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7 SEPTEMBER – PAKISTAN AIR FORCE DAY (PAF IN 1965 WAR)

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7 SEPTEMBER – PAKISTAN AIR FORCE DAY (PAF IN 1965 WAR)

PAF and the three wars
 
Columnist SOBIA NISAR goes over the three wars fought by the PAF.

The Father of the Nation rightly remarked on 13 April 1948, while addressing a small band of enthusiastic airmen at the fledging nation’s Air Force Flying School:

A country without a strong Air Force is at the mercy of any aggressor; Pakistan must build up her airforce as quickly as possible. It must be an efficient air force, second to none.

The table below gives an idea of the number of aircraft allotted to Pakistan and the number initially given.:

Aircraft RIAF Total Holding Allotted to India Delivered to Pakistan
Dakota 78 46 4
Tempest 158 123 16
Harvard 118 89
Tiger Moth 78 62 7
Auster 28 18

The Founder of Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah was very well aware of the great importance of the Air Force for the defence of the country. He, therefore, wanted  a strong Air Force to be built up, which was to be second to none. This was done against great odds at the time of partition of the sub-continent, when the Pakistan Air Force came into being on 14 August 1947 along with the Army and the Navy. The PAF after undergoing immense struggle and sacrifice  with a small number of personnel, possessing  an insufficient equipment  emerged into a powerful component of the country’s defence  into a brief period of 10 years. At the time of partition, India  deprived Pakistan of her due share of aircraft and equipment.

Limited War of 1947. These aircraft were quickly organized into two squadrons (No.5 and No.9). While the Air Force was being organized, the armed struggle in Kashmir started  in December 1947. In 1947 and 1948 the IAF provided direct support to the Indian Army, bombed Murree, attacked the Kohala Bridge several times and an unarmed PAF  transport. The PAF role in Kashmir was transport support there was an urgent need  to drop air supplies for the civilian population of Gilgit and other areas of Gilgit. This was  arranged on a priority basis by the two Dakota aircraft, later another two were added. In 1948, two four engine Halifax bombers were also acquired for airdrops. During 12 months of emergency airdrop operations the PAF did not lose a single aircraft. 437 sorties had been flown and over a million lbs of supplies dropped at Bunji, Sikardu, Gilgit and Chilas. Despite the IAF fighter activity, the PAF  continued air transport operations but limited them to moonlit nights. Our fighters remained employed on “watch  and ward” in the NWFP. An unarmed Fury while engaged in leaflet dropping over a hostile area, was fired upon with a light machine gun. The aircraft sustained some damage but the pilot landed safely at Miranshah, where he quickly took another Fury, this one bristling with weapons and went back to even the score in another sequence — Exemplary action — the RPAF — flew 139 sorties in which 72 bombs, 108 rockets and 4,600 rounds of 20mm ammunition were expanded. The 500-lb high explosive bombs proved useful against mountain hideouts and mudhouses. This employment was termed as heaven on earth. The PAF was  a circus outfit and it performed many air displays, always very good ones. During the 1948 Kashmir war, the strength of Pakistan Air Force as compared to the Indian Air Force was as under:

Aircraft India Pakistan
Tempest 68 16
Dakota 30 8
Harvard 60 20
Tiger Moth 40 10
Vampire 6 _
Liberator 4 _
Spitfire 13 _

The Air Force role was defined rightly by the Air Vice-Marshal R.L.R Atcherley when he took over the command of the PAF. He said: The sole preoccupation of every individual in this Air Force, no matter in what sphere of activity he finds himself, is to keep our aircraft flying, ready to fight, equipped and trained for war, down to the last detail.

The Air Force was already going along a well-conceived plan. The target given for March 31, 1948 was for two fighter bomber squadrons of 16 aircraft, one transport squadron of five aircraft and one air observation post (AOP) flight of four aircraft. Gradually the Air Force expanded in the air and also made a progress in the ground facilities. In August 1951, three jet fighter aircraft were assimilated into No. 11 Squadron. With their induction, the young PAF entered into the jet age

Air Vice Marshal Atcherley was of the firm opinion  that the Pakistan Air Force should first take on the enemy Air Force, and then try to isolate the battlefield and after that give direct support to the ground  forces. By 1959/60 the PAF was fully trained and competent in the use of its aircraft. The first conflict between the IAF and the PAF took place on Eid day April 10, 1959, when an Indian Air Force Canberra (R.P) entered Pakistan’s airspace  flying at over 50,000 ft, well above our newly acquired  F-86 Sabre aircraft’s capability. But the Indian Canberra was shot down by the sustained effort of the enthusiastic Pakistan Air Force. In 1959, the last, all PAF exercise “JANUS” was held. Little or no training was conducted with the Army and Navy. The PAF did train with the USAF, RAF, Turkish and Iranian Air Forces who visited Pakistan regularly. Watch and ward  continued in Dir, Bajaur, Kalat and the downing of the IAF Photo Recce (PR) Canberra were added to the PAF’s battle honours.

