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1965 War: Role of the RB-57F

American Eagle

May 25, 2010
United States
United States
The following letter just came out today, June 5, 2010 in THE ALTERNATE SOLUTIONS INSTITUTE monthly JOURNAL. The ASI is based in Lahore, Pakistan and is Pakistan's only "free enterprise think tank." My letter in the ASI gives a bit more detail on the arrival and use of the RB-57F to the PAF in June, 1964. I've provided several Internet cross references for technical facts about this aircraft.


1. The RB-57F was provided, free of charge by the USAF to the PAF for the purpose of air sampling and communications intel work related solely to the USSR and Communist China of that era.

2. At that time during the Cold War Pakistan and the US were formal allies under both the CENTO and SEATO Treaties (see details below on these treaties).

3. Then Foreign Minister Z. A. Bhutto wanted the two RB-57F intel equipped aircraft used for his misadventure against India.

4. Bhutto started in 1964 pushing for misuse of the RB-57F, but was rebuffed by Air Chief Marshal Muhammade Ashgar Khan, the US officials involved in maintaining and operating these aircraft, and the UK military personnel involved (two UK pilots trained as pressure suit wearing RB-57F pilots).

Of course ultimately with the resignation by ACM Ashgar Khan and the incitment on the ground by General Musa, backed by Z.A. Bhutto and President Ayub Khan, Bhutto achieved what he wanted which was use of the RB-57F to overfly Kashmir and India. One of the two RB-57Fs was badly shot up, probably flew too low as PAF pilots as often as not did not wear/didn't want to wear the high altitude pressure suits...cumbersome, had to be put on in an air conditioned room inside a hanger at Peshawar PAF Base; then pilot had to be taken "hooked up" and "suited up" in an air conditioned to the suit directly van to the air craft, to then be quickly rehooked up to the pressure suit connections in the cockpit of the RB-57F.

I am taking the liberty of correcting a few typos that exist in my ASI letter to editor to smooth out reading. Remember, I am now age 70 and do make typos pretty regularly...and I type too fast and don't take as much time to "edit" as I should. My fault.

George L. Singleton, Colonel, USAF, Retired
*Remember, at the time of my first hand experiences in then West Pakistan I was a First Lieutenant, USAF, not a full Colonel. I was age 24 in 1964, age 25 in 1965.

[George L. Singleton, Colonel, USAF, Ret., USA]

I am recently acquainted with Gary Powers, Jr. son of the world famous US U-2 pilot who took off from the Pakistani Air Force Base in Peshawar May 1, 1960 and was later that day shot down over the old USSR. Pilot Gary Powers destination was a landing field in coastal Norway which of course he never reached.

Gary Powers, Jr. is now completing (as of this writing, early May, 2010) his guest stay in Moscow, Russia where he is participating in observances at museums and related military history venues in Moscow on the 50th Anniversary of his father Gary Powers being shot down in his Peshawar launched U-2 over the old Soviet Union. You may want to read Gary Powers, Jr. overview of his late father's U-2 history on his web site: The Cold War Museum

You may also want to read the 50 years look back story of Gary Powers (Sr.) and his fateful U-2 flight:
1960 U-2 incident - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

There is a related Gary Power U-2 story in the May 1, 2010 London TIMES.

In the May, 2010 issue of COLD WAR TIMES Magazine on line is my first of 12 articles about my 18 month tour of duty 1963-65 as Commander, Detachment 2, 6937th Communications Group, the subordinate unit at our US Embassy then in Karachi for my higher headquarters the 6937th Communications Group (sometimes referred to as the Peshawar Air Station) at Badabur, near Peshawar.

Using this letter to the good ALTERNATE SOLUTIONS INSTITUTE on line, here is some historic detail that may be of academic historic interest on the occasion of the U-2 50th Anniversary:

1. Due at least in part to Gary Powers shoot down in the U-2 May 1, 1960, all US military personnel associated with the US Base at Badabur were required to only wear civilian clothing off base in the civilian community, and in Karachi, we had to wear civilian clothing at all times, except for wearing our formal or mess dress uniforms to diplomatic embassy functions among our allies.

2. During 1963-1965 Pakistan was a full fledged member of both CENTO, the Central Asia Treaty Organizational, successor to the old Baghdad Pact and of SEATO, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, which Pakistan belonged to largely because then East Pakistan was defined as in SE Asia while West Pakistan was defined as Southwest Asia geopolitically speaking.

3. After the Soviet shoot down of Gary Powers and the U-2, President Eisenhower suspended U2 flights from and through Pakistan.

