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PAF Role in Kargil War by PAF Officer

Discussion in 'Indian Defence Forum' started by Agnostic_Indian, Oct 11, 2012.

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  1. Agnostic_Indian

    Agnostic_Indian SENIOR MEMBER

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    THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 2012

    PAF Role in Kargil War by PAF Officer

    Pakistani writings on Kargil conflict have been few and, those that have come out were largely irrelevant and in a few cases, clearly sponsored. The role of the PAF has been discussed off and on, but mostly disparagingly, particularly in some uninformed quarters. Here is an airman’s perspective, focusing on the IAF’s air operations and the PAF’s position.Operational Planning in the PAFSince an important portion of this write-up pertains to the PAF’s appreciation of the situation and the decision-making loop during the Kargil conflict, we will start with a brief primer on PAF’s hierarchy and how operational matters are handled at the Air Headquarters.The policy-making elements at Air Headquarters consist of four-tiers of staff officers. The top-most tier is made up of the Deputy Chiefs of Air Staff (DCAS) who are the Principal Staff Officers (PSOs) of their respective branches and are nominally headed by the Vice Chief of Air Staff (VCAS). They (along with Air Officers Commanding, the senior representatives from field formations) are members of the Air Board, PAF’s ‘corporate’ decision-making body which is chaired by the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS). The next tier is made up of Assistant Chiefs of Air Staff (ACAS) who head various sub-branches and, along with the third-tier Directors, assist the PSOs in policy-making; they are not on the Air Board, but can be called for hearings and presentations in the Board meetings, as required. A fourth tier of Deputy Directors does most of the sundry staff work in this policy-making hierarchy.The Operations & Plans branch is the key player in any war, conflict or contingency and is responsible for threat assessment and formulation of a suitable response. During peace-time, war plans are drawn up by the Plans sub-branch and are then war-gamed in operational exercises run by the sister Operations sub-branch. Operational training is accordingly restructured and administered by the latter, based on the lessons of various exercises. This essentially is the gist of PAF’s operational preparedness methodology, the efficiency of which is amply reflected in its readiness and telling response in various wars and skirmishes in the past.In early 1999, Air Chief Marshal Parvaiz Mehdi Qureshi was at the helm of the PAF. An officer with an imposing personality, he had won the Sword of Honour at the Academy. During the 1971 Indo-Pak War, as a young Flight Lieutenant, he was on a close support mission in erstwhile East Pakistan when his Sabre was shot down and he was taken POW. He determinedly resumed his fighter pilot’s career after repatriation and rose to command PAF’s premier Sargodha Base. He was later appointed as the AOC, Southern Air Command, an appointment that affords considerable interaction amongst the three services, especially in operational exercises. He also held the vitally important post of DCAS (Ops) as well as the VCAS before taking over as CAS.The post of DCAS (Ops) was held by the late Air Marshal Zahid Anis. A well-qualified fighter pilot, he had a distinguished career in the PAF, having held some of the most sought-after appointments. These included command of No 38 Tactical Wing (F-16s), the elite Combat Commanders’ School and PAF Base, Sargodha. He was the AOC, Southern Air Command before his appointment as the head of the Operations branch at the Air Headquarters. He had done his Air War Course at the PAF’s Air War College, another War Course at the French War College as well as the prestigious course at the Royal College of Defence Studies in UK.The ACAS (Ops) was Air Cdre Abid Rao, who had recently completed command of PAF Base, Mianwali. He had earlier done his War Course from the French War College.*The ACAS (Plans) was the late Air Cdre Saleem Nawaz, a brilliant officer who had made his mark at the Staff College at Bracknell, UK and during the War Course at the National Defence College, Islamabad.There is no gainsaying the fact that PAF’s hierarchy was highly qualified and that each one of the players in the Operations branch had the requisite command and staff experience. The two top men had also fought in the 1971 Indo-Pak War, albeit as junior officers.*First RumblingsAs Director of Operations (in the rank of Gp Capt), my first opportunity to interact with the Army’s Director of Military Operations (DMO) was over a phone call, some time in March 1999. Brig Nadeem Ahmed called with great courtesy and requested some information that he needed for a paper exercise, as he told me. He wanted to know when had the PAF last carried out a deployment at Skardu, how many aircraft were deployed, etc. Rather impressed with the Army’s interest in PAF matters, I passed on the requisite details. The next day, Brig Nadeem called again, but this time his questions were more probing and he wanted some classified information including fuel storage capacity at Skardu, fighter sortie-generation capacity, radar coverage, etc. He insisted that he was preparing a briefing and wanted to get his facts and figures right, in front of his bosses. We got on a secure line and I passed on the required information. Although he made it sound like routine contingency planning, I sensed that something unusual was brewing. In the event, I thought it prudent to inform the DCAS (Ops). Just to be sure, he checked up with his counterpart, the Director General Military Operations (DGMO), Maj Gen Tauqir Zia, who said the same thing as his DMO and, assured that it was just part of routine contingency planning.After hearing Gp Capt Tariq’s report, Air Marshal Zahid again got in touch with Maj Gen Tauqir and, in a roundabout way, told him that if the Army’s ongoing ‘review of contingency plans’ required the PAF to be factored in, an Operations & Plans team would be available for discussion. Nothing was heard from the GHQ till 12 May, when Air Marshal Zahid was told to send a team for a briefing at HQ 10 Corps with regard to the ‘Kashmir Contingency’.Air Cdre Abid Rao, Air Cdre Saleem Nawaz and myself were directed by the DCAS (Ops) to attend a briefing on the ‘latest situation in Kashmir’ at HQ 10 Corps. We were welcomed by the Chief of Staff (COS) of the Corps, who led us to the briefing room. Shortly thereafter, the Corps Commander, Lt Gen Mehmud Ahmad entered, cutting an impressive figure clad in a bush-coat and his trademark camouflage scarf. After exchanging pleasantries, the COS started with the map orientation briefing. Thereafter, Lt Gen Mehmud took over and broke the news that a limited operation had started two days earlier. It was nothing more than a ‘protective manoeuvre’, he explained, and was meant to foreclose any further mischief by the enemy, who had been a nuisance in the Neelum Valley, specially on the road on our side of the Line of Control (LOC). He then elaborated that a few vacant Indian posts had been occupied on peaks across the LOC, overlooking the Dras-Kargil Road. These would, in effect, serve the purpose of Airborne Observation Posts (AOP) meant for directing artillery fire with accuracy. Artillery firepower would be provided by a couple of field guns that had been heli-lifted to the heights, piecemeal, and re-assembled over the previous few months when the Indians had been off-guard during the winter extremes. The target was a vulnerable section of Dras-Kargil Road, whose blocking would virtually cut off the crucial life-line which carried the bulk of supplies needed for daily consumption as well as annual winter-stocking in Leh-Siachen Sector. He was very hopeful that this stratagem could choke off the Indians in the vital sector for up to a month, after which the monsoons would prevent vehicular movement (due to landslides) and, also suspend all airlift by the IAF. “Come October, we shall walk in to Siachen – to mop up the dead bodies of hundreds of Indians left hungry, out in the cold,” he succinctly summed up what appeared to be a new dimen
     