A strong Air Force that was built up with the hard work and dedication of its officers and airmen helped to defend the country in the two major wars with India. Pakistan had a  much smaller Air Force, yet it was able to dominate the much larger Air Force of our adversary.

The 1965 War. When war broke up in 1965, the Pakistan Army was deployed against the Indians in the Rann of Kutch. To make matters worse, the Pakistani C-in-C was in Bangkok attending a SEATO meeting. In addition, we had three war plans, war against India, war against Afghanistan and the third war against both India and  Afghanistan. The alert phase was also — ’total’, either you were on peace or on full alert. The war plans had no provision for limited action. There was a great demand for security, since the previous Director Plans had been court-martialled, and some of the officers were summarily retired. At this crucial time,   the PAF was able to put  down the much larger Indian Air Force  on the defensive and gained air superiority in four days. It inflicted heavy unacceptable casuallities on the Indian tanks, vehicles and troops. A newspaper wrote:

The performance of the PAF was excellent  as they gained complete victory in the air. The IAF was defeated in all spheres — man to man, machine to machine, mission to mission and sector to sector.

Towards the middle of August 1965, the Army sent an SOS that the Gibralter Force was in trouble and required immediate air drops of food and ammunition. It was decided that  a C130 carry out a night drop. The weather was terrible, rain, low clouds yet the mission flew and satisfactory results were achieved. Air Force Forward Headquarters were activated on 30th August. According to Asghar Khan: “It is true that the PAF’s primary role, in essence, is to assist the Army in every possible way to achieve its objectives. But in order to be able to do this the PAF must achieve a high degree of air superiority over the land battle areas, and it must be equipped to do this effectively. The Army seldom understood or recognized this precondition.”

The Air Force according to the war plan attacked the IAF forward bases on the opening day of the war in West Pakistan. Air action in East Pakistan was delayed to the second  day since  a dusk strike was anticipated. The plan included a single F104 conducting  a “recce” over Halwara, followed by F86s, attacking “guns only” Halwara, Adampur, Pathankot and the various forward radars in the north, with T33s in the South, followed by all available B57’s after sunset.

After attacking the Indians on the 6th, the Air Force expected retaliation by the IAF on the 7th. No effort was made to launch dawn strikes, instead the PAF requested  the Army to launch paratroopers against the IAF forward bases on the night 6/ 7th. Three companies of SSG were launched.

The decision to launch SSG Special Service Group was taken late on the 6th; they left without maps, proper briefing and worst of all with no planning or preparation! The results were disastrous, only a handful returned, most of them were captured or killed. Every PAF base in Pakistan experienced  Indian commando attacks and in their defence thousands of rounds of small arms ammunition was expended at imaginary commandos and the SSG were summoned to save Sargodha.

The operational statistics for 1965 are as under:

  Sorties % Effort
Air Defence 1,303 55%
Army / Navy 647 27%
Day Strike 100 4%
Night Strike 165 7%
Photo / Recce 148 6%

To attack the close concentration  of enemy airfields in the north, and to remain out of reach of the Indian  fighter bombers; the bomber wing remained on the hop throughout the war. The pattern often repeated  was to set off from home base, strike inside Indian territory, recover  to another base  to rearm and refuel, and then to strike again before returning to base or to another safe airfield. This enabled them to  be prepared to attack  their targets night after night. By arriving over their targets  in a stream at intervals of about fifteen minutes, the B-57 certainly succeeded, disregarding even the actual damage they inflicted, in achieving  a major disruption of the overall IAF  effort, disabling their optimum attack capability the next morning. The effect on morale of the IAF  personnel was devastating. The effect of fatigue caused to them was most pronounced  on their air and ground crew while they were forced to keep shuttling in  and out of air raid shelters and trenches. This made the task of PAF fighter pilots that much easier to fight them in air the next morning.