4. However, the Cold War was still in full force and a replacement intelligence gathering reconnaissance aircraft was needed.

5. For a time RB-57A, B, C, and D models were flown along the air borders of both the USSR and Communist China by the Pakistan Air Force. However, these aircraft lacked the wing size to attain really high altitude to get a good look "over the horizon."

6. So, redesigning some RB-57Ds which included a hugely larger wing structure created/produced the RB-57F, with two being loaned to the Pakistani Air Force, free of charge, by the US.

7. The RB-57F had a maximum altitude of 82,000 feet, had a pressurized compartment, to include a pressurized intelligence equipment pod in what otherwise had been the bombay.

You can see photos of the various RB-57 models with specifics narrated details on the open Internet at:
Martin RB-57D/F Martin RB-57F

8. I am now quoting from oral history shared with me during my Pakistan tour of duty by the then Royal Air Force Advisor to the British High Commissioner to Pakistan, to provide more in depth historic perspective of the years of aviation intelligence gathering that followed after our U-2 program through and from Pakistan was suspended by President Eisenhower:

- The RB-57 Canberra historically was a very good British light bomber with a two man crew.

- The USAF adopted the Canberra and over time through US private contractors improved on and amended its designed purposes to include aerial intelligence gathering.

- The Pakistani Air Force had air crews well trained by both the UK and the US in both British and US versions of the RB-57.

- The RB-57Fs, two, loaned to the Pakistani Air Force by the United States had a published upper altitude capability of 82,000 feet. This required specially pressurized cockpits coupled with both crew having to also wear high altitude pressure suits.

- Along with training a few PAF pilots to fly the high altitude RB-57F the US plane contractor brought to Texas two RAF pilots who were likewise trained to fly this aircraft wearing pressure suits, to augment the PAF pilots to do the same thing.

- For a time generally speaking the PAF pilots did not like to be bothered with suiting up in the high altitude suits and at least for a while (during my, George Singletons USAF tour of duty in Pakistan as the Liaison Officer in Karachi for the 6937th Communications Group Air Station in the Peshawar area) the two RAF pilots flew very many of the RB-57F high altitude missions.

- This all took place during a time of increasing tension (these are mine, George Singleton's comments here) when then Foreign Minister Mr. A. Z. Bhutto was beating the drum with the Pakistani Army Chief of Staff (General Musa, who ethnically was a Hazra)toward the eventual 1965 India-Pakistan War. I was there in Pakistan to observe first hand the early months of that war.

- Mr. Bhutto tried hard to push around the very fine, professional, and honorable Air Chief Marshal Muhammad Ashgar Khan, PAF, to divert the newly loaned to the PAF two RB-57Fs from their Cold War missions...which justified loaning these aircraft to the PAF...but in my experience and observation Z. A. Bhutto failed to get ACM Khan to ever deviate from his proper duty as long as ACM Khan remained at at the head of the PAF.

- One thing I knew of first hand within the US Embassy was that Foreign Minister Bhutto then tried, again unsuccessfully, to pressure the UK Air Advisor (same as the US Air Attache) to the British High Commissioner to Pakistan, seeking to get the UK Air Advisor to meddle in the use of the two RAF pilots who then were flying intelligence missions in the RB-57Fs (two)...Z. A. Bhuttos thought he could get the RAF pilots to fly unauthorized by the US non-Cold War intelligence missions he, Bhutto, wanted flown over Kashmir and India. Foreign Minister Bhutto likewise tried hard to get US Air Force officials both in the US Embassy and at my higher headquarters base in the Peshawar to provide and use US source pilots to fly RB-57F missions over Kashmir and India for his, Bhutto's intelligence gathering benefit. In both the UK and US attempts to pressure piloted RB-57F flights over Kashmir and India Mr. Bhutto met absolute rebuffs and turn downs. Only after ACM Ashgar Khan left command of the PAG and after General Musa, Z.A. Bhutto, and Ayub Khan launched Operation Gibralter did the PAF then, breaking agreements with the US to only use the RB-57Fs only for Cold War related missions, did the PAF cadre of trained RB-57F pilots start to fly 1965 War related intelligence missions over Kashmir and India.

- To repeat myself, my recollection on the scene so to speak in my role (to be clear I was a young USAF First Lieutenant at this time) as the Liaison Officer for the US Air Station outside Peshawar was that prior to Operation Gibralter Foreign Minister Bhutto met with a repeated cold receptions when he tried to pressure Air Chief Marshal Muhammad Ashgar Khan into using PAF pilots to fly RB-57F high altitude intelligence missions over Kashmir and India.