  2. Agnostic_Indian

    Agnostic_Indian SENIOR MEMBER

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    Air Cdre Abid Rao, Air Cdre Saleem Nawaz and myself were directed by the DCAS (Ops) to attend a briefing on the ‘latest situation in Kashmir’ at HQ 10 Corps. We were welcomed by the Chief of Staff (COS) of the Corps, who led us to the briefing room. Shortly thereafter, the Corps Commander, Lt Gen Mehmud Ahmad entered, cutting an impressive figure clad in a bush-coat and his trademark camouflage scarf. After exchanging pleasantries, the COS started with the map orientation briefing. Thereafter, Lt Gen Mehmud took over and broke the news that a limited operation had started two days earlier. It was nothing more than a ‘protective manoeuvre’, he explained, and was meant to foreclose any further mischief by the enemy, who had been a nuisance in the Neelum Valley, specially on the road on our side of the Line of Control (LOC). He then elaborated that a few vacant Indian posts had been occupied on peaks across the LOC, overlooking the Dras-Kargil Road. These would, in effect, serve the purpose of Airborne Observation Posts (AOP) meant for directing artillery fire with accuracy. Artillery firepower would be provided by a couple of field guns that had been heli-lifted to the heights, piecemeal, and re-assembled over the previous few months when the Indians had been off-guard during the winter extremes. The target was a vulnerable section of Dras-Kargil Road, whose blocking would virtually cut off the crucial life-line which carried the bulk of supplies needed for daily consumption as well as annual winter-stocking in Leh-Siachen Sector. He was very hopeful that this stratagem could choke off the Indians in the vital sector for up to a month, after which the monsoons would prevent vehicular movement (due to landslides) and, also suspend all airlift by the IAF. “Come October, we shall walk in to Siachen – to mop up the dead bodies of hundreds of Indians left hungry, out in the cold,” he succinctly summed up what appeared to be a new dimension to the Siachen dispute. It also seemed to serve, at least for the time being, the secondary aim of alleviating Indian military pressure on Pakistani lines of communications in the Neelum Valley that the Corps Commander had alluded to in his opening remarks. (The oft-heard strategic aim of ‘providing a fillip to the insurgency in Kashmir’ was never mentioned.)When Lt Gen Mehmud asked for questions at the end of the rather crisp and to-the-point briefing, Air Cdre Saleem Nawaz opened up by inquiring about the type of air support that might be needed for the operation. Lt Gen Mehmud assured us that air support was not envisaged and that his forces could take care of enemy aircraft, if they intervened. “I have Stingers on every peak,” he announced. Air Cdre Saleem tried to point out the limited envelope of these types of missiles and said that nothing stopped the IAF from attacking the posts and artillery pieces from high altitude. To this, Lt Gen Mehmud’s reply was that his troops were well camouflaged and concealed and, that IAF pilots would not be able to pick out the posts from the air. As the discussion became more animated, I asked the Corps Commander if he was sure the Indians would not use their artillery to vacate our incursion, given the criticality of the situation from their standpoint. He replied that the Dras-Kargil stretch did not allow for positioning of the hundreds of guns that would be required, due to lack of depth; in any case, it would be suicidal for the Indians to denude artillery firepower from any other sector as defensive balance had to be maintained. He gave the example of the Kathua-Jammu Sector where the Indians had a compulsion to keep the bulk of their modern Bofors guns due to the vital road link’s vulnerability to our offensive elements.