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Old/New Articles and News item about PAF

Bilal Khan (Quwa)

Aug 22, 2016
~130 is also the number of Mirage 3/5 in service. Which also match up quite nicely with what you are saying.
Yep, but the bigger point is that for the PAF, inducting a new fighter means going all in. It would never stop at a couple of squadrons, but (funds permitting) push to 90-150. In fact, ACM Qureishi told Flight Intl. that (in the late 1990s) the PAF was looking for 80 'new aircraft' in lieu of the F-16, with the M2K-5, Rafale and Typhoon as options.


Aug 9, 2013
Yep, but the bigger point is that for the PAF, inducting a new fighter means going all in. It would never stop at a couple of squadrons, but (funds permitting) push to 90-150. In fact, ACM Qureishi told Flight Intl. that (in the late 1990s) the PAF was looking for 80 'new aircraft' in lieu of the F-16, with the M2K-5, Rafale and Typhoon as options.
Yes. If we look at F7, Mirage and now seemingly the same ballpark for JF17. It looks like 150 (+/-) is the ideal induction number PAF shoots for a type.


Mar 21, 2007
United States
Fifth Generation War Reality or Propaganda

Talha Ahmad

January 10, 2021
Fifth Generation War Reality or Propaganda

Recently I came across an article by Ahsan I Butt in Al-Jazeera, titled “Has a ‘fifth-generation war’ started between India and Pakistan?”. It was surprising to read such a piece in Al-Jazeera, but anyhow let us discuss the argument or case build in the Article.

The article started with an argument over the semantics of 5th generation warfare and ended up discrediting the EU Dis-InfoLab report. Starting with the 5th Generation warfare,5th generation warfare itself is not a type of warfare but refers to a particular generation in which different types of warfare are involved including information warfare having disinformation and propaganda as its key elements.

Generations refer to different eras and the changing composition of warfare in these eras. It describes how over time methods of waging a war evolved. Thus, transforming the tools and elements involved in warfare i.e., media, army. Interestingly, William S. Lind defined different generations of war by building on the work produced by Clausewitz (the theorist who is mentioned as a reference in the article).

Similarly, the argument that the term “5th generation war” does not appear in international relations journals in the last five years is not valid. Just like wars, the advancement in the field of Social science paved the way for the creation of new fields like Defense & strategic studies, Peace and conflict, Security studies. It would be better if we try to search the term in the journals of fields relevant to the term. Moreover, many war colleges have specially designed courses on these concepts, even NATO school offer a course on “Hybrid Warfare”.

Another argument in the article is about the role of propaganda and disinformation in the 5th Generation warfare. Yes, propaganda and disinformation were used in the 20th century but they were not part of the state’s security policy but were more about politics and diplomacy. This is not the case here, the integration of information warfare (Dis-info) in the overall security policy redefines the concept.

Particularly in the 5th Generation warfare, when dealing with non-physical elements- in the non-kinetic warfare it is not just the media or info warfare but also includes cyber, economy, and other fields. “India’s private mainstream media is in many ways an arm of the India state”. So, when one is admitting it is an arm of the state, the questions arise what are the reasons for this. Moreover, when it is an arm of the state that means it is being used to achieve certain goals and follow Indian state security policy as well. FATF is a prime example of how propaganda influence different actors and this has direct implication not just for the economy but for the security as well.

Yes, it’s a fact that one needs to find ‘fertile ground’ to run all these operations. But is this the case with Baluchistan? For instance, USSR exploiting Racism in the US did not mean that it never existed, the whole point is about the intensity or the level at which it exists. The problems in Baluchistan started soon after the partition.

Exaggeration about events and figures is meant to further fuel the fire (conflict). The idea behind the exploitation of these fault lines is not diplomacy rather than a way to legitimize security operations against the adversaries. Indian NSA Ajit Doval openly admitting that India is using non-state actors, the arrest of Kulbhushan Yadav is enough for a common Pakistani to understand that it is not natural but has something to do with the 5th Generation warfare.

Lastly, instead of arguing about Modi’s ultra-nationalist ambitions to disturb the peace in the region, the whole argument was built to blame the ‘victim’. Clausewitz emphasized on ” Rationality of the state” but the exploitation of ethnic and sectarian fault lines through the media to pave the way for non-state actors to create anarchy and Chaos is not a rational approach. It is aimed at creating a conflict not at ending one.

Author: Talha Ahmad (Editor in Chief PSF)


Mar 21, 2007
United States


The Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 was the result of a series of border skirmishes, which started in April 1965. The escalation ladder then started growing and spiraled out of control in September 1965. The threat of an imminent attack by the Indian Army on the International Border was never a surprise. Starting from the successful military encounter with India in the Rann of Kutch, the military situation escalated further after the Indian Military initiated ‘Operation Ablaze’ in May-June 1965. This was an offensive posture by the Indian Army along the Indo-Pak Border after the Rann of Kutch skirmish. Under ‘Operation Ablaze’, all Indian Army Formations, earmarked for Punjab were placed on ‘Red Alert’.

It all started in February 1965, down south, in the wastelands of Rann of Kutch which is a large area of salt marshes that span the border between India and Pakistan. Indian military forces captured a Pakistani post and village and occupied the northern part of the Rann of Kutch which was under the administrative control of Sindh, in Pakistan. Although the land was barren with little to no vegetation, however at that time unknown to many, the area was thought to have huge hydrocarbon reserves. The likelihood of the abovementioned possibility is also mentioned in John Fricker’s book ‘Battle for Pakistan’ which states, “The Indian occupation of the Rann of Kutch took on a different aspect, however, following exploration of the area with Soviet assistance, around Vigiokot, Karim Shahi and Khavda, in February 1965. This led to reports confirming the likelihood of oil in the region, which may possibly have been one of the main reasons for Indian attempts, within the next few weeks, at the complete occupation of the Rann of Kutch.”

Today in 2021, it has been proven that the area is part of an active petroleum province and numerous successful oil and gas wells have been drilled in the vicinity by national and multinational companies, but in 1965 it was just a speculation which led to the skirmish between Pakistan and India. After formal protests in the International Community, Pakistan decided to hit back in the same language which was used by the Indians. The Indian military build-up at Chhad Bet was countered by a counter military build-up by Pakistan which soon turned out to be more formidable than their adversary. On 6th April 1965, 8 Infantry Division HQ received the following directive from Pak Army, “Failing satisfactory response (to the Pakistani demand for an Indian withdrawal from the Rann of Kutch) all necessary measures to be taken to deny Indian offensive activities and to assert our claim, including occupation of such few positions in the disputed territory as would place our forces in a favorable situation to negotiate for closure of the newly established Indian posts…If Indians react unfavorably to our defense action enumerated above, our forces to take necessary counter measures including action in the disputed territory in de facto control of India.”

A shooting war started between both the armies, which increased in intensity with each day. Although diplomatic channels were open for negotiations both parties could not come to any conclusion. On 14th April 1965, the Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), Air Marshall Asghar Khan, telephoned his counterpart of the Indian Air Force (IAF) to make the extraordinary suggestion that both air forces should stay out of this dispute in order to avoid escalation. Although the exact details are unclear, it appears that the suggestion was accepted by his Indian counterpart with the caveat that the air forces would be permitted to supply front line troops. Explaining the aftermath of this incident, Farooq Bajwa in his book ‘From Kutch to Tashkent: The Indo-Pakistan War of 1965’ states, “Whether this suggestion of Asghar Khan had been cleared with Ayub or GHQ in Rawalpindi is doubtful, and it is interesting that Asghar Khan does not mention this episode in his book about the war, ‘The First Round: India-Pakistan War 1965’. This offer was apparently unknown to General Musa, the Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army.”

The air situation during this period remained silent. On a few occasions it was reported that IAF Vampire fighter jets flew low over our troop’s position, however it later transpired that they were photo reconnaissance missions. Discussing the air situation, John Fricker in his book ‘Battle for Pakistan’ states, “As it happened, there were no air operations of any significance during the Rann of Kutch dispute, but as a result of Desert Hawk, the PAF was poised for instant action. Armed combat air patrols and reconnaissance sorties by F-86Fs from Mauripur, reinforced by two F-104A Starfighters, on detachment from Sargodha, initiated from 17 April onwards, were kept well behind the disputed frontier, to avoid provocation, although it seems that the IAF was less careful in this respect.“

Meanwhile situation on ground was becoming grim. When diplomatic negotiations failed between both sides, a major military encounter became inevitable. The Pakistani forces led by General Tikka Khan were ready to attack and liberate the areas under Indian occupation. According to Farooq Bajwa, the author of ‘From Kutch to Tashkent: The Indo-Pakistan War of 1965’, “By 17 April, Tikka Khan’s plan for dominating the border area was complete and the objective was the removal of the Indian posts close to the Pakistani positions and also to bottle up the Indian forces in Rann by cutting off the only road available to them. This military operation was ambitious enough to threaten all-out war as it was aimed at nothing less than the capture and/or destruction of the two Indian brigades inside Kutch, which India was unlikely to accept without some retaliation in Punjab or Kashmir.”