Of its 22 B57s, which fought the war PAF lost three, only one due to enemy action. After the first strike on Jamnagar at 6pm, the bombing shuttle was maintained all night by single sorties. One such lone bomber flown by squadron leaders Shabbir Alam Siddiqui and Alam Qureshi, the navigator was doing its third mission  in less than 9 hours. As an overfatigued crew descended lower on the pinpoint its target, the bomber hit the ground and exploded. The second bomber was lost as a result  of enemy anti-aircraft fire on 14th September. The third B57, piloted by Flight Lieutenants MA Butt  and ASZ Khalid was lost in the early hours  of 17th September. While making an approach to land at Risalpur, the B57 encountered adverse weather in the shape of strong wind sheer coupled  with reduced flight visibility. Unable to maintain height, the aircraft crashed south of the runway, instantly killing  both pilot and navigator.

The PAF’s B57 campaign came to an end with a close support mission during the night of 22nd September by four B57s which dropped 28,000 lbs of bombs on enemy artillery and tank concentrations at Atari. Large enemy reinforcements had been seen that day moving towards Atari for a possible assault on the salient eastern bank of  the BRB canal. It was the task of the PAF to prevent these reinforcements from reaching their destination. The bombs from the B57s dropped in train  engulfed the enemy armour and other vehicles concealed under the trees and in the bushes. Very few survived to reach Atari.

After the 1965 war, the B57 Squadrons trained hard to achieve even higher standards in the light of lessons learned in the war.

After the end of the 1965 war, the United States placed an embargo on our purchase of new equipment. New aircraft of Chinese (MIG-19) and French (Mirage) origin were inducted into the Air Force and quickly integrated.

The 1971 War. During the 1971 Indo-Pak war, the Pakistan Air Force put up a gallant flight destroying and damaging over 150 Indian aircraft. The Indian Air Force which was at that time expanded to become the fifth largest Air Force in the world was prevented from gaining any form of superiority over Pakistan’s airspace, even after shifting the air element operating against East Pakistan to support operations against West Pakistan, when the Dhaka airstrip had been permanently put down of action. Perhaps this was the main reason why India did not pursue her land operations against West Pakistan after the fall of Dhaka, although the Indian desire was to finish both wings of Pakistan.

The B57 force of PAF gave its very best in 1971 war. Of the available strength of 16 B57s  at the outset of the war, 15 were launched the very first night as a follow up to the pre-emptive strike on the 3rd December. 12 IAF runways were targeted the first night and a total of 183 bombs were dropped. Although no immediate assessment of the damage was available, yet confirmation came much after the war  from a very unlikely source. Air Chief Marshall PC Lal, the Chief of IAF during the 1971 war, in his memoirs titled My Days with the IAF  provides full detail of the destruction caused by PAF, naming every IAF  airfield attacked.

The PAF’s night bombing campaign was continued with good effect throughout the war  and reflected great credit upon the courage and perseverance of the B57 crew, six of whom embraced Shahadat over enemy airfields.

A serious situation developed in the South when Indian ground forces penetrated along the Khokhrapar-Chor railway line upto Umerkot and Chachro and to Nagar Parkar itself. PAF was called upon to blunt its attack and prevent the enemy further advance in land. B57 from No 7 Squadron were also pressed into daring daylight raids to save Hyderabad from falling into enemy hands. F86s  and F104s provided top cover. The armed reconnaissance and interdiction mission achieved the destruction of enemy trains and this virtually choked the flow of supplies vital to the enemy advance. Emboldened by their success, the B57 crew followed their bombing attacks by several strafing runs on the freight wagons and stopped the enemy dead in his tracks forcing him to abandon his planned offensive.

The PAF provided air support to the Navy at Karachi, on a report from a PIA aircraft flying reconnaissance for the Navy, the morning CAP (combat air patrol) at Masroor was asked to investigate, the result was that the PNS Zulfiqar took 900 hits of point 5 inch ammo killing several officers and men, with many more injured.

The operating statistics of 1971 war  are as under:

  Sorties % Effort
Air Defence 1,748 58%
Army/Navy support 951 32%
Day Strike 160 5%
Night Strike 130 4%
Photo/ Recce 38 1%

PAF, however, did recognize the services of its bomber crew in both the wars. As a tribute to PAF’s B57 crew who valiantly faced the highest loss rate of the war and persisted doggedly each night, and its navigators who, despite their rudimentary bomb  aiming devices and  the difficulty of map reading at low level on pitch dark nights, carried the war deep into the enemy’s heartland. The Government of Pakistan awarded 15 Sitara-e-Jurrats (6 posthumous) and 2 posthumous Tamgha-e-Jurrats to B57 pilots and navigators.

