating defeat on the enemy in 1965 when the mutual hostility of the rival neighbors escalated into a war. In 1965 Pakistan was attacked by India. Though this wasn't a decisive war on the ground but in the air PAF proved its mettle by definitive victory over Indian Air Force. PAF struck hard its rival and kept it reeling under tactics of shock and unpredictability. Many victories came to PAF pilots who exacted an even retribution on the enemy, leaving it in total disarray.

Eight F-86Fs of No 19 Squadron struck Pathankot airfield on 6 September 1965. With carefully positioned dives and selecting each individual aircraft in its protected pen for their strafing attacks, the strike elements completed a textbook operation against Pathankot. Wing Commander M G Tawab, flying one of the two Sabres as tied escorts overhead, counted 14 wrecks burning on the airfield. Most of the aircraft destroyed on the ground were the IAF's Soviet-supplied Mig-21s received till then. None of them was seen again during the War. Tied escorts consisted of Wing Commander M G Tawab (later Air Marshal and Air Chief of Bangladesh Air Force) and Flight Lieutenant Arshad Sami. Squadron Leader Sajjad Haider led the strike elements in this formation. Along with him were Flight Lieutenants M Akbar, Mazhar Abbas, Dilawar Hussain, Ghani Akbar and Flying Officers Arshad Chaudhry, Khalid Latif and Abbas Khattak (later Air Chief Marshal and CAS, PAF).

On 07 September, 1965 Sqn Ldr M M Alam in his F-86F Saber shot down five hunters. Intercepting an attack of six Hawker Hunters on the morning of 7 September, Alam blew their "tail-end Charlie" with his Sidewinder. As the rest five Hunters broke left in front of Alam's guns, he performed a well-documented feat of gunnery by shooting four of the Hunters in rapid succession destroying two and damaging two. So far, he remains the top scorer in the Indo-Pak Sub-continent.

During the last days of the war Pakistani aircraft flew over Indian cities and airbases without any response from the opposing side. Thus the outnumbered PAF emerged triumphant over a four times larger force, its air defence controllers, engineers, logisticians and hands just as much the heroes as its pilots. At the end of the war, India had lost 110 aircraft with 19 damaged, not including those destroyed on the ground at night, against a loss of 16 PAF planes.

The Arab-Israel War - 1967

During this war, PAF sent a contingent of its pilots and airmen to Egypt, Jordan and Syria. PAF pilots performed excellently and downed about 10 Israeli planes including Mirages, Mysteres, Vautours without losing a single plane of their own. Flt.Lt. Saif-ul-Azam was decorated by Jordan and Iraq. The performance of PAF pilots was praised by Israelis too. Eizer Weizman, then Chief Of Israeli Air Force said once about Air Marshal Noor Khan (Commander PAF at that time): "...He is a formidable person and I am glad that he is Pakistani not Egyptian..." On 07 June 1967 Flight Lieutenant Saiful Azam, PAF, destroyed an Israeli Mirage in Iraq. In his second encounter with Israelis in the Middle East, he despatched one of the Mirages that were escorting the Israeli Vatour bombers. Moments later, he shot down one of the two escaping Vatour bombers. Two days earlier he had shot down an Israeli Super Mystere over Mafrak Air Base, Jordan. The officer was decorated with gallantry awards after the war both by Jordan and Iraq. He had already earned Sitara-i-Jurat during the 65 war when he shot down an Indian Gnat.

The Battle Of Sharoora - 1969

In 1969, South Yemen, which was under the communist regime and a strong ally of USSR, attacked and captured Mount Vadiya inside the province of Sharoora in Saudi Arabia. Many PAF officers and men from different branches who were serving in Khamis Mushayt (the closet airbase from the battlefield), took active part in this battle in which the enemy was ultimately driven back.

War with India - 1971

Pakistan and India once again went to war in 1971, after India directly intervened in Pakistani civil war siding with Bengali seperatists. Though Pakistan suffered losses on the eastern front, it kept India out of Western Pakistan. The third war between the South Asian foes began when in December 1971, the Indian Army crossed into East Pakistan and from the encircling Air Bases. Ten squadrons of the IAF challenged the PAF's only squadron, No 14, located at Dhaka. The Tail Choppers of 1965 rose heroically to meet the aggressors, and before their squadron was grounded by a bombed out runway, they and their ack ack gunners had destroyed 23 IAF aircraft. The PAF's Mirages, B-57s, Sabers, F-6s and a few F-104s spearheaded Pakistan's retaliation from the west.

