The day nothing happened - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 1 September 2014

The day nothing happened

Pakistan's F-104 Starfighter -- a cutting-edge fighter -- delivered mixed results, but the F-86 Sabre was impressive

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 2nd Sept 14

A popular tale --- apocryphal but grounded in truth --- recounts an air force student at the National Defence College asking the librarian where he could find a book on the war history of the Indian Air Force (IAF). Without looking up, the librarian responded, “In the fiction section, Sir.”

On Sept 5, the IAF will launch a yearlong commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war, culminating in Sept 2015, the actual anniversary. There are at least three reasons to stop this self-congratulatory nonsense. First, as the centenary of World War I has illustrated, countries have fought terrible wars without feeling the need for a yearlong commemoration. Second, by every independent account the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) convincingly got the better of the IAF. Old-timer pilots frankly confess that 1965 was a learning experience, not a victory. Third, and importantly for military history aficionados, no fighting happened on Sep 5. Why is the IAF commemorating this day?

The answer is simply that we care little for military truth. India has victories, brave deeds and valorous soldiers who deserve celebration. We have won battles, even wars, handily; and sometimes just by the skin of our teeth. But our voluminous regimental histories firmly reject the gritty reality of war, painting every engagement in the unsullied colours of heroism and triumph.

As the IAF kicks off another round of myth-making, it is worth remembering how little there was to celebrate in those September days when the underdog PAF got the better of the IAF in raid after raid, dogfight after dogfight. This comes not from the fevered imagination of Pakistani jingoists, but from the official Indian history of the 1965 war, which was endorsed on Dec 31, 1992, by then defence secretary NN Vohra. Yet, it was held back and remains classified even today, further burnishing its credentials. Interested readers can access it at

To set the stage, the PAF in 1965 was a well-trained, American supplied air force of 17 squadrons (12-16 aircraft per squadron), which included a squadron of F-104 Starfighters, then the most formidable fighter in Asia; eight squadrons of F-86 Sabres; two squadrons of highly regarded B-57 bombers; and a high-altitude reconnaissance squadron of RB-57, including the secret RB-57F photo-recce aircraft that flew at 70,000 feet, beyond the reach of Indian fighters and anti-aircraft weapons. The PAF imaginatively used its two squadrons of light trainers for reconnaissance and ground attack.

The IAF, in contrast, had 48 squadrons, almost thrice the PAF’s strength, although six Vampire and three Toofani fighter squadrons were clearly obsolescent. Furthermore, India retained a number of squadrons in the east to guard against China. With Indian quantity offset by PAF quality, the decks were evenly stacked.

Even so, the PAF was clearly superior in its training and operational doctrines. The held-back history says, “Compared to (the PAF’s) elaborate and determined plan of attack, the IAF, it seems, operated on the basis of ad-hoc decisions, and in the hope that full-scale war would simply not come.”

On September 1, 1965, the IAF launched its first strikes against a Pakistani invasion at Chhamb, near Jammu. Foolishly, 12 obsolescent Vampires and 14 Mystere fighter-bombers were thrown in, which began shooting up Indian tanks from 20 Lancers, which was opposing the Pakistani advance. 20 Lancers officers recount their relief when the PAF Sabres swooped down on the IAF, shooting down four Vampires. A shocked IAF grounded its Vampire and Toofani squadrons, reducing its strength by one-third. Clearly, this was not a day to be celebrated.

After a quiet September 2, the IAF claimed its first kill on September 3, when Squadron Leader Trevor Keelor, flying a Gnat fighter, hit a PAF Sabre. The IAF, in need of something to celebrate, announced a “kill” and awarded the pilot a Vir Chakra. In fact the IAF knows that the Pakistani pilot, Flight Lieutenant Yusuf Ali Khan, nursed his damaged Sabre back to Sargodha air base. Not until September 4 did an Indian pilot, Squadron Leader VS Pathania, shoot down a PAF Sabre. Perhaps that is the day to commemorate.