Recommendations for the Future. India continues to enlarge her Armed Forces by purchasing and producing new equipment  possessing the latest technology available at home and abroad. This is most dangerous for us as India’s overall aim of destroying Pakistan as an independent entity remains. In this regional scenario, the Pakistan Air Force is getting a bit out of date, urgently requiring the induction of new aircraft. The Pakistani nation must know  that if we want a strong and viable defence, we should be prepared to pay for it. The requirements of the Air Force are urgent and genuine and must be catered for by those who are in power and for those who are in the government responsible for the nation’s defence and well-being. The Pakistani government and nation must locate and expose those elements home and abroad who make endless efforts to see that our defence capability is slowly eroded.

Historically, the PAF except for a very short period in 1965, performed well below the required. It is a relatively small force, the support that it can provide to the Army and Navy must be its main role. But unfortunately, the PAF has not  been provided with such assistance as necessarily required. Because the PAF role remains a debate. It should assist the Army and the Navy and not fight its own war. Whereas, the three services must fight the same war and not their own separate battles.

For the last few years there is a debate on buying  a very expensive weapons system for the Air Force because of the “Fighter Gap”. It is also being debated that whether this system to be used to defend the fighter establishment, defend Pakistan or just another gimmick for the kickbacks. According to a report, India had as many as 232 high tech aircraft as opposed to the 32 F16s of the Pakistan Air Force. Since the role of the PAF is a pivotal one, Pakistan must do something as the Air Force was losing  some seven to eight aircraft every year on account of  phasing out and partly because of attrition. According to Air Chief Marshall Pervaiz Mehdi Qureshi, “The growing  technological disparity between the Indian and Pakistan Air Forces has now assumed “acute proportions”. Referring to the addition of sophisticated aircraft to the IAF and the inability of the PAF to come up with a matching response, Air Marshall Mehdi Qureshi said: “If this widening technological disparity between India and Pakistan is not plugged or narrowed down within the next 36 to 48 months, it would pose a direct threat to national security”. Perhaps this could be called a ‘Fighter Gap’. As the “Fighter Gap” does not relate to technology and numerical disparity but to the organization, employment and training. Therefore, it should be seriously taken into consideration by the higher authorities.

The absolute necessity for the PAF is to concentrate mainly on the destruction of the enemy tanks and to cause damage to the enemy’s capabilities and to provide direct as well as indirect support to its  Armed  Forces.

The small Pakistan Air Force should be trained primarily for the support of the Pakistani Army, Navy and  it should be equipped to come up with this task with suitable aircraft. The Army/Air and the Navy/Air cooperation should be perfected, especially as regards to recce, the production of the airpower enhancement and the direct support of the Air Force conjunction with Artillery should be directed in the destruction of the enemy tanks. The direct tactical support of the Army attacks on enemy’s ammunition and supply convoys should be studied.

Historical factors reveal that  the Pakistan Army has shown concern and assistance in the development of  the Pakistan Air Force on the right line.

With the arrival of American equipment the PAF entered into an important phase in its development. It is often not appreciated that reasonably modern equipment is essential for all the three companies of the Armed Forces, but for the Air Force it is absolutely vital.

In the recent years, however, there  has been a weakening of our governments resolve to adequately strengthen the Pakistan Air Force, as the Quaid had directed. If the present policy continues it will place the country  “at the mercy of an aggressor”. as the Quaid had rightly said. In our case the aggressor is  our neighbour India with whom we have fought three wars and two border conflicts short of war. An immense shooting war continues at present  in Kashmir where the troops are deployed  since the last more than 50 years on both sides of the ceasefire line or LOC (Line of Control) and also in the Siachin Glacier area  which is the world’s highest and most destructive battle ground. Only after 24 years of its independence, India split Pakistan  into two pieces by use of force, while the UN watched in silence. The freedom struggle of the poor Kashmiris continues even today. Kashmiris are being raped, killed, tortured while the world community watches in silence. At this crucial time when the fate of Kashmiris remains undecided, can we afford to lower our guards under the circumstances is the burning question of the day. The answer is obviously NO. Therefore, Pakistan must continue her efforts to build up her Air Force whether equipment, manpower, aircraft as quickly as possible in order to lower the already existing FIGHTER GAP between Pakistan and her biggest and numerically much larger adversary, India.

The Pakistan Air Force

Columnist SOBIA NISAR looks at the development of PAF.

On 13 April 1948, the Father of the Nation, while addressing a small band of enthusiastic airmen at the fledging nation’s AirForce Flying School, delivered the following historic message:

A country without a strong Airforce is at the mercy of any aggressor;

Pakistan must build up her Airforce as quickly as possible. It must be an efficient airforce, second to none.