During the night of 4 December 1971, Indian Osa missile boats attacked the Pakistan Navy, hitting a destroyer, PNS Khyber and a minesweeper, PNS Hafeez, to the southeast of Karachi. The Indian missile boats were a very serious threat not only to the Navy but also to other Pakistani ships in the Arabian Sea and in the Karachi harbor. Pakistan retaliated by causing extensive damage through a single B-57 attack on Indian naval base Okha. The bombs scored direct hits on fuel dumps, ammunition dump and the missile boats jetty. The missile boat attacks on Pakistani naval installations ceased thereafter. Flight Lieutenant Shabbir A Khan piloted the B-57 mission while Flight Lieutenant Ansar navigated it.

On 14 December 1971 Flt Lt Saleem Beg Mirza was the leader of the escort section to a formation of four F-86s striking Srinagar Air Base. Flg Off Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon in his Gnat tried to intercept the raid but was shot down by Flt Lt Saleem Beg. Flg Off Nirmaljit was credited by IAF for shooting two F-86s but in fact all the six F-86s, including both the escorts and the fighting elements, returned safely to Peshawar.

At war's end IAF had lost 130 aircraft in all. The three-to-one kill ratio that Pakistan scored, however, could not prevent the tragic fall of Dhaka. The trauma of separation of East Pakistan and a preventable military catastrophe affected all Pakistanis deeply and lingered long afterwards. However a stoic recovery was brisk. PAF soon reorganised and reequipped assimilating the new threat environment on the sub-continent.

Yom Kippur War - 1973

The PAF was active again in the Middle East sector after about 6 years. The PAF contingent deployed at Inchas Air Base (Egypt) was led by Wg.Cmdr. Masood Hatif and five other pilots plus two air defence controllers.

Syria 1974

During this war, Flt.Lt Sattar Alvi was decorated by the Syrian goverment when he shot down an Israeli Mirage over Golan Heights. On 26 April, 1974, in an encounter over Golan Heights between a Mig-21 of the Syrian Air Force, flown by Flight Lieutenant Sattar Alvi, PAF, and two Israeli Mirages. An added feature of this engagement was that the Air Defence Controller, Sqn Ldr Saleem Metla was also a Pakistani. While leading a Mig-21 patrol along the border, Sqn Ldr Arif Manzoor, also of the PAF was apprised of the presence of two Israeli Phantom aircraft and was cautioned that these could be decoys while two other fast tracks approaching from the opposite direction might be the real threat. The latter turned out to be Mirages and a moment later Alvi, in Arif's formation saw the No 2 Mirage breaking towards him. All this time, heavy radio jamming by Israeli ground stations was making things difficult but the Pakistani pilots were used to such tactics. Sattar forced the Israeli pair into close combat, firing his K-13 missile at the first opportunity. The Israeli wingman's Mirage exploded into a ball of fire, while the leader quickly disengaged.

War in Afghanistan - 1980-88

During the Afghan war in the eighties, PAF had to keep a constant vigil on its western border. Despite the fact that PAF was not allowed hot pursuit into Afghanistan, the pilots and the ground controllers together managed to shoot down eight Soviet/Afghan aircraft without a single own loss.

During 1981-88, Pakistan experienced about 2000 air intrusions by Afghan/ Soviet forces. It shot down 8 Afghan/Soviet aircraft over the years and suffered one loss while chasing the intruders,albeit to its own shooting down of an F-16. This war helped Pakistan to acquire the latest F-16 aircraft from U.S.A and modernise its air-defence system. During the Afghan war, PAF flew a total of 10,939 sorties and logged 13,275 hours. On 17 May, 1986 Squadron Leader A Hameed Qadri of No 9 Multi Role F-16s' Squadron watching the SU-22 which, being hit by his AIM-9L missile, has turned into a ball of fire. The encounter took place at 16,000 feet over Parachinar, during the Afghan War, 1979-1988.



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