All of the foregoing is found pretty much piecemeal on various Internet sites, a few of which I have noted in this letter.

The purpose of this letter is to bring into clearer view the history I know first hand, underscored by my opinion from the facts while I was there in Pakistan that the 1965 India-Pakistan War was incited by then Foreign Minister Mr. Z. A. Bhutto.

It should be understood and is public knowledge that Air Chief Marshal Muhammad Ashgar Khan, PAF and the then Admiral Commanding the Pakistani Navy were not involved in Bhuttos 1965 war plans. Only the Chief of Staff of the Army of Pakistan was in Mr. Bhuttos confidence, but the two of them were certainly able to bring along the then dictator of Pakistan, Ayub Khan, without whose OK the 1965 would never have been incited by Pakistan.

I hope these snap shots in time in 1964 and 1965 will be of use to military and civilian historians in an area of the world where objective facts are hard to find and scantily written up in my research experience on line. The two RB-57F US aircraft were delivered on loan to the Pakistani Air Force as best I can recall in about June, 1964. I personally looked over one of the two RB-57Fs which was for a time being technically outfitted and checked out at Maripur Fighter-Bomber Base in Karachi, which base was one of the main places I did my USAF Liaison work for the 6937th Communications Group, my higher headquarters in Badabur, outside Peshawar. END
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Sep 12, 2008
I think one of the RB57s were damaged by Indian missiles after the war . i remember seeing a painting to this effect.

American Eagle

May 25, 2010
United States
United States
Yes, one RB57F was seriously damanged in the 1965 War.

US contractor technicians repaired it and once fixed it was taken back to the US from Pakistan.

To be clear both RB-57Fs were "on loan" not leased nor sold to PAF. US loaned them solely for the purpose of intel work related to the old USSR and Communist China of that Cold War Era.

The use of one RB-57Fs in the 1965 War violated the terms and conditions of the loan, free of charge, of the RB-57F which was to have solely been used for China and USSR missions.

Two USAF RB-57Fs were deployed to Pakistan shortly before the 1965 war with India. The original reason for the deployment to Pakistan was to monitor Chinese nuclear tests, which had begun in October of 1964. The aircraft were flown by USAF crews during these operations. One of the RB-57Fs was returned to the USA before the outbreak of hostilities with India, but the other remained. With US agreement, the RB-57F was operated by No 24 Squadron of the Pakistan Air Force and was based at Mauripur near Karachi. During the 1965 war with India, it carried out daily sorties over IAF airfields at altitudes of up to 65,000 feet. The RB-57F was locally modified to carry a 4000-lb bombload, but it was never actually operated in a bombing role. On some occasions, the RB-57F operated alongside a pair of B-57Bs that were jamming Indian radio transmission and were monitoring the location of the Indian Army's mobile radar installations. All three aircraft were involved in directing attacks on the Indian radar station at Amritsar, and during these operations one of the B-57Bs was shot down in error by Pakistani AAA. On September 15, the RB-57F was fired upon by a pair of SA-2 SAMs while it was beginning its descent towards Peshawar from Ambala. The SAMs exploded near the RB-57F, causing extensive structural damage, but the aircraft was able to make a successful forced landing at Peshawar. The aircraft was repaired by Pakistan and later returned to the USA.

Thus began the collapse of what had been an excellent military advisory and assistance program to Pakistan, thanks to Z.A. Bhutto, General Musa, and President Ayub Khan having used US supplied weaponry to wage war...all of which was forbidden in the signed Agreement which allowed military aid to Pakistan.

Raging ego over Kashmir; young Z. A. Bhutto's wish at his age of 35 or so to "wage and win war with India"...he thought he could wrap up a win and take over all of Kashmir...was the downfall of the US military aid program. Z. A. Bhutto violated the original UN Resolution on Kashmir by his war actions, as the people of all parts of Kashmir were to have been allowed a plebiscite to express interest or not in self rule vs. being a part of either Pakistan or India. Chinese seized Kashmir came from India, but a smaller piece of Chinese Kashmir was flat out given away by Pakistan to China. The motive for that land give away has not been well explained by historians to this day.

Religious zealotry played a role in all this...yet Pakistan, East and West, when first created had a Constitution that was a liberal and progressive as India's. The diffference became when folks starting changin the Pakistan Constitution into a "religious article" instead of a document that preserved and protected all, regardless of their religion or non-religion, in Pakistan.