On 23 April General Musa, the Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army, gave the green light for the operation. This was potentially a large-scale concentrated military push for the capture/destruction of Indian troops within Kutch. Sera Bet was captured relatively quickly and without any resistance from the Indian defenders. Biar Bet was the next Indian stronghold to be attacked. Although a company of the Indian 3 Paratroopers held Biar Bet, the Pakistani assault using both tanks and artillery was too much and by 0730 hours, 26 April, Biar Bet was captured along with a large quantity of arms and ammunition left behind by retreating Indian soldiers. John Fricker writes in his book ‘Battle for Pakistan’, “Operations reached their peak on 26 April 1965. Elements of 8th Division ordered up earlier by the Pakistan Army C-in-C, General Muhammad Musa, under the codename Operation Desert Hawk, were then reinforced by a squadron of tanks for an attack on the Indian occupied post of Biar Bet. Located approximately midway between Ding and Chhad Bet, this was overrun and captured by Pakistani forces after a fierce battle at 0630 hours the following morning. 8 Division lost only one ammunition truck amongst its vehicles and claimed to have inflicted heavy causalities on the retreating enemy.”

Situation was getting tense when there was a situation when PAF and IAF aircraft came dangerously close to each other and a shoot down was imminent. On 24 April, a single blip was observed to be intruding Pakistan air space. Two Sabres were scrambled from Mauripur to intercept the aircraft which was now deep inside Pakistan air space. As the Sabres moved in to intercept they made a head on pass, apparently rattling the Indian pilot. The aircraft which was identified as an IAF Ouragan fighter-bomber, lowered its undercarriage and flaps in surrender, and made a forced landing near the village of Jhangshahi. Apart from ripping off its landing gears the Ouragan received minor damage on landing. The Indian pilot Flight Lieutenant Rana Sikka of No. 51 Auxiliary Squadron, Jamnagar, was soon captured unhurt, after attempting to pass himself off as a pilot of the PAF. According to Fricker, “although the Ouragan was fully armed, it seemed that its pilot had strayed across the border by mistake and he was returned to India in August.”

This was the first time that the whole PAF was mobilized and transferred its assets as per their war plans. Discussing the air situation further, John Fricker in his book ‘Battle for Pakistan’ states, “Although air operations therefore played little part in the Rann of Kutch dispute, this was of considerable significance to the PAF in rehearsing its transfer to a war footing and in underlining some of its deficiencies in its planning and organization.”

This was Pakistan Army’s first real complete victory which resulted in the rout of the Indian Army present in the area. According to Farooq Bajwa, the author of ‘From Kutch to Tashkent: The Indo-Pakistan War of 1965’, “India was humiliated in the fighting and now had to decide its next move with public opinion calling out for some reaction to the latest Pakistani offensive. Pakistan’s GHQ now felt that they had the measure of the Indian Army – purely on the basis of a limited border clash involving no more than a couple of brigades on either side. Ayub was now made aware through Western channels of growing Indian public anger and the likelihood of all-out war if the offensive military operation was carried to its planned conclusion, and therefore ordered all plans for further advance movements in Kutch to cease with immediate effect. Ayub was effectively cancelling the military operation without the public of either India or Pakistan even being aware of its existence.”

Further hostilities were stopped by diplomatic intervention from the British Prime Minister, Sir Alec Douglas Home, resulting in an unofficial cease-fire on 27 April. This came into formal effect by 1 July, but the Rann of Kutch affair was all over barring some sporadic shooting by the end of April 1965.


On 29 April 1965, the Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri had given his approval for military action against Pakistan at a time and place to be chosen by the Army, and that General Chaudhary had indicated that offensive operations could start by 10 May 1965. The Pakistan Armed Forces counter mobilized their forces. Formations of Pakistan Army took to their battle stations, while PAF swiftly made preparations for a swift reaction keeping in view the threat posed by the IAF. Pakistan Navy followed suit with their only submarine Ghazi being deployed for offensive operations inside enemy waters.


In June 1965, the first air doctrine by Air Marshal Asghar Khan had been clearly envisaged and was discussed in detail, the magnitude and weight of the India air threat, in case of a war. The main topic of concern by Air Marshal Asghar Khan and his operational staff was the preponderance of the Indian Air Force with over 500 aircraft that it could carry out relentless attacks against the main bases of Sargodha and Peshawar in the north, and Mauripur in the south. Special concern was the main radars at Sakesar and Badin. Consequently it was apprehended that destruction of these vital targets would ground the PAF.

The PAF strategy and the tactical execution were worked out with professional diligence under Air Marshal Asghar Khan with Air Commodore A. Rahim Khan, Chief of Operations as the head of implementation team. The entire planning delved in the minutest detail and the target panacea was determined that their destruction by a pre-emptive action became the core of the PAF’s air strategy. The plan had been given due coverage in John Fricker’s ‘Battle for Pakistan’ as well as PAF History 1988. The PAF History 1988 states, “The aim of the PAF was to neutralize selected vital elements of the IAF by strikes in strength against them in order to reduce the margin of superiority of the IAF, thereby preventing it from gaining superiority and interfering effectively in the land battle. The plan envisaged a situation in which PAF would so react that it had the initiative to strike at IAF airfields and radar installations, to redress the unfavorable balance between the two air forces and, in so doing also to ensure PAF’s availability for any subsequent land-air operations.”

The original strike plan therefore covered almost all the forward air bases of the IAF which posed a threat to the Pakistan Army and the PAF. These included the IAF bases at Srinagar, Jammu, Pathankot, Adampur, Halwara, Ambala, Bhuj, Jamnagar and the Early Warning Radar Stations at Amritsar, Ferozepur, Patiala, Ambala and Porbunder.

Usually for such strikes, the best suitable timings are either immediately after dawn, or just before dusk. The ingenuity of the plan had been visualized that if opportunity would allow, dusk strike was the best choice. The strike elements would have the cover of darkness to safely recover at their airfields, since the Indian Air Force did not have the capability to carry out night fighter sweeps. This would allow the PAF, time to recover and repeat the assigned attacks at dawn next morning by the strike elements based at Sargodha and Mauripur, making 15 minutes before sunrise as their TOT. For strike action from Mauripur against Jamnagar the next morning, four T-33s were to supplement the F-86 force. Peshawar was excluded from dawn attack and was to be given its target next day.

B-57 Bombers had the responsibility to pin down the enemy bases throughout the night. A commando raid on all three forward bases of the Indian Air Force i.e. Pathankot, Adampur and Halwara, had been thoroughly rehearsed. This was rather a novel and difficult mission, but it was contingent upon the rightly predicted success by the dusk strikes to be carried out by PAF Sabres. One of the striking features of the plan was to keep one of the F-86 squadrons to be earmarked for urgent air support requested by the army.

However in an unexpected reversal, on 30 June 1965, there was an agreement that the Kutch dispute was to be referred for arbitration. Under this, both sides agreed to carry out certain troop withdrawals. In July 1965, the armies of both sides stood down, and formations returned to their peacetime stations. At least war had been averted for the time being. However, the PAF retained its operational readiness.


Situation however escalated further after the miscalculation in Kashmir, under the code name ‘Operation Gibraltar’. The original plan for the operation was conceived and prepared as early as the 1950s; however it seemed appropriate to push this plan forward given the scenario. The operation was backed by General Musa (Army Chief) and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (Foreign Minister). According to Air Marshal Nur Khan, there was little coordination amongst the military services on the impending operation. Pakistani author Pervez Iqbal Cheema notes that General Musa was reportedly so confident that the plan would succeed and conflict would be localized to Kashmir that he did not inform the Air Force, as he believed the operation would not require any major air action. Many senior Pakistani military officers and political leaders were unaware of the impending crisis, thus springing a surprise not only India, but also Pakistan itself. Some of the senior officials also were against the plan, as a failure could lead to an all-out war with India, which they wanted to avoid.

Air Marshall Asghar Khan was deliberately kept out of the Kashmir de-freeze plan. President Ayub Khan’s closest bureaucrat and the master mind of ‘Decade of Reforms’ Altaf Gauhar did not mince his words when he wrote that it was a government conspiracy to keep the Air Force C-in-C in the dark and to let him retire quietly after completing 8 years, from fear that he would dissent with the idea for lack of preparation, inferring that if time was given for proper preparations he would make the operation decisive.