Exactly forty nine years later, Air Marshall (Retd) Asghar Khan who as Officer Commanding, Royal Pakistan Airforce Flying Training School spoke as the Chief Guest at the Golden Jubilee Parade of the PAF Academy, Risalpur, said:

It goes to the credit of the Pakistan Airforce that it took the Quaid’s words with a heroic spirit, and has since lived up to its expectations. The PAF is known today, as it was then, for its discipline and professional competence. It has acquired itself with credit in both the wars in which it was called upon to participate. Remember the present conditions require you not only to be “second to none” as the Quaid commanded you, but with the odds so heavily against you today, you must be far more competent than any possible adversary in the difficult and exacting field in which it is your privilege to serve, Pakistan must not be as the  Quaid had said, ‘at the mercy of any aggressor’.

The strength of  the Pakistan Air Force to be raised and maintained is decided by the Government keeping in view the external threat  that the country faces or is likely to face in the near future. The level of PAF to be raised and maintained must always be  in accordance with the threat to the country’s security and the task allotted to the PAF.  The size of PAF and its arms and equipment must be such as to facilitate their working successfully achieving the mission given to them by the government . The PAF  must always be given a reasonable chance of success while combating against an external aggressor.

The personnel taken into the PAF have to be of an appropriate mental and physical standard who can take the stress and strain of PAF life which trains them for combat.

Qualities of PAF Personnel.

The PAF Personnel must possess plenty of intelligence, initiative and a quick mind to arrive at the correct decision and in time, under the stress of combat in the fog of war. It is of utmost importance that a PAF officer, airman possesses intellect, patience and courage to cater for all eventualities in war including the unexpected enemy moving in combat. What is eventually required of a PAF officer is energy, firmness, staunchness strength of mind and character.

Some of the qualities that are required in a PAF personnel are deduced from experience of combat conditions and are considered essential for success in war under the trying conditions of considerable mental and  physical stress and strain.            `

The Pakistan Air Force makes an effort to recruit such men after exhaustive tests and interviews from amongst the volunteers who come forward. In return for a hard,dedicated and austere life the PAF can only offer  them the glitter of a uniform and honour of serving the nation. Financial compensation has never been within the domain of soldiering .

Having joined the Pakistan Air Force, they have to be trained individually and collectively before they can perform their primary task of defending the nation against any external aggressor. In the basic training period  and after that throughout the years, the process of learning continues. New skills are acquired and old ones brought up to date. Training is a full time commitment with the aim of producing  combat ready soldiers prepared to come forward to protect the nation in the hour of need.

According to Clausewitz, “The soldier is levied, clothed, armed, exercised, he sleeps, eats, drinks, and marches, all merely to fight at the right time and place.”

To perform the primary role of defending the country, the Air force has to be raised, trained and provided the best tools and prepared for combat  at all times.

When the PAF airman and officers have been selected  with due care and caution, given proper training and equipped with the best weapons the country can afford, the country acquires an Air Force of excellent proportions.

Role played by PAF.

The Air Force is ready at all times to defend the security and independence of the country by ensuring the safety of its borders against overt and covert external aggression. To accomplish its task successfully the Air Force must have the wholehearted and unflinching support of the whole population and at all times because the Army and Air Force have  the prime responsibilities in restoring law and order in the country or a particular area where a grave and alarming situation develops which cannot adequately be controlled by the civil agencies being beyond their competence. Along with the Army, the Air Force must always be more frequently called out to help during natural calamities and man-made disasters, such as floods, earthquakes, train accidents, anti-locust operations and any other public emergency. Being a disciplined force, which is well organized with mobility and communications it can be mustered immediately and can be depended upon to carry out any mission given to it, promptly and successfully in the shortest possible time.

Importance and Essentiality.

For good or ill,  air mastery is today the supreme expression of the entire military power. Navy fleets and Army, however necessary and important, must be accepted as subordinate ranks. The Pakistan Air Force is a memorable milestone in the march of man.

From World War II onwards in South Asian Sub-continent, Middle East, Korea and Kosovo, we can see air power actively involved in creating air superiority over the battlezones and conduct aero space surveillance and strategic air bombardment. In each one of these theatres, air power has played a convincingly decisive role.

The Armed Forces, especially the Pakistan Air Force have so far displayed a high standard of discipline and character by accepting the dictates of the national constitution. Therefore, it is imperative for the government to take cognizance of the genuine needs of  all the forces especially the Pakistan Air Force and continue to build our conventional capabilities. Amongst all, the Pakistan Air Force which is the arbiter of  any success  in any military conflict must be made as formidable as possible to deliver a decisive punch to its implacable adversary.

