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PAF’s role in war and peace


Oct 3, 2005
United States
PAF’s role in war and peace

Amjed Jaaved

While addressing airmen at the Pakistan Air Force Flying School on April 13, 1948, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah pointed out that a country without a strong Air Force was at the mercy of any aggressor. He stressed that Pakistan must build up an efficient air force, second to none, as quickly as possible. History bears testimony to the fact that the PAF translated the Quaid’s advice into practice in both letter and spirit, despite severe financial constraints. The air war in 1965 and post-1947 disaster-relief and anti-terror operations proved that the PAF was second to none.

The PAF’s job during the 1965 War was to keep the larger Indian Air Force out of Pakistan ’s air space. It delivered the goods to the satisfaction of the Pakistani people. Before outbreak of the war, the Indian Air Force enjoyed overwhelming numerical superiority of 3.8:1 over the Pakistan Air Force. PAF had 100 F-86s of which 92 were in serviceable condition. In addition, the PAF had five C-130s, four SA-16 Amphibians, 12 T-6G Harvards and three Husky Helicopters. Twenty aircraft were modified to carry the GAR-8 or the AIM-9B sidewinder missiles, while a few others were modified for Elint missions. The IAF on the other hand, had more then 500 combat aircraft. Its fleet included MiG-21s, Hunters, Gnats, Mysteres, Ouragans, Vampires, Canberras, and Photo Recce Canberras. The PAF was at a disadvantage in respect of the air bases also. PAF’s air bases included Peshawar , Sargodha and Mauripur. The IAF’s airbases or airfields included Srinagar , Pathankot, Adampur, Halwara and Jamnagar , besides Dacca and Kalakunda in the Eastern Sector. The PAF had its RADAR sites at Sakesar and Badin. The IAF had its sites at Amritsar , Friseur and Prouder.

Besides disadvantages in terms of aircraft, air bases and radar sites, the PAF had following weaknesses: (a) it had only one air base to directly support the theatre of operations. (b) No forward operating base. (c) No low-level radar coverage. (d) Over-reliance on Mobile Observer Units. (e) Limited night - intercept capability as the F-104 AI had serious limitations below 5,000 feet.

Despite disadvantages, the PAF performed excellently in the 23-day war in September 1965. During the war, the PAF was able to establish its operational superiority over its adversary within 48 hours. PAF’s F-104s flew 246 sorties, including 42 at night and claimed four IAF aircraft destroyed for the loss of two F-104As. Sq. Ldr. M. M. Alam set a world record by shooting down five Indian planes in just one battle. By the time the war ended, he had downed nine Indian planes and damaged another two. PAF pilots proved their professional competence by bombing Pathankot and Kalaikunda Air Bases, two of the most important and heavily - guarded IAF bases. They pulverised the Indian armoured columns at Atari. When the war ended, PAF had shot down about 65 Indian planes while losing only 19 planes After the war, several IAF officers appreciated the PAF’s daring performance. The Indian Air Marshal Raghavendran (in his article The day the PAF got away) very rightly applauded leadership of Air Marshal Asghar Khan and Nur Khan who converted the PAF into a formidable force.

Air Chief Marshal P. C. Lal, in his lecture ‘A critical look at the 1965 operations’, lauded the PAF performance in 1965 War. The PAF’s other exploits include getting the better of IAF in its lightning action on the Grand Trunk Road. It prevented the Indian Army from crossing the Bambawali-Ravi-Bedian Canal . Thus, India ’s 15 Infantry Division could not throw a bridgehead across the BRB. PAF successfully defended Sargodha , attacked Kalaikunda, and destroyed numerous Canberras lined up on the tarmac.

Actually the PAF did so well in 1965 air war as it had started its preparation in April, 1965, with the Runn of Kutch conflict. The PAF foresaw that, in aftermath of their defeat from the Chinese in 1962, the IAF was ready to do anything to regain their lost honour. The Indians had laid claim to the Runn of Kutch area, located in the South East of Sindh. They wanted to occupy it by army aggression. The PAF swiftly made preparations to react immediately, when it assessed that the IAF was likely to swing into action. This conflict was ended in the last week of July without any significant air action. Nevertheless, the PAF got mobilised, and remained so until the start of the September War.

In the post - 1965 period, the PAF prevented India from attacking Pakistan in the guise of Indian exercise “Brasstacks”. It proved its capability during the Afghan War and played a legendary role in ameliorating suffering of the earthquake victims. During calamities like floods and train accidents, the PAF has always been at the citizens’ doorsteps. Who can forget its role in restoring peace to disturbed tribal areas? It attacked militants’ hideouts, training centres and ammunition depots with pinpoint accuracy.

Since May last , F-16 multi-role fighter jets have flown more than 300 combat missions against militants in the Swat valley and more than 100 missions in South Waziristan . The Quaid’s soul would be happy to see that the PAF remembered his words and translated his dream into a living reality. Surely, luck favours the prepared mind. It is a combination of motivation, discipline and training that has converted the PAF into an efficient force. The force’s performance has been rightly appreciated not only by the nation and friends but also by the enemies.

Pakistan Observer - Newspaper online edition - Article

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