General Musa in his book, ‘My Version’ makes a very strange remark that several thousand youth from Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and Gilgit-Baltistan were trained into guerilla warfare. Ho Chi Minh’s bones must have rattled at the idea of training guerillas from out-side the affected region under a depot. Despite initial reservations by the President of Pakistan, Ayub Khan, the operation was set in motion. However the operation went awry from the outset due to poor coordination, poor planning, and poor intelligence. Operation Gibraltar failed as expected.

After the fall of strategic posts at Haji Pir Pass and Kargil, Pakistan Army had no other option but to commence Operation Grand Slam. The aim was to ease the pressure on the 12th Division, which was defending against repeated Indian attacks, and to guard against the threat to the city of Muzaffarabad. However this required a ‘green signal’ from the President.

Meanwhile AVM Nur Khan, till 29 August 1965, was under strict orders by the President, not to provoke the Indians in the air. This permission finally came, and very luckily on 30 August 1965, when a senior minister along with a ‘Top-Secret’ file had to fly to Saidu Sharif (where the President of Pakistan was lounging, while ‘Operation Grand Slam’ was awaiting his green signal). It was that place where he signed the letter which allowed the PAF to take only defensive action if provoked by the IAF. The clearance message for ‘Operation Grand Slam’ was extremely ambiguous (as reproduced in the best seller ‘Flight of the Falcon’ and was addressed enigmatically to the Foreign Office and GHQ). D-Day was set at 1 September 1965, while H-Hour was set at 0500 hours.

John Fricker in his book, ‘Battle for Pakistan’ states, “On the eve of the opening of Operation Grand Slam, late on 31 August, at a meeting between Pakistan Army Commander-in-Chief and his PAF opposite number, with their respective staffs, AVM Nur Khan pointed out that this operation ‘could mean war’. In anticipation of possible reaction against the Pakistan Army Offensive, which involved heavy armor, heavy guns, etc., the AVM proposed a PAF strike against the nearest enemy airfields to precede the Pakistani thrust across the CFL (Cease Fire Line) into Indian-Held Kashmir. While this was militarily the optimum option, it presented certain political problems in conferring Pakistan the possible role of an aggressor, and received a Presidential veto against the proposal, after a discussion in person.

Personally convinced that a successful attack across the cease fire line by Pakistan would mean all-out war with India, AVM Nur Khan took the necessary steps to prevent a successful surprise attack on his bases. Apart from outnumbering the PAF it had to be assumed that the IAF was an efficient, well organized and highly motivated force and given the opportunity would strike a surprise blow. With President’s decision, the initiative passed to the Indians to add to the advantages that they already had. In these circumstances Nur Khan was deeply concerned over the possibility of a sudden attack on his bases on the IAF’s terms rather being allowed to follow his own plans.”

PAF moved into its highest state of alert, as AVM Nur Khan had anticipated the eminent clash between the IAF and the PAF. One factor that pops up in the mind that since June plan agreed by the authors of Story of Pakistan Air Force 1988, under the heading ‘June Plan’ that it was a well debated and all contingencies invasively ferreted out. Yet, when discussing the plan just before the war, it mentions that AVM Nur Khan appointed a committee under F.S. Hussain, the incomparable ace but who had not been associated with PAF war strategy at any stage. His only staff appointment had been Air Secretary according to the historical record and later as Assistant Chief of Air Staff (ACAS –Training). While the ACAS Operations the intrepid Air Commodore Rahim Khan who had been integral to the PAF plenary sessions was left out, needs some answers. The recommendations by the new appointed committee were mere paraphrasing of the June Plan and interpolation of original composition, with some changes which were to impact the war effort extremely adversely in the opening vital shots on 6th and 7th September, as will stand out when the missions on those days are recounted. Was this done to give credit to AVM Nur Khan for the PAF Air War Strategy and to the exclusion of the ACAS operation, is quite baffling. My understanding, after discussion from highly regarded star officers has been that Phase 3 declared on 1st September should have been according to the implementation of June Plan; and squadron moves to be initiated according to the plan. Not following the June Plan for inexplicable rationale cost the PAF unavoidable loss and failure of its pre-emptive.

On D-Day, at 0330 hours, Pakistan Army began its counter offensive by carrying out a massive artillery bombardment against Indian positions in Chamb Sector. Operation Grand Slam took the Indians by complete surprise. Attacking with full force, Pakistan made swift gains against Indian forces, which were caught unprepared and suffered heavy losses. The area was lightly defended by four Indian infantry battalions and a squadron of tanks. The infantry was stretched thin along the border and the AMX-13 tanks were no match for the Pakistani M47 Patton and M48 Patton tanks. Against a militarily stronger and larger Pakistani thrust, the Indian forces retreated from their defensive positions. Feeling that Akhnur will fall very soon, the Indian Army sent an S.O.S. to the Indian Air Force, requesting immediate air support at 1100 hours. However the IAF Chief could not launch any aircraft as he had to take clearance by his Ministry of Defense, until after 1600 Hours (Ironically, Indian Historians as expected have exaggerated and written that IAF was launched immediately by AM Arjun Singh. 5 hours hardly justify the claim of immediate response).

At PAF HQ, a sense of expectation prevailed since morning. The intensity of the battle on the border confirmed the fact that the IAF will soon join the battle. When positive reports regarding Pakistan Army’s progress started to come in, there had been no valuation from observation by senior military personnel. Thus AVM Nur Khan decided to see for himself what was happening in the Chamb sector. He flew from Chaklala to the nearest airstrip to the Chamb front at Gujrat in A Cessna T-37 trainer. He then set off to make a personal reconnaissance of the battle area from a Cessna L-19 of Pakistan Army Aviation flown by an Army Aviation pilot.

Meanwhile No. 12 Divisions’ armored thrust had overrun the enemy stronghold at Chamb. The Indians fell back leaving behind 15 intact AMX-13 tanks, 13 heavy guns and a large quantity of other military equipment. Unable to withstand No. 12 Divisions’ armored thrust and still lacking sufficient supplies, the Indian Army started retreating from Chamb-Jaurian Sector. Pakistan Army M47 and M48 Patton Tanks had been assigned to defeat any remaining enemy forces there and to move forward to occupy Akhnur. In desperation the Indian commander again asked for help from IAF to provide cover for its retreating troops. Clearance from the Indian Ministry of Defense to launch air attacks against the invading Pakistan Army finally came after 1600 hours.

At almost the same time, AVM Nur Khan was flying overhead the battle zone, between 300-400 ft. in a Pakistan Army Aviation L-19 aircraft. However when he crossed the battle line around Tawi River, he was astonished to see a ‘tremendous’ mass of Pakistan Army units consisting of troops, tanks, guns and vehicles saturated along a narrow track. This was a lucrative target for any enemy air force in the world, and a dedicated enemy air attack could change the outcome of this attack. As soon as he landed back at 1 Corps HQ at 1630 hours, he rang up to warn ‘Theatre’ about the ground position, the threat perceived and ordered the CAP, operating out of Sargodha, to be extended from their original deadline of 1700 hours.

Meanwhile at Pathankot, which was the nearest airbase from the ground battle, twenty six aircraft (12 Vampires and 14 Mystères) had been armed to the teeth, while their pilots were waiting since morning for the ‘go-ahead’ by the Air HQ. As soon as they received the green signal, the first formation comprising of four Vampires took off at 1650 hours. This was followed shortly by a second and a third formation, with four aircraft each.


It was almost 1700 hours (PST) when two F-86F Sabres took off from Sargodha as they climbed in the evening haze with a dazzling rate of 9,000 ft./min. The pair was led by Squadron Leader Sarfraz Ahmed Rafiqui, OC No. 05 Squadron. His wingman was Flight Lieutenant Imtiaz Ahmed Bhatti, No. 15 Squadron. Upon reaching their CAP station at 20,000 ft. over Gujrat, both Sabres were asked to go in a holding pattern until further orders.

Meanwhile the first formation of four Vampires had by now reached overhead the battle zone. While the Vampires picked up the fierce battle raging below him, it was difficult to pick out the identification of the tanks in the fast fading light. However in their over enthusiasm, they commenced their attack on the ground forces below irrespective of their origin. Flabbergasted at this latest development, Pakistan Army placed an urgent demand for air cover.