Yet until the 1965 War my personal relations and friendships with numerous Pakistanis was never tainted by religious extremism by either my highly educated contacts nor at the most uneducated sweeper levels. But that war killed good relations "overnight" and cost Pakistan dearly in deteriorated US-Pakistan relations.
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Dec 26, 2005
United States
Col. Sir,

You have mentioned about pak pilots not using pressurized flt suits for flying. Seemingly the higher altitude flights would have been comparatively safer from the indian missiles or indian aircraft.

Was this due to the reason that the paf pilots didnot have suits that fit them---they were not trained to fly at the 80 k ft altitude---or it was just because of the reason---it is cumbersome---it is uncomfortable---it is extremely irritating---so they decided not to wear the suit.

If such was the case as in the second part of my statement---then I find it extremely troubling and disturbing.

Now you also mentioned that the air force was not informed about the planning of 1965 war. Then you must also be aware that AM Asghar Khan had called his counter part in india and told him that if the indian doesnot use his air force in combat, the he ie Asghar Khan would not allow the use of pak air force.

On the Gary Power note---I remember that the russians threatened to nuke the base from where the U 2 had taken off---basically threatening to nuke pakistan for allowing the use of its property for intelligence gathering over flts into russia.

The world of espionage is fascinating---here we were helping the americans gather the intellegence and we get threatend to be nuked---.

So---I don't think that pak did anything wrong by using the aircraft over india---as a matter of fact---they should have told the americans that it should keep all the aircraft with spaper parts support just for the payback for being threatened to be nuked by the rusky.
I think pak let the americans get away very easy----every time----all the time.

Pakistanis had never learned the tact to deal and take advantage of the their alliance with the americans. Instead of learning from their mistakes and trying to tackle the u s in a better and more professional manner---but sadly the pakistani didnot have the ability to overcome their deficit.


Dec 29, 2008

I do not think PAF was informed, even many generals of the Army were not aware.
This has happened in Kargil as well.
Remember that Asghar Khan retired just before the war, would not have made sense to do so had he known that they were already fighting in Kashmir.

Asghar Khan told Nur Khan that he suspected something was happening but had not been given any information by the Army Chief.
Nur Khan in his interview reiterates the same.

Here is the interview.
Nur Khan reminisces ’65 war -DAWN - National; September 6, 2005
I shall quote an excerpt

“Rumours about an impending operation were rife but the army had not shared the plans with other forces,” Air Marshal Nur Khan said. Sharing his memoirs with Dawn on the 40th anniversary of 1965 war, Air Marshal Khan said that he was the most disturbed man on the day, instead of feeling proud.

Air Marshal (retired) Asghar Khan while handing over the command to Nur Khan had not briefed him about any impending war because he was not aware of it himself. So, in order to double check, Nur Khan called on the then Commander-in-Chief, General Musa Khan.

Under his searching questions Gen Musa wilted and with a sheepish smile admitted that something was afoot. Nur Khan’s immediate reaction was that this would mean war. But, Gen Musa said you need not to worry as according to him Indians would not retaliate. Then he directed a still highly skeptical Nur Khan to Lt-Gen Akhtar Hasan Malik, GOC Kashmir, the man in-charge of “Operation Gibraltar” for further details. The long and short of his discussion with Gen Malik was, “don’t worry, because the plan to send in some 800,000 infiltrators inside the occupied territory to throw out the Indian troops with the help of the local population”, was so designed that the Indians would not be able retaliate and therefore the airforce need not get into war-time mode.

A still incredulous Nur Khan was shocked when on further inquiry he found that except for a small coterie of top generals, very few in the armed forces knew about “Operation Gibraltar”. He asked himself how good, intelligent and professional people like Musa and Malik could be so naive, so irresponsible.

For the air marshal, it was unbelievable. Even the then Lahore garrison commander had not been taken into confidence. And Governor of West Pakistan, Malik Amir Mohammad Khan of Kalabagh did not know what was afoot and had gone to Murree for vacations.

It was at this point that he felt like resigning and going home. But then he thought such a rash move would further undermine the country’s interests and, therefore, kept his cool and went about counting his chickens — the entire airforce was too young and too inexperienced to be called anything else then — and gearing up his service for the D-day.

Soldiers and officers of Pakistan have always given an excellent account of themselves and if ordered have fought till the very end.
The issue has always been with the non military aims of high command, aims which effectively have marred all the operations we have undertaken.
Usually the plans conceived by competent Generals have been brilliant but the military objectives were tied to other political objectives and at the end of the day additional hurdles were thrown in the execution of plans.