Worth mentioning, our biggest enemy has long been deterred from putting its heinous plans against Pakistan into practice because of our highly motivated Pakistan Air Force, regardless of its equipment. Although we are well aware of the shortcomings pertaining to the PAF equipment  and the numerical strength, still the PAF has given a creditable account of itself; whether it be the 1965 war, 1971 war or the tiring Afghan war. The strength of the PAF is such that it can attain  an upper hand on the IAF provided it is equipped with entire morale, physical strength and better equipment and size. The morale of the PAF is very important and high morale comes from operating high weaponry. In  air combat, technology is symbolized by  the quality of aircraft, weapons and other support assets like AWACS and Air Defence Ground Environment (ADGE). It  should be kept in mind that excellent training and motivation of combatants without the vital component of technology will only increase the pain  and agony and prolong to a great extent  and they will be continuously  inflicted with losses  and in the end face with defeat. Thus the PAF has no option but to improve upon its technological base and to buy finished products like advanced weapon systems  and aircraft.

Historical Aspect.

Historically, it  is  seen  that the Pakistan Air Force has been numerically at a disadvantage as compared to its adversary, the Indian Air Force. But when we take the case study of Indo-Pak wars of 1965 and 1971, the Pakistan Air Force has lived upto the Quaid’s expectations.

The professional behaviour of the PAF  has profound political consequences. Traditionally, the PAF officers have not fought primarily  because of an explicit  political ideology. Whereas, the political interests of the typical PAF officer have been intermittent at best. Only at the higher ranks and among its elite members is there a more sustained concern with the political purpose of the PAF establishment. “Honour” is the basis of their belief system

The PAF Honour.

The PAF military honour is both a means and an end. It specifies how an officer and a soldier ought to behave. To be honourable is an objective which is to be achieved by the PAF officer and the airman. When the PAF military honour is effective, its coercive power is considerable, because it continuously directs to a single over riding directive; the professional PAF soldier always fights.

No doubt, is the fact that the PAF honour serves a variety of social and diplomatic motives. It is the rationalization for inertia; it permits others to operate beyond their personal capabilities and capacities. Honour is undoubtedly the binding force of the entire PAF profession. It is supposed to ensure the unique characteristics of the PAF officer which gives a surety to his career commitment. Nevertheless, only a few PAF leaders  are blind to the progressive inability of honour to resolve the strains within the profession. The increased careerist motives of the officer candidates further weakens the importance of honour. But there have been deviations from individuals of high and low positions in the past periods within the corps of PAF officers. They have done much harm to their brother officers  and the PAF itself. Some have gained wide publicity, as the events are few and hence noteworthy. A few have been more minor. But as they have been  more in number, there cumulative effect has been large.

On one hand, the PAF officers’ conceptions of honour, purpose and human nature leads him to assume that he is a standard bearer who embodies the superior virtues of men, yet at the same time he finds it expedient and necessary to present himself as a representative man who is no different from other men and part of the same society. A few PAF officers including those of the highest rank accept the self-image of standard bearer without some degree of uneasiness. This uneasiness has a deeper significance. In that the PAF has learned to accept the political and cultural assumption that men are more alike than different.

Furthermore, the PAF leaders have learned that in seeking to influence the fortunes of their services, and in advising on strategic national defence politics a non-partisan stance is required. The character of the PAF leaders is such that it overcomes the political and financial pressures and hence is directed towards   the unlimited, dutiful and honourable service of their nation.

Political Beliefs.

The political beliefs of the PAF officers are not different from those that operate in civilian society. In fact they are a reflection of the civilian society originated by the recruitment system and by the education and military experiences of a professional career. The changes in political thinking amongst the PAF military elite are a result of a long-term process. Many of the PAF officers are primarily concerned with purely professional and technical matters. But when they increase position in the hierarchy or get promotion, they become increasingly conscious of their political loyalties and preferences. It is seen that within the elite, it has been those men whose unconventional careers have involved them in politico-military assignments who display the most sustained political consciousness. In all professional PAF officers, there is a special gap between private and expressed beliefs because of the rules under which they operate.

Noteworthy, in the last few decades, political attitudes of the PAF have become more representative of those of the larger  society. This has been the result of the changes in the social composition of the military nature of their profession and also because of the increased contact between soldiers and civilians. It is observed that the political beliefs among the PAF personnel  have become more explicit and more elaborate. In this way they have become more “ideological”. Thus it appears that political beliefs of the military have become more ideological during a period in which the political parties have weakened their ideological content.