Both PAF fighters had been circling the area for about ten minutes, when suddenly the controller’s voice came on the radio: “Enemy aircraft attacking our troops. Engage.” Both the pilots pressed their throttles and banked fast towards the battle zone. As soon as the Sabre Jets reached overhead, Bhatti spotted the enemy aircraft, “Two bogies approaching 9 o’clock” he called out to his leader. Rafiqui immediately acknowledged ‘contact’. The Sabres were perched 3000-4000 ft. above the enemy aircraft, which were now identified as Vampire fighters. Both Sabres punched drop-tanks as they peeled down to engage the enemy fighters

During the dive, Bhatti spotted another pair of Vampires, (which he mistook for Canberra bombers) glistening in the evening sun (these were Vampires from first formation egressing after completing their mission). He was tempted to go after them as they presented an easy target when suddenly two more Vampires joined the battle as they positioned behind Rafiqui’s jet. However both the Indians were unaware that another Sabre is well placed behind them for a kill. The situation was that two Vampires in close wingman formation were being chased by Sarfraz Rafiqui, who himself was followed by two more Vampires in close wingman formation, while Bhatti was perched right behind them in their blind zone.

After some basic maneuvering Rafiqui was now well placed for a gun-kill. Within seconds the first Vampire started filling his gun-sight. As soon as it came within range, Rafiqui fired a two-second burst. The flashes round the enemy Vampire confirmed the bullets striking home as the enemy aircraft caught fire instantly. Suddenly it blew up in full view of both the armies watching this dogfight. The Pakistan Air Force had opened its account in Indian Aircraft. The Indian pilot went down alongside his stricken aircraft. However with three more aircraft lurking in the vicinity it was not over yet, as the Indians were not willing to give up without a fight. Without wasting any time, Rafiqui rolled behind the second Vampire which started thrashing in order to spoil Rafiqui’s aim, but Rafiqui being a seasoned pilot remained behind him waiting for him to steady.

Bhatti who was getting a panoramic view of the dogfight, had the leading Vampire of the second formation in his gun-sight, but waited for Rafiqui to finish off his target as he was also in his line of fire. Suddenly the Vampire which was targeted by him, closed in on Rafiqui too dangerously. ‘Break Left,’ he yelled on the radio. Within the next moment Rafiqui fired a long and sustained burst. The aluminum and balsa wood structure of the Vampire could not handle the immense fusillade of the Sabre’s 6 x M3 Browning Machine Guns, as the enemy aircraft exploded in mid-air killing its occupant. Rafiqui broke hard in order to avoid debris damage and simultaneously responding to Bhatti’s call.

Within seconds he took position behind Bhatti and called out, “No.2, your tail is clear.” Bhatti looked in his gun-sight and saw his target still within range. He moved in closer to get a pointblank shot and squeezed the firing button. As soon as the bullets clattered the Vampire, the aircraft caught fire as it wavered out of control flight. Suddenly the aircraft exploded in a blinding flash. As the flash settled the soldiers below saw three distinct fireballs falling down. The last Vampire decided to bug out as he by now had realized that their Vampire jets are no match for the Sabres. In order to shake off his pursuers he banked hard right trying to spoil the aim of his attacker. However the Sabre turned much tighter and soon Bhatti got him in his gun-sight as he fired a lengthy burst. Although the enemy aircraft was hit, it was still flyable, trailing black smoke. The Vampire dived down in a tight spiral as the dogfight descended to treetop height. Bhatti fired another burst but the Vampire ducked just above the trees, managing to escape at deck level in the fast fading light.

In the course of combat, contact with the PAF ground controller had been lost through the descent to low level, but as the Sabres regained altitude, Squadron Leader Rafiqui checked in with Group Captain Butt and asked, ‘Did you mean us to shoot to kill or to frighten?’ ‘To kill’, said the GCI controller, ‘And you’ve done it’. Squadron Leader Rafiqui replied in affirmative as both the PAF Sabre Jets dived down in a parting salute to the Pakistan Army below before returning back to their base. Both the Indian and the Pakistan Army witnessed the dogfight. However the morale of the Pakistan Army was bolstered when they saw four columns of fire after the dogfight, three on their side and one on the other side. Brigadier Amjad Chaudhary, Commander Corps Artillery, wrote in a letter to the PAF Commander in Chief, “Your very first action in Chamb left no doubt in our mind that we did not have to worry much about the enemy air force. The pattern was set there and then. We will never forget that spectacle – it lifted our spirits and gave us a flying start.”

Later on Brigadier Amjad Chaudhary stated in his book “September ’65 – Before and After”, “When we saw the bombers from our command post, we were apprehensive because our tanks and infantry surrounding Chamb were in the open, in close formations and were very vulnerable to air attack. The bombers went into action and came low to drop their bombs. Before they could do much damage, there was a flash in the air on top of these bombers and before we could comprehend what had happened, the Indian bombers came down in three columns of smoke.”


As the PAF Commander in Chief arrived at Sargodha, after returning from his visit from the battlefront, he was met with the news of the first air engagement. He congratulated in person, both the PAF officers responsible for downing the Indian Vampires. After a detailed debriefing session, both Squadron Leader Sarfraz Ahmed Rafiqui, and his wingman Flight Lieutenant Imtiaz Ahmed Bhatti were credited with two Vampires each (however it has been cleared that Rafiqui downed two Vampires, while Bhatti destroyed one Vampire and damaged another which was recovered. The fourth Vampire was destroyed by Indian Army’s AAA, its pilot managing to bail out). Both of them were awarded with Sitara-i-Jur’at each.

The deceased IAF pilots were identified as Squadron Leader Aspi Kekobad Bhagwagar, Flight Lieutenant Vijay Madhav Joshi, and Flight Lieutenant Satish Bharadwaj. The Indian pilot, who ejected after being hit by own AAA was identified as Flight Lieutenant Shrikrishna Vishnu Pathak. The Indians were so much unnerved by this dogfight that they withdrew 132 Vampires and 36 Ouragans from frontline service. This constituted to 30% of their combat strength. Throughout the 1965 aerial campaign these aircraft were never reported being engaged by our army and air force. The same has also been reflected in the book ‘History of the 1965 Indo-Pak War’ by B.C. Chakravorthy that, “Neither Vampires nor Ouragons were effectively used in operations after this, reducing IAF’s effective strength by about one third at a single stroke. Although it was an unhappy start and a big shock to the Indian Air Force, the IAF steeled its determination to fight back in the following days.” This aerial combat marked the beginning of a full fledge aerial campaign in which both PAF and IAF would be facing each other in a full blown war.


Most of our air war historians, while covering this dogfight and failed to mention that as soon as the Sabres left the area, four more Vampires came in and attacked whatever they could spot in the fast fading light. Once they had left, four more formations, each formation comprising of four Mystères each, carried out a single attack each. All of these sorties remained unopposed as all IAF jets returned back after delivering their ordinance, without a scratch. IAF claimed that it destroyed 14 tanks and 30 vehicles, however it later transpired that it was just a propaganda (which is still bragged about by some of the Indian War Historians even today), and however all they could get was one man and one artillery gun. It is absurd to claim such large number, in diminishing visibility, and that too in 26 attacks (one attack each carried out by their aircraft).

The first wave of the Vampires of the IAF however did hit some tanks, but those belonged to the India’s own 20 Lancers and 3 Mahar. Major General Sandhu in his book ‘History of Indian Cavalry’ recounts how the first Vampire strike of four, “leisurely proceeded to destroy three AMX-13 tanks of India’s own 20 Lancers, plus the only recovery vehicle and the only ammunition vehicle available during this hard pressed fight. The second flight attacked Indian infantry and gun positions, blowing up several ammunition vehicles.” The Indian Army AAA however exacted instant retribution as they managed to shoot down one of their own Vampires, its pilot managed to bail out . However IAF missed the golden opportunity in blunting the counter offensive of the Pakistan Army, as these strikes were launched quite late. Had these 28 aircraft been launched earlier, they might have inflicted significant damage to the Pakistan Army.

Coming towards PAF, the first thing that occurs to the mind of a keen reader is that since IAF had earlier sent eight fighters, what were the factors which deterred ‘‘Theatre’’ not to send further CAP missions towards Chamb. India launched 20 more strikes until dusk. The ‘History of the 1965 Indo-Pak War’ by B.C. Chakravorthy clearly mentions that IAF had sent obsolete and purely ground attack aircraft without providing some superior fighters to give top cover. It is not difficult to assume that had PAF scrambled more aircraft immediately after the first dogfight, they would have had a field day over Chamb, shooting down scores of enemy aircraft laden with bombs and rockets, which arrived after Squadron Leader Rafiqui left the area. Not only we would have destroyed a large number of IAF aircraft in the air but also would have shattered the morale of the Indians, on the very first day of the initiation of hostilities. However, this was not to be. Instead congratulatory atmosphere permeated while the operational need of that moment got lost in the bon homie at Sargodha. The IAF missed the initiative by reacting very late. They sent vulnerable ground attack aircraft and paid the price accordingly. PAF missed the initiative by not scrambling additional fighters in the area, to notch up more kills. Such opportunities should be grabbed if one has to perform exceptionally well in combat.