Classic example was Operation Grand Slam in 65, despite the absolutely unnecessary change of command, in which time was wasted as Gen Yahya took over from Gen Akhtar Hussein Malik (brilliant officer) the officers and men were succeeding in carrying out the objectives, however it was the High command which asked them to slow their advance.
By the time War broke across the international border and pressure was applied elsewhere, the objective became unattainable.

Here is what Maj Gen (Retd) Naseerullah Khan Babar has to say about it.
Remembering Our Warriors Babar “the great”

19. What do you have to say about the highly controversial Operation Grand Slam?

I would again say that the plan was brilliant in conception. In this case there were no execution faults too since both Akhtar Hussain Malik and Yahya executed it brilliantly. The fault in this case lay with the higher command i.e Ayub and Musa. They thought that the Indians would come to the bargaining table as soon as we reached the Tawi and occupied Chamb as had happened in Rann of Kutch. Thus they slowed down the advance on the line of Tawi by ordering change of horses in the midstream. (Change of command) in this did not happen. Again they ordered Yahya to slow down after Jaurian was reached. This did not happen. Instead, the Indians had by the evening of 1st September, decided to attack across the international borders —indication being that they injected the Air Force in Chamb area. The design was to offset the losses in Chamb with gains in other areas. While they were clear in their objectives, the calibre of our leadership is evident from the statement of

C-in-C General Musa that while sitting in the Ops Room (ghq) he heard a transmission from Radio Jammu that an attack on Pakistan was imminent (what a source - speaks volumes for our intelligence agencies). He directed the dmo to caution the formations. The dmo asked the gso-3, Captain (later Lt Col) Javed Younus to send a signal to all formations. It would be recalled that in late August all formations had withdrawn to cantonments. On 6th September when the Indian offensive was launched, there were only the Rangers to confront them. Brig (later Major General) Khudadad Khan, Director Rangers, received the message from his forward troops and then, in his sleeping suit, went around contacting the formation Commanders. It being a Sunday, they were all enjoying late breakfast. However, the paf took a heavy toll of the Indians. This attack coupled with suspicions by the Indian command that they were deliberately being lured in (new concept of defence), they slowed down their advance and thus enabled the unit/formations to reach their positions.

Again, they ordered Yahya to slow down after Jaurian was reached. Events by now overtook them with Indians attacking across the international border — resultantly some forces and the Corps Artillery being withdrawn. The opportunity of reaching Akhnur by the 1st/second evening had been frittered away. The logic that Gen Musa advanced was that if one pushed even a dog into a corner, the dog would turn around and bite! Strange have been the ways of our higher command.


Apr 24, 2007
from Battle for Pakistan - John Fricker.

page 161.

"in keeping with its characteristically offensive spirit, the PAF had modified its single RB-57F 'Droopy' ultra-high altitude ELINT and RECCE aircraft by 16 September to carry up to 4,000Ib of bombs. this resulted in a specialised weapons system capable of day and night bombing from heights of around 67,000ft, which the PAF thought would be well above the interception capabilities of the Indian air defence system. bombing trials with the modified RB-57F were undertaken successfully on 19 september but the 'Droopy' was never used operationally in this role".......

page 163
"the 'Droopy' overflew most of the airfields attacked by the PAF during the war, and its crew monitored IAF RT directions urging MiG-21s to intercept the high-flying target at a height of '20 km' (65,617ft). suitable interception techniques had not been worked out for these sort of heights, however, although the Indians perhaps had the last laugh, after all. somewhere in the vicinity of Ambala, when letting down for its return to Peshawar, the RB-57F was straddled by two 'Guideline' SAMs, when it was at a height of about 52,000ft. one SAM exploded above the RB-57F, and the other just below it, causing major structural damage, and knocking out its two smaller jet engines.

somehow the 'Droopy' was nursed back to its base, where it was found that its nose-wheel would not extend, so the crash barrier was rigged on the runway at Peshawar, and the RB-57F skidded along it with only the main undercarriage extended. more than 170 holes, from one foot in diameter downwards, were found in the honeycomb skin of the RB-57F, and with the damage incurred on landing, would have more than justified writing off this valuable high performance aircraft. PAF maintenance personnel pleaded to be allowed to try and repair it, however, and although they had to borrow a few technical personnel from Pakistan International Airlines who were familiar with the resin-bonding of metal, the RB-57F was made fully serviceable again within about a month........

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