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24 Squadron

Support elements in the PAF fulfil a variety of roles. Some are designed to make a significant contribution to tactical readiness while others are engaged on tasks of secondary nature. Quite clearly falling into the first category are the Falcon 20Fs that are flown by No. 24 Squadron at Sargodha, for these have been heavily modified on order to provide electronic warfare training support. Also in this category are a small number of Lockheed T-33As which undertake target-towing for units detached to Masroor for gunnery training as well as for the Pakistan Army and Navy.

No. 24 Squadron was formed in December 1962 to carry out special missions from Peshawar. Its crew were all drawn from No. 31 B-57 Wing including the squadron commander, Squadron Leader M Iqbal. The squadron was equipped with special B-57s for electronic surveillance and the first 6 months were spent on ground training and learning about the electronic equipment. A pair of crew was also sent to the USA for training. The Squadron's two RB-57Bs had been specially converted for its tasks. The board mission of 24 Squadron was to maintain electronic surveillance of areas of interest to Pakistan.

During the 1965 war, 24 squadron flew several missions to provide electronic support measures (ESM) for PAF's counter air tasks. A F-86 strike against Amritsar was also provided effective ESM by Squadron leader M IqbaI as path finder with Squadron Leader G A Khan as his navigator. Soon after this mission Squadron Leader Iqbal and another navigator Flight Lieutenant Saifullah Lodhi were shot down by own guns near Rahwali airfield while on a practice sortie. They were both awarded Sitara-i-Juraat posthumously. Squadron Leader G A Khan also won an Sitara-i-Juraat as an intrepid navigator. Squadron Leader Rashid Mir then took over as squadron commander.

No. 24 Squadron's most daring and deep mission into Indian territory was flown in the aftermath of the 65 war. While the newly appointed squadron commander's aircraft penetrated into the Agra area another B-57 monitored its progress from many miles away. Just as Squadron Leader Mir Rashid came over Agra, a SAM-2 was fired by the Indian Air Force, but it exploded on the launching pad and caused many casualties.

A little later, when the B-57 was in the Pathankot-Amritsar area, the IAF tried to intercept it with MIG-21s but failed to do so owing to superior tactics by the PAF pilots. When it headed towards Ambala again, the IAF cleared the area of all fighters and prepared for another SAM-2 launch to shoot down the B-57. Over Ambala Rashid announced that he had been buffeted by a shockwave which had also caused one of his engines to flameout, and that some fragment of the missile had shattered his windshield.

The IAF again scrambled MIG-21s hoping to catch the aircraft as it lost height but when it reentered Pakistan the chase was given up by the Indian Air Force due to the presence of a waiting pair of F-104s. The damaged B-57 was landed back safely by its pilot with considerable skill. For his plucky and valuable effort Squadron Leader Rashid was awarded Sitara-i-Juraat.

After remaining on a number-plate status for nearly ten years, the Squadron was reactivated in 1987. The sleek and precious old Dassault Falcon DA-20 has been the EW workhorse for PAF for last 20 years. PAF received two DA-20s in the late 1980s that became the part of 24 EW squadron at PAF Base Sargodha. Ever since then, these two aircrafts have been providing valuable intelligence in form of ELINT and COMINT. Besides these they have been part of every minor to major PAF exercise, regular CCS courses and also participated in many Indian Air Force exercises ( so to speak ) that took place in their Western and South Western Air Commands. Also, its onboard jammers give our pilots and Air Def controllers a very realistic glimpse into the scenario which they might face in any future conflict. 24 Squadron's motto is 'FIRST TO FLY IN, LAST TO FLY OUT '. The squadron is popularly known as BLINDERS and the DA-20s are named after the two Shaheeds of th 1965 war, one aircrat is called IQBAL and the other LODHI. Their names are printed on the aircrafts nose and always remain an inspiration for 24 squadron's crew.

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