Copyright 2021 Sarmad Hassan Sharif. All


Mar 21, 2007
United States

By Sarmad Hassan Sharif

The morning of March 11, 2020 was a typical spring morning. The weather was cloudy with sun and visibility was good. Preparations for the 23rd March Pakistan Day Parade had kicked off a day earlier, and aircraft & helicopters of different combat units of the Pakistan Armed Forces started to fly in formations over the Shakarparian Parade Ground.

Being an aircraft enthusiast, I witnessed watching these formations with keen interest from a vantage point from my office. At 0920 hours, I witnessed three four-ship formations of JF-17, F-16 and JF-17 aircraft, followed by two Saab-2000 Erieye AEWC aircraft and a three ship formation with an IL-78 MRTT leading two C-130Es. Mirages and F-7Ps did not participated in the rehearsals today and I went off to start my work. Later on I was told that a fourth four-ship formation of F-7PG also participated.

It was around 1050 hours, when I heard helicopters flying above Kashmir Highway followed by a roar of the RD-93 engine. Some of the boys went out to see the aerobatics, while I decided to stick around with my work. A little later the much familiar roar of the PW-F100 engine was heard announcing the arrival of the F-16 in the parade ground. One of our boys came in describing that a fighter jet is doing some wonderful low level aerobatics, and I instantly missed being out there.

Five minutes later one of the boys came in that a fighter jet has crashed and smoke is billowing from the general direction of the parade ground. I instantly went upstairs and to my horror I could see black smoke indicating a crash. I was surrounded by people enquiring about the type of the aircraft which crashed and I feared that it might be an F-16. My worst fear turned into a harsh reality that it an F-16 has just crashed and its pilot has received fatal injuries. I was hit by a sickening feeling and numbness.

This loss was further aggravated when I learnt that the pilot of the stricken aircraft was none other than Wing Commander Noman Akram, who was the Officer Commanding of the elite No. 9 Squadron. Son of Brigadier (retd) Muhammad Akram, the Shaheed fighter pilot won the coveted Sher Afgan Trophy for being the best marksman in ISAC 2019 held in October, 2019. No 9 Squadron enjoys the unique distinction as it had been commanded by seven chiefs of the air staff on different occasions. Wing Commander Noman Akram was not only one of the Top Gun pilots of the Pakistan Air Force, but also a great leader.

Since that time I have heard about this accident, I don’t feel like doing anything and wished that it should have been part of a bad dream, but this is a harsh reality which we have to accept. Not only have we lost a multi-million dollar fighter jet, but a highly trained ‘Top Gun’ pilot. While we might get a replacement of the jet, losing a Sher Afgan is irreplaceable.

I have witnessed it on some social media platforms that some wannabe analysts investigating this accident are giving there “expert” opinions. It is my humble request that please do not spread trash when you are not qualified for it. A trash news might get some ‘views’ or ‘likes’ but most likely these trash news are cited or quoted by our enemies in their propaganda to malign us. It is the job of Pakistan Air Force to investigate the cause of the crash and find out that what went wrong. All what we can do is to pray for the departed soul.
Similarly, some people are questioning the need for a parade. Pakistan Day Parade has been a tradition since the inception of Pakistan. It is a forum where the military interacts with the general public and display their prowess, in order to boost their morale. On the other hand, a loud and clear message is also sent across the border that we are fully equipped with the weapons of deterrence and are ready to give a befitting reply to them if they dare to carry out any misadventure. To show solidarity with us, our friends like China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, UAE and others, send in their military contingents in our parade. This parade is for us, the general public of Pakistan. It is therefore requested, not to question the need for this parade. It’s part of our tradition and according to me, should take place. Since our inception we have witnessed numerous thrilling aerial displays by our brave pilots without any major incident.

Whatever happened today is an accident and accidents do happen everywhere in the world. However in the final moments of the flight, when the aircraft went in a steep descent, the pilot had the chance to save himself. He delayed his ejection beyond the last safe set of conditions. He gave his life for two major reasons:

1. To save a high value asset (F-16 MLU-III)

2. To clear the populated area below

وَلاَ تَحْسَبَنَّ الَّذِينَ قُتِلُواْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللّهِ أَمْوَاتًا بَلْ أَحْيَاء عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ يُرْزَقُونَ

But do not think of those that have been slain in God’s cause a dead. Nay, they are alive!
[Surah Ali-’Imran, 3:169-172]

Today Pakistan has lost a brave son, a formidable leader and an air warrior. It is my request, not to politicize this topic nor make it a fodder for futile discussions.

Wing Commander Noman Akram had laid down his life in the line of duty. It is due to him and many others like him, that we sleep peacefully because they are awake, in order to protect us. It is therefore requested to pray for the departed soul.

Posted 11th March 2020


Mar 21, 2007
United States

Pakistan Air Force

A stunning act of daredevil brilliance was carved in the Sub-Continent’s military history wherein PAF, having established Air Superiority, went on to employ its C-130 Hercules transport aircraft for bombing missions on 16 September 1965 in support of ground forces. This was a totally unprecedented innovation which could have come only from a force absolutely confident of professional mastery and utmost courage of its air warriors.

Devoid of any self protection measures in the presence of heavy anti-aircraft artillery, meant nothing less than a one-way undertaking for the C-130 crew. However, the daring crew led by Air Cdre (Retd) Viqar Abidi – the navigator of C-130, accepted the challenge to penetrate right through the battle zone and reduce enemy armor to rubble of burning steel & debris.

The idea of converting the C-130 Hercules into a heavy bomber was first conceived by Gp Capt Eric Hall, commanding PAF Station Chaklala. This challenging yet innovative idea was accepted by the PAF higher command. The crew carried out trial-bombing runs at Jamrud range with remarkable success. As No 35 Wing was getting ready for the final assault, 6th Lancer of Pak Army, engaged with enemy in Chawinda sector, called up for an immediate Close Air Support.

On receiving this SOS message, PAF leadership decided to launch first ever live-bombing from the Hercules on 16 Sep 1965. The formidable Hercules, with full load of 28000 lbs, took off from Peshawar and reached the battle areas with pinpoint accuracy. At planned TOT, free falling bombs from Hercules started to roll down to create the torrential rain of TNT over the enemy armor, achieving its complete destruction.

Another Hercules bombing mission followed, on same day in the evening, to target enemy’s retreating Engineering Brigade close to Deg Nullah in Chawinda area. This time again the enemy trucks, troops and bridging equipment was reduced to debris. On 19th September C-130 struck & silenced enemy guns located at Manarwa area, creating panic and impairment in enemy files.
C-130 Hercules continued to inflict agonizing loss and panic to enemy till 22 September 1965. The bombing operations undertaken by C-130 Transport aircraft speak volumes of professional excellence and unabated valor of PAF air warriors.



Nov 18, 2015
United States
Air and Space Power Journal: Fall 2008 issue

Airpower Imbalance: Nuclear Pakistan’s Achilles’ heel

Air Commodore Tariq Mahmud Ashraf, Pakistan Air Force, Retired*

The overt nuclearization of India and Pakistan in May 1998 drastically altered the military landscape of South Asia. Military planners on both sides now had to grapple with the additional strategic doctrinal dilemmas and considerations of deterrence, first use of nuclear weapons, counterforce versus countervalue targeting, nuclear thresholds, and so forth.
Conventional imbalance in the military domain has been a constant, defining characteristic of South Asian defence dynamics ever since India and Pakistan achieved independence in 1947. Understandably, the greater size, population, and resources of India have enabled its military to stay ahead in conventional might, with Pakistan continuing to play the “catchup” game. Needless to say, apart from the resources available to them, the military potential of both countries has also been shaped significantly by what their respective superpower allies or other friendly countries have been willing to provide them in terms of military wherewithal.
One irrefutable legacy that the Indian and Pakistani militaries retained from the British colonials was their rigid adherence to and unshakeable belief in the somewhat outdated tenets of continental warfare. This led both countries to adopt army-centric military doctrines and resulted in the diversion of more resources towards their respective armies, to the neglect of their navies and air forces. This proved truer in the case of Pakistan, where the army has ruled the country for almost half of its total existence.
The chronic inferiority in the conventional military realm that Pakistan has continued to face led its army to a doctrine of “Strategic Defence and Tactical offence.” although Pakistan undoubtedly has remained militarily inferior to India, one must realize that Indian conventional military superiority has never reached a stage where one would categorize it as having a “decisive edge” over the Pakistani military. The truth of the indecisive nature of this conventional military imbalance was borne out by the indecisive stalemates that occurred during the wars of 1948 and 1965.
The situation that I have depicted in the preceding paragraphs remained valid until the conduct of nuclear tests by India and Pakistan in May 1998, an epochal event that drastically altered the South Asian military scene. First of all, one needs to understand the essential motivation that drove Pakistan and India to go nuclear. In my reckoning, Pakistan’s basic objective in its quest to acquire nuclear military capability has always been the desire to be able to counter India’s conventional superiority. India’s motivation involved, among other things, its desire to emerge as a regional/ global power, the need to balance china, and, of course, the wish to gain a decisive military advantage over Pakistan, which India had failed to achieve in the conventional realm. From this it flows that although Pakistan has designed its nuclear arsenal primarily to deter the launching of a conventional attack by India, India is likely to employ nuclear weapons for the projection of political power and to obviate the chances of any other country’s employing nuclear weapons against it. Elaborating on Pakistan’s nuclear posture, two commentators write that “nuclear weapons are perceived in Pakistan as an instrument to countervail a manifest conventional inferiority.” Explaining further, they describe how the Pakistani nuclear posture is strikingly similar to the north Atlantic Treaty organization (NATO) doctrine of extended deterrence during the cold War. This doctrine also made constant reference to the possible use of nuclear weapons to countervail conventional inferiority vis-à-vis the Warsaw Pact military forces; furthermore, it refused to issue any no-first-use declaration. In fact, NATO has not issued any such declaration to this day and remains ambiguous on this matter, just as Pakistan has opted to do.