This change of transfer  from commitments towards a more explicit ideology  relates directly to the strain on the PAF military honour. Since honour is an essential component  of the traditional authority, the growth of rationalism  in the military nature of PAF  means the growth of a critical attitude in the technical and administrative matters and also towards the purposes of ones professions. Thus, each service and each weapon system must develop a philosophy. as the traditional assumptions about the efficacy of violence in the control of international relations no longer seem applicable.

Indo-Pak Wars And First Shaheeds.

Worthwhile mention, in the Pak-India war of 1965, the first 48 hours established the superiority of Pakistan Air Force  over its much larger  and numerically much bigger adversary. The missions which deserve special credit  in addition to  the PAF’s special defence of Sargodha  on the 7 of September are the attacks on Kalaikunda, where No 14 Squadron F-86s from Dhaka destroyed  numerous Canberras lined up on the tarmac; No 19 Squadron’s famous raid on Pathankot in which IAF  Mig-21s and Gnats were caught on the ground and No.5 Squadrons ill-fated strike on Halwara which ended in tragedy but still had far reaching  results.  The supreme sacrifices made by the PAF’s first Shaheeds, Sarfraz Rafiqui and Yunus  culminated in Pakistan

Air Force getting the better of its much  superior adversary. The examples of bravery displayed by the PAF’s first Shaheeds was also acknowledged  by the Indians themselves. Pashpinder Singh  made a comment on the Pakistan Fizaiya  “He (Rafiqui) was given Pakistan’s highest leadership award, the Hilal-e-Jurat  also awarded to the PAF’s chief, Air Marshal Nur Khan. One Hunter was credited to him. Later the PAF base at Shorkot Road was named after him, a fitting tribute to a brave and dedicated young Pakistani.”

Although three participants of the Halwara Strike were awarded Sitara-e-Jurat while Sarfraz Rafiqui Shaheed was also awarded 

Hilal-e-Jurat for his outstanding qualities of Leadership and solidarity.

Challenges faced in the 90’s.

In the decade of 90s the PAF passed through some of the most critical periods in its history. The enforcement of the draconian Pakistan-specific Pressler Amendment and its impact on the operational capabilities of the PAF, the induction of the Chinese F-7s, the Australian Mirages, the K-8 and the Mistral were some of the challenges that the PAF was called upon to face. It had to take tasks that had always been done abroad, build facilities through unconventional means and improvisation to meet the exacting criteria of performance and safety requirements, and generally keep the aircraft flying. This was the challenge that the PAF engineers faced and met with great success. It was possible for them to do so because the new breed of technicians and engineers had been trained to very exacting standards in technologically advanced institutions. In addition, the Airmen’s training in technical trades was revised drastically to enable them to handle the latest technological developments. Training of computers was made  a compulsory part of the syllabus. The College of Aeronautical Engineering (CAE) was equipped with a modern computer laboratory so that it could be used for many purposes like teaching, experiments and Research and Development (R&D). Split level Master of Science programmes were introduced at the CAE in collaboration with the NUST (National University of Sciences and Technology) whereby qualified officers could get their education from recognized foreign universities.

Impacts of Pressler Amendment.

The imposition  of the Pressler embargo hit the Airforce  the hardest because it was deprived of the hi-tech edge of F-16s that it had ordered in large numbers. Besides the air defence ground environment (ADGE) had become old  and needed immediate improvement. At one stage $4 billion for purchase of forty Mirage 2000-V had been negotiated by the government with France, and the PAF was keen to acquire the weapon system though at a lower cost. The PAF wanted to negotiate a reduction in the price tag and the interest payments so that about $750 million could be saved  to upgrade the ADGE. The acquisition of Mirage 2000-V, in the meanwhile, became a controversial issue and was subjected to adverse comments alleging incorrect choice of system, strain on the economy, and involvement of kickbacks. When the change in the government followed both the governments found that the state  of the country’s economy was such that it could not afford the acquisition. Thus the PAF was once again left empty handed without a high tech weapon system. The fact that the Air Force operates in a medium that stretches over both land and sea; and that neither the Army nor the Navy can operate freely unless the skies are safe, seems to have been ignored when it came to distributing the funds available for defence.

Due to the compulsions of circumstances  of Pressler Amendment, the PAF was able to successfully undertake tasks that would have been impossible in the past. Avionics upgrade on the F-7, A-5111, and Mirages, F-16 factory level tasks like ‘OCU’ and ‘Falcon-Up’, F-100 engine  upgrade, F-7  engine overhaul, C-130 PDM, 

T-37 structural life enhancement  programme, major engineering achievements were features of last decade. Another development followed by the Pressler Amendment led in the role played by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) at Kamra as the factories established over there  were expanded and modernized to undertake projects like recovery of Australian Mirages  and the co-production of K-8 aircraft with China, production of Super Mushshak, overhaul of engines of F-16. The decision taken in 1990 to amalgamate the various specialties in Maintenance Branch into one common Engineering Branch did contribute to the remarkable achievements of PAF engineers in the last decade.