*It seemed from the Corps Commander’s smug appreciation of the situation that the Indians had been tightly straitjacketed in Dras-Kargil Sector and had no option but to submit to our operational design. More significantly, an alternate action like a strategic riposte by the Indians in another sector had been rendered out of question, given the nuclear environment. Whether resort to an exterior manoeuvre (diplomatic offensive) by the beleaguered Indians had crossed the planners’ minds, it was not discernable in the Corps Commander’s elucidation.*Perhaps it was the incredulousness of the whole thing that led Air Cdre Abid Rao to famously quip, “After this operation, it’s going to be either a Court Martial or Martial Law!” as we walked out of the briefing room.Back at the Air Headquarters, we briefed the DCAS(Ops) about what had transpired at the 10 Corps briefing. His surprise at the developments, as well as his concern about the possibility of events spiralling out of control, could not remain concealed behind his otherwise unflappable demeanour. We all were also piqued at being left out of the Army’s planning, though we were given to believe that it was a ‘limited tactical action’ in which the PAF would not be required – an issue that none of us agreed with. Presented with a fait accompli, we decided not to lose any more time and, while the DCAS (Ops) went to brief the CAS about the situation, we set about gearing up for a hectic routine. The operations room was quickly updated with the latest large-scale maps and air recce photos of the area; communications links with concerned agencies were also revamped in a short time. Deployment orders were issued and, within the next 48 hours, the bulk of combat elements were in-situ at their war locations.IAF – By Fits & StartsThe IAF deployments in Kashmir, for what came to be known as ‘Operation Safedsagar’, commenced on 15 May with the bulk of operational assets positioned by 18 May. 150 combat aircraft were deployed as follows:> Srinagar - 34 (MiG-21, MiG23, MiG-27)*> Awantipur - 28 (MiG-21, MiG29, Jaguar)*> Udhampur - 12 (MiG-21)*> Pathankot - 30 (MiG-21, MiG-23)*> Adampur - 46 (Mir-2000, MiG-29, Jaguar)One-third of the aircraft were modern, ‘high-threat’ fighters equipped with Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air-to-air missiles. During the preparatory stage, air defence alert status (5 minutes to scramble from ground) was maintained while Mirage-2000s and Jaguars carried out photo-reconnaissance along the Line of Control (LOC) and aging Canberras carried out electronic intelligence (ELINT) to ferret out locations of PAF air defence sensors. Last minute honing of strafing and rocketing skills was carried out by pilots at an air-to-ground firing range near Leh.Operations by IAF started in earnest on 26 May, a full 16 days after commencement of Pakistani infiltration across the LOC. The salient feature of this initial phase was strafing and rocketing of the intruders’ positions by MiG-21, MiG-23BN and MiG-27. All operations (except air defence) came to a sudden standstill on 28 May, after two IAF fighters and a helicopter were lost – a MiG-21 and a Mi-17 to Pak Army surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), while a MiG-27 went down due to engine trouble caused by gun gas ingestion during high altitude strafing. (Incidentally, the pilot of the MiG-27 Flt Lt Nachiketa, who ejected and was apprehended, had a tête-à-tête with this author during an interesting ‘interrogation’ session.)The results achieved by the IAF in the first two days were dismal. Serious restraints seem to have been imposed on the freedom of action of IAF fighters in what was basically a search-and-destroy mission. Lt Gen Mehmud’s rant about a ‘Stinger on every peak’ seemed true. It was obvious that the IAF had under-estimated the SAM threat. The mood in Pak Army circles was that of undiluted elation, and the PAF was expected to sit it out while sharing the khakis’ glee.*The IAF immediately went into a reappraisal mode and came out with GPS-assisted high altitude bombing by MiG-21, MiG-23BN and MiG-27 as a makeshift solution. In the meantime, quick modification on the Mirage-2000 for day/night laser bombing kits (Litening pods) was initiated with the help of Israel