In any military conflict between two nuclear armed adversaries such as India and Pakistan, one could safely conclude that the chances are much higher of the conventionally weaker country (Pakistan) opting to use nuclear weapons first. This is precisely why India has disavowed first use in its draft nuclear doctrine; Pakistan, however, continues to maintain a semblance of ambiguity regarding its first-use posture while simultaneously continuing to imply that such employment remains a possibility.

Since any future South Asian conflict would start in the conventional realm before escalating to nuclear dimensions, and because Pakistan is the more likely of the two adversaries to opt for the first use of nuclear weapons, it is vital for us to study the possible course of events that could make Pakistan move up the conflict-escalation ladder by opting to go nuclear. In my opinion, one could better describe this decision point—commonly referred to as the “nuclear threshold”—as the “nuclear-escalation threshold.”

Because of Pakistan’s continuing nuclear ambiguity, we have heard little discussion of such key issues as what its nuclear-escalation threshold actually means. One significant exception to the silence of the Pakistani leadership on this matter occurred when a group of Italian journalists interviewed Lt Gen Khalid Kidwai, the director general of Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division. In a marked departure from earlier statements and interviews, which ignored this vital subject, General Kidwai outlined the limits of Pakistan’s nuclear-escalation threshold:

It is well known that Pakistan does not have a “no first use Policy.” Pakistani nuclear weapons will be used, according to Gen. Kidwai, only “if the very existence of Pakistan as a state is at stake.” This has been detailed by Gen. Kidwai as follows:

“Nuclear weapons are aimed solely at India. In case that deterrence fails, they will be used if

India attacks Pakistan and conquers a large part of its territory (space threshold)

India destroys a large part either of its land or air forces (military threshold)

India proceeds to the economic strangling of Pakistan (economic strangling)

India pushes Pakistan into political destabilization or creates a large scale internal subversion in Pakistan (domestic destabilization)”3

Since domestic destabilization and economic strangulation are not relevant to the subject of this discussion, I will focus on the space and military thresholds. Regarding the territorial or space threshold, I have previously written the following:

In conventional terms, the occurrence of any of the following events could warrant Pakistan resorting to the nuclear option:

Penetration of Indian forces beyond a certain defined line or crossing of a river.

Imminent capture of an important Pakistani city like Lahore or Sialkot. . . .

Indian crossing of line of control . . .

To a level that it threatens Pakistan’s control over Azad Kashmir. 4

Although the denial of Pakistani territory to the Indian military would jointly fall into the domain of the Pakistan army and the Pakistan air Force (PAF), the former would bear primary responsibility for it, with the latter operating essentially in a supportive role.

At this stage, we would do well to conduct a brief comparative overview of the respective armies and air forces of India and Pakistan since these two military arms would play a major role in determining the outcome of any conventional war between those countries. Regarding the two armies, the Indian army has a better-than two-to-one advantage in personnel, armour, and artillery. it has always been an accepted fact amongst military strategists and practitioners that in order to ensure success, a land force on the offensive must have a three-to-one advantage in numbers over the defending force since the latter operates from well-dug-in and reinforced positions generally located in terrain very familiar to its personnel. The Indian army does not by itself possess this decisive advantage over the Pakistan army. If it were to operate jointly with the might of the Indian air Force (IAF), however, the balance does definitely tilt in favour of the Indians.

Salient comparative aspects of the IAF and PAF show that the former enjoys almost a 2.6:1 advantage in combat aircraft, purely in numerical terms (see table). 5 however, the IAF’s exclusive possession of beyond visual range (BVR) weapons and air-to-air refueling capability, as well as superiority in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), further accentuates its advantage. This edge would increase further once the IAF inducts the Phalcon airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) platforms that it has contracted to acquire from Israel. The PAF has been able to induct a few uavs but has still not finalized any plans for the induction of an AEW platform despite having evaluated the Swedish Erieye system. If one also factors into the equation the number of combat aircraft operated by the opposing navies, the disparity increases even further.


The IAF’s technological edge is also evidenced by the disproportionately large number of high-technology combat aircraft that it possesses vis-à-vis the PAF. 6 This qualitative advantage has shifted to the IAF because of its unrestricted access to Russian and Israeli technology while Pakistan has been denied any additional aviation assets other than a handful of upgraded F-16 aircraft from the United States. China, Pakistan’s main provider of military aircraft, does not currently produce any combat aircraft comparable to the Western high technology variety. Although this ratio might improve slightly after the initially ordered batch of 24 F-16c/D aircraft enters service (Pakistan has taken delivery of the first two aircraft), the IAF will again gain the edge with the induction of an additional 126 advanced combat aircraft that it is in the process of acquiring from the West. The most significant disparity lies in the number of high-technology combat platforms that the two air forces possess. Although the IAF has a 2.6:1 advantage in overall numbers, its advantage in high-tech aircraft exceeds a factor of 4.1:1, which will probably continue to grow as more Su-30 MKI aircraft and the additional 126 advanced combat aircraft join the IAF and enter operational service.

The IAF has a large fleet of transport aircraft that bestows significant military-airlift capability. Its advantage of over 10:1 in this area gives the IAF a strategic level of airlift capability, but one could best describe the PAF as having only modest airlift potential. Viewed from the perspective of the IAF’s substantially greater pool of trained manpower, India’s enormous air-transport potential adds significantly to the flexibility of operational mobility in terms of rapid deployment and redeployment.

The IAF possesses more than twice as many total aircraft as the PAF, as well as a 3.78:1 advantage in manpower. The freedom of being able to deploy operational assets at a greater number of operating locations is an obvious corollary of this edge. Having illustrated the gross imbalance that exists between the two air forces, I now move on to the implications that imbalance would have in any future conventional war between India and Pakistan.

To a great extent, modern land warfare depends upon establishing a favourable air situation over the battlefield, which entails the friendly air force’s fully supporting its own army while simultaneously preventing the adversary air force from interfering with its operations. The IAF-versus-PAF comparison indicates that the IAF is much more capable of achieving a favourable air situation over the area of the land battle, so it can contribute significantly to the success of an Indian land offensive. Moreover, the strong IAF, with its exclusive access to AEW aircraft and BVR missiles, could neutralize the PAF by mounting a concerted counterair-operations campaign against the latter. 7 adequate neutralization of the PAF would absolutely open the path to an Indian victory on the ground, and the offensive formations of the Indian army would be virtually unstoppable. This could well create a state of affairs, mentioned above, in which, as General Kidwai put it, “the very existence of Pakistan as a state is at stake.”

An analysis of the comparative strengths of the Indian and Pakistani militaries clearly identifies the air force as the weakest link in Pakistan’s military—especially when compared directly with the much more powerful and better equipped IAF. One must not underestimate the significance of this weakest link since the destruction of the PAF emerges as the quickest way to make Pakistan contemplate the undesirable escalatory step of turning a conventional, limited war into a nuclear holocaust.

This conclusion has lessons not only for Pakistan’s government but also for the major global powers. The Pakistani government must embark on a crash program to suitably reequip its air force, but the major global powers must also understand that enhancing the level of stability in South Asia requires that Pakistan’s nuclear escalation threshold be raised and not allowed to drop any further. As I have indicated, the means for doing so lie in strengthening this weakest link in Pakistan’s military chain.