Looking at the future.

Looking  beyond the year 2005, the PAF needed something that would meet its needs  for a weapon system of a special category for some twenty years. The PAF wanted aircraft that should not only have the operational configuration of its choice but  that were also free from any threat of embargoes. Another important criterion was that the  aeronautical industry of Pakistan should be actively involved in its manufacture. That is how the idea of the Super-7 was born. The Chinese first approached the PAF in 1992 for the design, development and co-production of the Super-7 which had  a multi-role, lightweight day-night fighter which could be configurated for air superiority  and ground attack roles. A formal agreement was signed  between the PAF and the Chinese in October 1995. An MoU was signed between the two governments in February 1998 and a formal contact in June 1999. It would be about five years before the first batch of the tested aircraft would be available and hopefully would enable the PAF to phase out its fleet of Mirages, F-7s and A-5s.

RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT. It goes without saying that future wars will be won by airforces with superior avionics and electronic warfare systems. The field of EW or Electronic Warfare is very dynamic, constantly demanding innovative countermeasures for each electronic measure taken by the adversary. This demands extensive Research and Development to study the enemy’s capability and to prevent its effective use  in the entire electromagnetic spectrum.

No.606 R&D Wing is involved in the useful exploitation of the RF induction and the development of various viable systems in this field. Some of the major work areas involve securing communications and radars against Electronic Warfare threats and providing electronic and intelligence support to the PAF’s airborne and ground -based systems. No 606 R&D Wing  has contributed extensively in the area of deceptive jamming.

Once the operational EW  (Electronic Warfare system)  has been created, it is also essential that it is put  to effective use. This involves deriving and inculcating essential knowledge among the front line operators both on the system and at conceptual level. No 606 R&D Wing is also involved in the training of personnel in the operational and theoretical aspects of electronic warfare. The unit conducts regular training courses at various levels to increase EW awareness in the PAF. The existing air defence automation system has  remained in use  for the last many years. To ensure its optimum performance, No 118 Software Engineering Depot (SED)  had been carrying out modifications in the automation system software which is huge in size and complexity. This depot has also conducted a number of software feasibility studies, and completed numerous projects using its own resources. This has not only enhanced our capabilities but has also led to huge savings.

CAE. The CAE faculty members having higher degrees in their fields of specialties have tried hard in solving engineering problems related to the PAF and the nation in general. Besides their efforts the students also undertake projects some of which are later developed further.

The PAF legacy continues.

The PAF has maintained its professional image throughout its existence. Officers and men of the PAF are proud inheritors of a legacy of warriors who have left a permanent imprint on history.

In the Afghan war which was a more covert unconventional war restricted by very difficult Rules of Engagement (ROEs).Still the PAF lived up to its reputation by not only bringing down several Soviet and Afghan intruders but deterring them from frequent violations of the border. The PAF also responded with prompt development  when threatened by the Indian exercise “Brasstacks” or when providing cover to the Pakistan’s nuclear installations. Realistic training and exercise have helped the PAF to maintain a qualitative edge over its adversary.

There have been ups and downs for the service during the decades of the 90s. Its finest hour was when it distinguished itself in the Afghan war but its low came when the Pressler restrictions frustrated the PAFs future plans and also forced it to cut down on its operational training. Since the human ingenuity is at its best in situations of pressure, the PAF engineers rose to the occasion and performed tasks that had seemed impossible. The high command succeeded in restricting the damage caused by the Pressler’s restrictions and in keeping the fighting force in good trim. The  frustration of the PAF at the denial of a high-tech combat aircraft notwithstanding, the force was in good form as far as its professional expertise was concerned and would remain at peak readiness whenever called into action.

Thus, one can say that it was one of the most difficult decades since the fledging Royal Pakistan Air Force came into being at the time of independence. But spurred on by its proud heritage as a compact, efficient, and hard hitting force. The proud PAF legacy still continues on. 

“The application of Air Power is now a profession of considerable complexity demanding technological mastery a sense of command, structure, speed, fire, distance and impact in proportions quite different from those applicable on land and sea. Not greater, nor lesser, but different. It demands discrete professionalism which must not be subordinate to the primary interests of another service, that would lead directly to the subordination of airpower itself to the detriment of all services.”

AVM Tony Mason

Air Power,

A Centennial Appraisal

Brasseys, 1994.

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