    F-16 CAPs could not have been flown all day long as spares support was limited under the prevailing US sanctions. Random CAPs were resorted to, with a noticeable drop in border violations only as long as the F-16s were on station. There were a few cases of F-16s and Mirage-2000s locking their adversaries with the on-board radars but caution usually prevailed and no close encounters took place. After one week of CAPs, the F-16 maintenance personnel indicated that war reserve spares were being eaten into and that the activity had to be ‘rationalised’, a euphemism for discontinuing it altogether. That an impending war occupied the Air Staff’s minds was evident in the decision by the DCAS (Ops) for F-16 CAPs to be discontinued, unless IAF activity became unbearably provocative or threatening.*Those not aware of the gravity of the F-16 operability problem under sanctions have complained of the PAF’s lack of cooperation. Suffice it to say that if the PAF had been included in the initial planning, this anomaly (along with many others) would have emerged as a mitigating factor against the Kargil adventure. It is another matter that the Army high command did not envisage operations ever coming to such a pass. Now, it was almost as if the PAF was to blame for the Kargil venture spiralling out of control.It also must be noted too that other than F-16s, the PAF did not have a capable enough fighter for patrolling, as the minimum requirement in this scenario was an on-board airborne intercept radar, exceptional agility and sufficient staying power. F-7s had reasonably good manoeuvrability but lacked an intercept radar as well as endurance, while the ground attack Mirage-III/5s and A-5s were sitting ducks for the air combat mission.In sum, the PAF found it expedient not to worry too much about minor border violations and instead, conserve resources for the larger conflagration that was looming. All the same, it gave the enemy no pretext for for retaliation in the face of any provocation, though this latter stance irked some quarters in the Army that were desperate to ‘equal the match’. Might it strike to some that PAF’s restraint in warding off a major conflagration may have been its paramount contribution to the Kargil conflict?*AftermathIt has emerged that the principal protagonists of the Kargil adventure were the Chief of Army Staff (COAS): General Pervez Musharraf, Commander 10 Corps: Lt Gen Mehmud Ahmed and Commander Force Command Northern Areas (FCNA): Maj Gen Javed Hasan. The trio, in previous ranks and appointments, had been associated with planning during paper exercises on how to wrest control of lost territory in Siachen. The plans were not acceptable to the then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, to whom the options had been put up for review more than once. She was well-versed in international affairs and, all too intelligent to be taken in by the chicanery. It fell to the wisdom of her successor, Mr Nawaz Sharif, to approve the Army trio’s self-serving presentation.*In an effort to keep the plan secret, which was thought to be the key to its successful initiation, the Army trio took no one into confidence, neither its operational commanders nor the heads of the other services. This, regrettably, resulted in a closed-loop thought process which engendered a string of oversights and failures:Failure to grasp the wider military and diplomatic ramifications of a limited tactical operation that had the potential of creating strategic effects.*Failure to correctly visualise the response of a powerful enemy to what was, in effect, a major blow in a disputed sector.Failure to spell out the specific aim to field commanders, who acted on their own to needlessly ‘capture’ territory and expand the scope of the operation to unmanageable levels.*Failure to appreciate the inability of the Army officers to evaluate the capabilities and limitations of an Air Force.Failure to coordinate contingency plans at the tri-services level.The flaws in the Kargil Plan that led to these failures were almost palpable and, could not have escaped even a layman’s attention during a cursory examination. The question arises as to why all the planners got blinded to the obvious? Could it be that some of the sub-ordinates had the sight but not the nerve in the face of a powerful superior? In hierarchical organisations, there is precious little room for dissent, but in autocratic ones like the military, it takes more than a spine to disagree, for there are very few commanders who are large enough to allow such liberties. It is out of fear of annoying the superior – which also carries with it manifold penalties and loss of promotion and perks – that the majority decide to go along with the wind.*In a country where democratic traditions have never been deep-rooted, it is no big exposé to point out that the military is steeped in an authoritarian, rather than a consensual approach. To my mind, there is an urgent need to inculcate a more liberal culture that accommodates different points of view – a more lateral approach, so to speak. Disagreement during planning should be systemically tolerated and, not taken as a personal affront. Unfortunately, many in higher ranks seem to think that rank alone confers wisdom and, anyone displaying signs of intelligence at an earlier stage is, somehow, an alien in their ‘star-spangled’ universe.Kargil, I suspect, like the ‘65 and ‘71 Wars, was a case of not having enough dissenters (‘devil’s advocates’, if you will) during planning, because everyone wanted to agree with the boss. That single reason, I think, was the root cause of most of the failures that were apparent right from the beginning. If this point is understood well, remedial measures towards tolerance and liberalism can follow as a matter of course. Such an organisational milieu, based on honest appraisal and fearless appeal, would be conducive to sound and sensible planning. It would also go a long way in precluding Kargil-like disasters.TailpieceCome change-over time of the Chief of Air Staff in 2001, President Musharraf struck at PAF’s top leadership in what can only be described as implacable action: he passed over all five Air Marshals and appointed the sixth-in-line who was practically an Air Vice Marshal till a few weeks before. While disregarding of seniority in the appointment of service chiefs has historically been endemic in the country, the practice has been seen as breeding nepotism and partiality, besides leaving a trail of conjecture and gossip in the ranks. Given Air Chief Marshal Mehdi’s rather straight-faced and forthright dealings with a somewhat junior General Musharraf particularly during Kargil conflict, there is good reason to believe that the latter decided to appoint a not-very-senior Air Chief whom he could order around like one of his Corps Commanders. (As it turned out, Air Chief Marshal Mus’haf was as solid as his predecessor and gave no quarter when it came to PAF’s interests.) Whatever the reason of bypassing seniority, it was unfortunate that PAF’s precious corporate experience was thrown out so crassly and several careers destroyed. Lives and honour lost in Kargil is another matter.*
     