As the Kargil conflict of 1999 demonstrated, the advent of nuclear weapons in South Asia has not rendered limited conventional wars in the region impossible. in fact, as Michael Krepon argues in his discussion of the stability-instability paradox, small-scale, limited conventional conflicts might even become more frequent in South asia.8 all international and regional measures aimed at promoting and achieving nuclear stability in South Asia must focus on ensuring that the nuclear-escalation threshold of the militarily weaker country— Pakistan—does not drop. consequently, the global community must remain alert to any weaknesses emerging in Pakistan’s conventional military wherewithal vis-à-vis India and address these immediately lest a limited conventional conflict in South Asia turn into a nuclear holocaust with terrifying consequences, not only for the region but also for the entire world.

In this context, one must concentrate specifically on the serious imbalance between the air forces of the two countries since the weak air force currently fielded by Pakistan might well prove to be its Achilles’ heel by becoming the prime reason for escalating a limited conflict to the nuclear dimension. Paradoxically, therefore, it appears to be in India’s national interest to downplay the increasing strength and potential of its air force so as to preclude a further lowering of Pakistan’s perceived nuclear-escalation threshold.


Mar 21, 2007
United States

After two days of intense aerial operations, both the air forces suffered from attrition. However, the IAF maintained a diverse fleet of French, British and Russian origin. Being reliable suppliers these aircraft were not prone to any sanctions, unlike US which slapped both the countries with an arms embargo. This was a typical American farce since it squarely denuded Pakistan's Military capacity dependent wholly upon US supplies. Thus IAF enjoyed an uninterrupted supply of attrition replacements, spares and plenty of aircraft in reserves which could be pressed into action if required. The PAF was entirely built around US supplied equipment, and with sanctions looming overhead at that time, things could turn out to be problematic for a longer duration of war.

As per June Plan, PAF was to halt all daylight strikes against the enemy after the initial 48 hours of the conflict and engage the enemy in air.

However PAF C-in-C did not follow this plan owing to loss of Rafiqui and Yunus. It was bravado based in Sargodha giving contrived figure of 7 Hunters shot down on 6th September, against actually 2 shot down and 1 forced into the ground.

There were exceptions when No. 19 Squadron attacked Srinagar twice followed by a successful attack against Jammu Radar. Similarly the Sabres of No. 14 Squadron attacked Kalikunda, Baghdogra and Barrackpore.

However a bulk of its resources were committed for Close Air Support, Interdiction, Fighter Sweep and Strike Missions against enemy valuable assets.


The Amritsar radar was heavily defended by light and medium AAA. In any eventuality of an attack, interceptors from the nearby airfields of Pathankot, Adampur and Halwara could also be scrambled. The general location of the radar was known, but the exact location could not be pinpointed without the help of the ELINIT RB-57F aircraft.

PAF had no practice (using ELINT RB-57s) of carrying out attacks against such high value, highly defended targets. The strategy to attack the radar was devised on ad hoc bases, in which a specialized ELINT RB-57Bs of No. 24 Squadron would try to locate the position of the radar, and would direct the F-86s Sabres to the target. However this strategy failed due to lack of practice before the war and was highly felt on the evening of 6th September 1965, when two formations of PAF Sabres, comprising four aircraft each, on two different occasions, were unable to carry out an attack against this radar. According to Fricker, “After the first abortive missions against Amritsar on 6 September, recounted earlier, in which one ELINT RB-57B had its radar antenna drive sheared close to the target, and the second had one engine knocked out by Indian AA fire, the next move came on 7 September when attempts were made to locate ‘Alfa’ radar by photographic reconnaissance. Lockheed RT-33s of No. 20 Squadron were initially used for this task, operating unescorted at low level, and their results were sufficiently accurate for the site of ‘Fishoil’ – the call sign of Amritsar radar – to be pinpointed.”

After careful re-evaluation of its strategy, PAF decided to attack the radar again on 9th September. On the afternoon Squadron Leader Muhammad Iqbal, OC No. 24 Squadron took off from Peshawar with the mission to locate the enemy radar and then direct the PAF fighter strike to destroy it. He flew at high level and reached the target with no difficulty. While he was overhead the Amritsar radar, his aircraft came under heavy AAA fire. The right wing of his RB-57B was severely damaged along with the right engine which flamed out. However, he remained calm and skillfully piloted his stricken aircraft back for Peshawar. While returning, he directed the fighter strike formation to attack Amritsar radar; however, considerable results were not achieved. On return from the mission, he did not seem to be satisfied with the results and decided to make one more attempt.

On 10th September 1965, he planned to make some practice approaches on Rahwali Radar at Gujranwala, to refine the procedure of his newly assigned role of pathfinding before launching yet another assault on the Amritsar radar. He along with his most reliable and proficient navigator, Flight Lieutenant Saifullah Lodhi, took off from Peshawar and headed for their target. The gallant crew flew initially at high level and then descended to low level as they approached Rahwali radar.

However, due to lack of coordination, while the Radar Station was expecting them, the AAA gunners at Rahwali were not aware of the practice attacks. They panicked and took their own RB-57 aircraft for an enemy Canberra (British version of B-57), which looked the same. In this utter confusion, the gunners opened fire. Squadron Leader Iqbal tried to make desperate attempts to avoid the heavy AAA fire but failed. The aircraft was hit and was severely damage. Squadron Leader Iqbal ejected but was still fired upon and received a fatal bullet hit during parachute descent. His navigator who was glued to his radarscope was monitoring the behavior of received transmissions in the rear cockpit that was covered with curtain to darken the scope. He had no chance and went down with the aircraft. Luckily, the aircraft did not catch fire and after crash, his body was retrieved. The martyrs’ bodies were brought by helicopter to their home base at Peshawar. The great warrior, humble soul, and outstanding officers were given the hero’s farewell at their funeral. They were later buried with full military honors in the presence of thousands of mourners. Both were awarded well deserved Sitara-e-Jurat posthumously. A very tragic loss of invaluable lives of pilot and navigator along with a specialized RB-57 aircraft and an incident that could be avoided through timely liaison with Air Force and Army AAA regiment.

Jolted by this loss, PAF nonetheless carried out its strike against the radar. Explaining the mission, Fricker narrates, “On 10 September, the PAF followed up with a further 2 missions against Amritsar radar by a total of 12 F-86s from Sargodha, escorted by 2 F-104s as top cover. For these attacks, first by 4 F-86s escorted by two F-104s, followed by another 4 F-86s with 4 more as top cover, primary armament comprised 2.75 in rockets, but it was soon found that the dust, smoke and debris from delivery of the first aircraft's weapons restricted visibility to such an extent that it was impossible for subsequent pilots to achieve an accurate aim. Slight damage was caused to some parts of the installation but unfortunately for the PAF, 'Fishoil' was soon back on the air. At least the location of site Alfa was now known, and the Sabres at Sargodha were detailed for yet another strike against Amritsar on 11 September. Having tried and rejected napalm and rockets, the Sabres this time were to use only their 0.5in machine guns against the radar installation, for optimum accuracy and adequate striking power. The use of bombs at this stage was vetoed by the C-in-C, since the radar site was very close to the town of Amritsar, with the possibility of civilian damage and casualties.”

For the attack of 11th September, four Sabres plus a top cover of two F-104s, were to be led by Wing Commander Muhammad Anwar Shamim, with Flight Lieutenant Bhatti as his No. 3 and Flight Lieutenant Cecil Chaudhary has his No. 4. Enquiries as to the whereabouts of the Wing Leader’s No. 2 were answered by Squadron Leader Munir, who announced that Flight Lieutenant Siraj had been kind enough to stand down so that the Op Officer could come along in his place.

Squadron Leader Muniruddin Ahmed, known as ‘Bha Munir’ throughout the PAF, was one of the most popular officers. At the age of 36 in 1965, overweight, grey-haired and completely happy-go-lucky, he was regarded as an elderly gent by the youthful PAF pilots, but he set a pace which even the most energetic found difficult to rival. He was posted at Sargodha as the Wing Operations Officer during the 1965 War. He was not required to fly in combat and in any case his many administrative duties would have grounded a less volatile man. But after his family, his great passion was flying, and he managed to inveigle his way into combat missions at least once, and sometimes twice, per day. He flew on air defense, fighter sweeps and close support missions, but conceived a particular fixation against the IAF Master Radar Station just across the border from Lahore at Amritsar. So intense were his feelings about trying to knock out this major installations, that it became better known as Sargodha as ‘Munir’s Radar’.

Covering the details of the mission Fricker states, "Despite poor visibility from the usual dust haze, Flight Lieutenant Bhatti, who was responsible for the navigation of this mission, brought the four Sabres out at low level precisely on track to Amritsar. Some help in identifying the target was in fact received from the Indian AA fire, which began even before the Sabres started their pull-up to attack. As planned, Flight Lieutenants Bhatti and Chaudhary began climbing to about 7,000 ft. as top cover and to draw some of the AA fire, while the two F-104s orbited even higher to prevent interference from IAF fighters.