The next day, September 5, saw absolutely no action. On September 6, the PAF made its big move, launching multiple strikes against IAF bases to destroy aircraft on the ground and whittle away the IAF’s numerical superiority. Indian accounts say 10 IAF fighters were destroyed on the ground at Pathankote, with another three damaged. Separately, hunters became the hunted, when two of the four IAF Hunter fighters patrolling over Halwara air base to ambush incoming Pakistani fighters were shot down by the Sabres when they arrived.

Alongside the PAF air strikes, Pakistani commandoes were airdropped around Indian air bases to launch attacks on the ground. Fortunately, the villagers around Pathankote, Halwara and Adampur captured scores of disoriented commandoes, who had little idea of what to do after reaching the ground.

Sep 6 was also when Indian troops crossed the border at Amritsar and, taking the Pakistan Army by surprise, reached Lahore’s outskirts. The official history recounts that this was achieved without IAF support, a devastating accusation endorsed by noted historian, John Fricker. In his authoritative work, “Battle for Pakistan: The Air War of 1965”, Fricker writes: “Incredibly, the Indian offensive struggled on without any form of air support, and the IAF did not challenge the repeated ground attack sorties flown without loss by the PAF throughout the day…” That evening, battered by the PAF and without a clear plan, Indian troops pulled back from the brink of a war-winning victory --- the capture of Lahore.

September 7 saw a debacle in the eastern theatre, where the PAF had only a single squadron of Sabres. Early morning IAF raids on Chittagong and Jessore achieved nothing. However, a retaliatory PAF raid devastated the IAF’s Kalaikunda base, in West Bengal, destroying 12 aircraft on the ground.

Thereafter, both air forces went slow, husbanding their strength for a long war. The IAF destroyed 43 PAF fighters, while losing 59 of their own. The PAF celebrates September 6 --- when it ravaged Pathankote and saved Lahore --- as “Defence of Pakistan Day”. What does it say about the IAF that it is commemorating September 5 --- the day when nothing happened?


  1. when an air force... chickens out... sub air forces... need of the hour... Army aviation... Naval aviation...

  2. Capt. Sanat Bhate, Pune1 September 2014 at 21:17

    I congratulate you for calling 'spade a spade'. In informed circles it is well known that everything that you have stated is true. Unless we are true to ourselves and professional in our approach, we will never reach the standards that we vie to reach. Many regiments and squadrens even planned their 'medals and recommendation' before any engagement had taken place. Whom were trying to fool? And have the things really changed since then? How is that we manage to sink/damage more of our naval vessels in peace time than actual naval engagements? It is through poor maintenance and unscrupolous operating practices that we expose ourselves to redicule.

  3. no comments
    nothing happened :D

  4. India's Imported Air Force (IAF) is celebrating its comprehensive mauling day on the 5th September.

    Seems they have learnt this from Australians who celebrate their national day on a day when they were badly mauled by Turkish Forces in Gallipoli.

    Good going IAF. Keep importing.

  5. There was no chickening out, whatever date they choose to comemorate has little to do with issue. IAF did what it could based on doctrines of the day. Indeed 1965 was a learning moment for the IAF but keep in mind the only reason PAF did better was because the then PAF Air Marshal Malik Nur Khan was born in India and worked as part of the Royal Indian Airforce, needless to say he had deep insights in IAF's war fighting doctrine. After choosing later on to become a Pakistani citizen he commanded the PAF Academy, setting the stage for an aggressive PAF focusing exploiting the weaknesses. IAF in the mean time hadn't changed its doctrine much and Nur Khan focused exactly on those weaknesses. After the war offcourse, there were major changes and IAF continues to evolve it doctrine to this day every now and then. In this day and age PAF would have a hard time challenging the Western Air command alone.