  3. Agnostic_Indian

    Agnostic_Indian SENIOR MEMBER

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  4. Terminator

    Terminator FULL MEMBER

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    "quick modification on the Mirage-2000 for day/night laser bombing kits (Litening pods) was initiated with the help of Israel"

    This line really snatched my attention..
     
  5. Agnostic_Indian

    Agnostic_Indian SENIOR MEMBER

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    After the intelligence failure,India used everything for success..military, diplomacy, media..
     
  6. Horus

    Horus ADMINISTRATOR

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    Who is the writer?
     
  7. Windjammer

    Windjammer ELITE MEMBER

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    Take your pick.

    PAF Role in Kargil War by PAF Officer :lol:
     
  8. Sergi

    Sergi SENIOR MEMBER

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    Awais Raza. Name is at the bottom of article in blog

    There is one comment to the post
     
  9. Windjammer

    Windjammer ELITE MEMBER

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    Awais Raza is not the writer but just a part of the Blogg team.....and ironically the only one comment is left by..... Anonymous. !!
     
  10. arp2041

    arp2041 BANNED

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    This shows the hostile attitude of the Pakistan Armed Forces towards India, Kargil war was nothing but an attempt to capture back Siachin (a territory which Pakistan lost way back in 1984), the vary region the Pakistani writers/journalists/army men/politicians are claiming to be of no strategic value & a financial burden on both countries.

    Can some Pakistani member explain to me the statement of the Lt. Gen., i mean if the Siachin glacier is of no strategic value & India is just holding onto it as a matter of pride, than why did PA arranged such a massive operation in Kargil just to recapture Siachin??
     
  11. nForce

    nForce ELITE MEMBER

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    I think PAF Air Commodore (retd) Kaiser Tufail is the author..He uses the nickname Aeronaut,writes a blog,an excellent read,I follow it.But I think you know that already.
     
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  12. ajtr

    ajtr BANNED

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    Read Kaiser tufail better than this...........
     
  13. OrionHunter

    OrionHunter ELITE MEMBER

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    Walk into Siachen? I mean, just walk?? :woot: Epic!! :rofl: If this is the thought process of the PA bosses, then God help them!

    And they say it's a 'professional army'!! This gem by none other than General Mehmud shows that even a layman would have done better than this baloney spewed out by a three star general!!
     
  14. third eye

    third eye ELITE MEMBER

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    What on earth is taught to these Guderians in Quetta ?

    One wonders..
     
  15. karan.1970

    karan.1970 BANNED

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