As the first pair of Sabres started their climb, Flight Lieutenant Bhatti called on the RT, ‘Target at 3 o’clock,’ and Wing Commander Shamim replied, 'Lead and No. 2 pulling up.’ By this time, the target area was a veritable inferno of light and medium flak and within a few seconds there came another RT call, ‘Two is hit’. Flight Lieutenant Bhatti, when later describing the mission, reported: ‘No. 2, of course was Munir, but his voice on the RT was calm and unhurried. As I looked down, however, I saw three balls of flame tumbling through the air where his Sabre had already exploded. He must have taken a direct hit from a heavy AA shell and never had the chance to eject. The flaming wreckage fell on the eastern outskirts of Amritsar town, and ‘Munir’ was reported that evening by the Indians to have been found dead among the debris.’

Undeterred by the loss of ‘Munir’ and the continuing storm of flak, Wing Commander Shamim completed his strafing attack, firing long bursts into the radar aerials with his 0.5 in machine-guns. Bhatti called up and said, ‘How about me having a go,’ and the remaining two Sabres then came in to expend most of their ammunition on the radar installation before exiting, still at low level. Munir’s loss on his ninth combat mission of the war was deeply felt at Sargodha and throughout the PAF, among whom he is remembered as ‘professional to the end’, but his courage and inspiration were recognized by the posthumous award of Sitara-e-Jurat.”

Contrary to many PAF Historians, Fishoil Radar did not go off the air; however it remained intermittent for some time afterwards. The strike was still assessed as indecisive, however, by the PAF Air HQ, where it was concluded that bombing was the only effective means of doing serious and more permanent damage to the enemy radar sites, despite the element of risk to adjacent civilian property in Amritsar cantonment.

However, whoever was behind the planning that 'the radar had to be attacked by guns only and not by bombs' was responsible for the loss of Munir, as the radar was to be bombed on day one.

The loss of Squadron Leader Munir didn’t deter the PAF to attack the radar again. Explaining the final mission, Fricker narrates, “On 12 September, with an escort of 4 F-86s led by Flight Lieutenant Bhatti, and 2 F-104s from Sargodha flying top cover, the vulnerability of the 4 B-57 Bombers to effective enemy interception was considered acceptable, especially since the target was only just inside Indian Territory. As an additional precaution the TOT was fixed at dusk, with a rendezvous time of 1715 hours over Bhagatanwala for the 10 aircraft involved. On this occasion the attack went completely to plan. After a low level approach from Pakistan, the B-57 formation, led by Wing Commander Bill Latif pulled up to their briefed attack height of around 7,000 ft, above the reach of light flak, to dive bomb the target. Each B-57 delivered its full load of bombs in the target area, and all the PAF aircraft returned safely, despite heavy AAA fire. This time 'Fishoil' really did go off the air, as a result of the heavy damage caused by 28,000 lbs. of bombs, and photographic reconnaissance of the target the next day revealed that the site had been vacated.”

The fact was that Fishoil was partially damaged in the B-57 attack, but was never completely destroyed. Since the position of the radar was compromised, and with the severity of attacks being increased in each mission, the Indians had no other choice but to vacate the site. This brought an end to the radar busting operations at Amritsar but at a cost of three valuable officers and two irreplaceable aircraft. Although they were destined to leave us for the heavenly abode, these losses were avoidable (in the case for the RB-57B, the loss was due to 'lack of coordination' and in case of Squadron Leader Munir, 'lack of leadership' from the leader of Amritsar Strike Element). To rub salt in the wound, Fishoil was back on air after its site was relocated within the premises of Amritsar.

Although I have nothing against any specific officer (since this is an impartial analysis), a valid question pops up in a professional as well as in a researcher’s mind about the leadership of O.C. Flying Sargodha, albeit Munir’s leader. After going through various narratives from various books including Story of PAF Heroes, Battle for Pakistan, PAF History 1988, and after detailed discussion with war veterans it seems that Munir’s Formation Leader’s combat leadership during the war was questionable, and his performance seemed to have been obscured for reason best known to his Station Commander. By all air power and military covenants the prime responsibility of a Leader is to lead his men to assigned target with accuracy, precision and always leading from the front. The privilege of leading a four, eight or sixteen aircraft formation, it’s the prime and inescapable responsibility, as well as pride and test of the Leader to lead his formation through the tactically best way points; to arrive at the target making good TOT and placement of formation for a swift deadly attack, unchallenged by the enemy interceptors.

However, in this case, Fricker and especially the highly revered author of PAF Story 1988 who was former Station Commander during 1965 war have categorically mentioned without any compunction that the mission leader had given the responsibility of navigation to his No. 3, Flight Lieutenant Bhatti. I had placed this question in front of many war veterans, as well as currently serving fighter pilots, that seeking their candid opinion whether is it is the duty for the leader to carry out the navigation, and equally vital to lead in the attack, or it can be his discretion who to assign navigation and which member to lead the attack. The answer I received was firm, crisp and to the point i.e. it is the leader’s first and foremost responsibility to lead his formation to the assigned targets through the pre-defined waypoints. Thus it can be concluded in all fairness that either the leader didn’t considered himself capable enough to navigate the mission, or that the leader had lost his bearings and requested his No. 3 to carry out the navigation. Both these assumptions could be the case, without any intent to denigrate the person.

Ominously, as assimilated from the narrative in the very first rendition of the war episodes in ‘The Story of PAF Heroes’ and from Fricker’s narrative that when the Leader pulled up with his No. 2 over the target, he appeared to have let his No. 2 to go in first sending him to take the heavy flack. That’s what Munir apparently did as a gallant pilot. By all established universal conventions in tactical employment it is the Leader's job to show his formation members the best attack profile, but in this case the Leader seem to have decided to stay behind his No. 2 instead of leading the attack. The Indian AA gunners focused their attack on the first attacking Sabre which dove in for attack and that was No. 2, who was instantly shot down.

The lessons learned from these missions is that one must prepare rigorously during peacetime for such missions, so that when war comes, one should know what to do, when to do and where to do. And that we might not loose valuable pilots like Squadron Leader Munir, Squadron Leader Iqbal and Flight Lieutenant Saifullah Lodhi, to such ad hoc decisions in the future.

As a student of aviation history, U would unhesitatingly commend the courage and performance of Squadron Leader Munir, who stuck around with his leader and obeyed his orders, disregarding his personal safety. Squadron Leader Munir’s valor was reflected by the fact that he dived down in the inferno of AAA without any hint of hesitation or reluctance. Along with Squadron Leader Iqbal and Flight Lieutenant Lodhi, he laid down his life in the line of duty, setting up the standards for valor and supreme sacrifice, which serve as a valuable lesson for the future generations to come about combat leadership.


Mar 21, 2007
United States
Professionalism of PAF Pilot Group Captain Azman Khaleel & The Glorious PAC Kamra

In 2014 Pakistan launched “Operation Zarb-E-Azb” against various terrorist organizations including TTP, Al-Qaeda & Haqqani Network. Zarb-E-Azb was a joint military action conducted by Pakistan Military.

On 22nd July 2014 at about 8pm two PAF pilots Group Captain Azman Khaleel & Squadron Leader Asim took off in an F-16B Block-15 (Serial No. 82602) from PAF Base Mushaf to conduct an airstrike on terrorist hideout. Upon reaching the target pilot dropped a JDAM bomb on terrorist hideout but due to some technical problem the bomb immediately exploded & caused extensive damage to the jet.

F-16 went out of control & started spin maneuver. Group Captain Azman Khaleel immediately took the control of the jet & took corrective measures & was able to stabilize the jet.

Since aircraft was badly damaged (hydraulic & fuel leakage) it cannot return to PAF Base Mushaf. So, both pilots decided to take the jet to nearest airfield PAF Base M.M. Alam. Upon reaching PAF Base M.M. Alam Group Captain Azman Khaleel tried to land F-16 but during landing he realized that F-16’s Jet Throttle System (JTS) has failed & the aircraft is not slowing down.

To solve this problem, he took off again & requested Air Traffic Controller (ATC) to arrange “Aircraft Arresting Barriers”. After that he made a second attempt & was able to successfully land the damaged F-16 with the help of aircraft arresting barriers.

Group Captain Azman Khaleel was awarded with Tamgha-I-Basalat for showing valor & extreme professionalism.

Later engineers at PAC Kamra refitted & repaired the damaged F-16 & now a days F-16B Block-15 EMLU-III (Serial No. 82602) is in service with PAF.

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