    1. Absolutely wrong. It was AM ASGHAR khan who created the PAF DOCTRINE in June 1965. The strategy was his brainchild and shared with the likes of me n all Sqdn. Cdr's. Our Targets had been allocated by name of Sqdn,. Cdr level. Yes that's the only truth. AM Nur Khan was away from PAF, RUNNING PIA for six years while ASGHAR khan's trained and highly motivated PAF fought under another great commander AM Nur Khan, who told me severally that he inherited a formidable fighting machine from ASGHAR Khan and needed no additions or changes to the strategy and readiness. IAF was five times our PAF. Out actual n total losses to all causes, war, accidents, were 17 as opposed to IAF 74 to all causes( Bharatrakshak and PVS JAGAN MOHAN N SAMIR CHOPRA AWARD WINNING HISTORY OF 1965 War.
      The irony is that owing to the defensive and incompetent national leadership the PAF had to support the Lahore, Sialkot sector immensely, which was against the ASGHAR KHAN DOCTRINE. Had our missions from Sargodha and Mauripur been launched as planned the story would have been quite different. But that was own failure by Mauripur commander.

  6. Sir could you please elaborate- as the IAF kicks off another round of myth-making... Since a portion of your article brings out the causes for flawed conduct of ops, as acknowledged by the IAF as a learning experience, the subsequent portion figures as a self righteous analysis with a personal pompous agenda.. Rather you should analyse the brilliant rise of IAF from inaction of 1962 to flawed ops of 1965 to directed decisive ops and air supremacy of 1971..political and leadership issues notwithstanding .. Moreover, the IAF of today is half a century spaced out from the IAF of 1965.. That, my dear sir, is clearly a reason enough to celebrate.

  7. Col Shukla,I salute you for calling a spade a spade.The same facts can also be gleaned from Retd Air Commodore Taufail Kaiser(ex PAF ) s blog "argonaut".You correctly said that most of our armed forces Regimental histories are hyperbole.The Air Marshals will most probably now call you a traitor or worst a paid ISI agent for bringing out the truth.

  8. Indian airforce needs to introspect why it has no Indian warplane in its arsenal. This management time is better spent on LCA and LUH and LCH and Akash and AWACS ........

  9. Dear Ajay,

    If one looks at systemic failures, then the Royal Navy ruling the waves for Britannia sank at Gallipoli in WW1 and the USAF was outfought over the skies of North Vietnam by the puny Vietnam People’s Air Force on 23rd August 1967

    However, what is remembered and honored are people who rise above the systemic failures.

    In that war were Men like Ajjamada Bopayya Devayya who in inferior planes and dwindling fuel chose to fight superior planes

    Men like Flt. Lt. Alfred Cooke and Fg. Off. S.C. Mamgain who take on twice their numbers and shoot them down.

    I quote, “Cooke's gun camera film shows that he had fired at 4 different Sabres and hit three of them. The first Sabre obviously got hit and broke up. A second Sabre was seen with a tank hang-up under its left wing, getting hit repeatedly. The third Sabre had a tank hang-up on the other wing. This is followed up by another Sabre which is totally clean, i.e. no under-wing tanks.” “La Fontaine went up to Cooke and said, "Alfred! You fired at four different Sabres."”

    I’m not sure why your motives for self-flagellation. If you want to highlight the systemic deficiencies that exist, then please do so. But if the nation and the Air Force have decided to honour men who stood up to the occasion, then let us give them and the service they gave to the nation & the Air Force the honour they deserve.

    T Sarkar

  10. IAF is celebrating on 5th September because it was the day it didn't lost any fighter in 1965 war.

  11. Frankly an air force which does not fly its own planes but relies on very expensive foreign stuff which are just a handful is fooling only itself. Only if you master the manufacture of aircraft such that you can easily maintain and replace crucial components without becoming slaves of the west or russia can you call yourself truly a strategic force to reckon with. Its high time the air foce indigenises actively by lateral integration without just trying to find faults in HAL.

  12. Not just an article in bad taste but of poor journalistic/analytic value. Should be treated as the clickbait that it is:

    1. Singling out the Air Force for a poor performance when the whole Indian military performed sub-optimally in 1965 is quite egregious.

    2. From newly-formed Indian army units deserting in the face of enemy pressure, to say nothing of Gen Niranjan Prasad, dismissed for cowardice, and the Navy being caught unprepared, both with the Vikrant and at Dwarka, 1965 was a "learning and growing up" experience for all services.

    3. People with greater expertise, analytical ability, and intellectual honesty have written in detail about the IAF in 1965

    Will the ex-cavalry Colonel treat us with a similar treatise on the performance of Indian armour in the various wars?

    I'm not holding my breath...

  13. The first question to be asked is did the incompetent officers and generals of the Indian army actually take IAF or IN into confidence about their war plans?or did they decide to go the way of pakistan army and forget to inform air force and navy? Has the army learnt its lessons? Will it stop importing guns and tanks and buy the arjuns and Indigenous 155 mm guns?

    IAF in 65 was equipped with the mediocre british aircraft's while in 71 they had the game changer in Mig-21. The results simply speak for themselves. Its no wonder from daring to fly against IAF in 65' PAF was reduced to hiding in Iran in 71.

    1. total nonsense about PAF hiding in Iran. I was commanding PAF's largest wing at Sargodha. we flew 50 % more missions in 1971 than 1965. Your Bharat Rakshak is a mirror you should look at for IAF losses of 74 aircraft to PAF 24 which includes 11 F86s abandoned at Dacca after the only Runway availableto ONLY ONE PAF SQDN.NO.14,was destroyed after IAFs 350 attacks in 5 days mostly against the single Dacca runway. NOT A SINGLE FIGHTER WAS EVEN DAMAGED ON THE GROUND IN THE RELENTLESS ATTACKS.IAF had 11 Sqdns. against this single sqdn. marooned 1000 miles of india between East& West Pak..According to PVS Jagan Mohan Eagles over East erstwhile East Pak IAF flew 2002 sorties against Pak forces in 6 days.
      PAF performance as air force was better than even 65. pl..refer to your own intrepid authors not our version. Feb 2020 should be a remainder that war will never solve indian political problems. Nor ever IAF will attain air superiority over PAF. Quantity, technology are fine but leadeship, training and professional excellence are the game changer and weapons force multipliers. Col. Shukla gave a simple message, Why an airforce times in size, with territorial depth a sine qua non for Air ops, Soviet open support of materials, should celebrate a victory having lost 74 (Bharatrakshak) to PAF 17 to all causes but only 11 to operations..Wisdom is to learn lessons not hubris, gentlemen.

    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  14. I stay away from Broadsword due to its own contradictions in many of its articles.

    I read this as someone passed it and for the sanctity of the armed forces vis a vis sensationalising a story I beg to make my point.

    To be honest the author has written on several subjects with glaring contradictions. His pet about how the IAF is a baddy since it went in for the pillatus and not waiting for HAL to deliver its imaginary trainer.

    the story reminds me of blind men holding different parts of an elephant only to tell what they have perceived. The most glaring incompetancy of the article is the political doctrine which has always swayed the military decission. Under the same bursh then the army would have done a holiday at kargil as it did not cross the LOC (Though it was due to a political doctrine) and the same pathetic brush could be applied to the 62 conflict

    The IAF and IA have moved on from certain burps between the duo during the Kargil war....such accusations flew when both's top hierarchy stayed away and it hurt the ranks and files of both. With ranks and files owing allegiance to their own as in any segment, the distinction between the two sides only grew. Having said that the army claim of flushing away pak soldiers from heights with choppers was flawed as seen and the IAF had its own flaw perhaps....but such have to be seen as a whole...

    The author tries to capitulate on being a veteran..he gets his respect for the same but apart from that Perhaps there will be a few crackers on Pak def forums and those who fudged figures in front of the world..
    At best little justice to the article and 65 conflict in this yellowed article.

    1. glad your intellectuals refuse to face Truth. Truth will always prevail over falsehood. Col. Shukla said nothing wrong which your best historians Pushpidar Singh, Ravi Riekye,PVS Jagan Mohan, Samir Choopra in their pretty fair treatise have chronicled. Opinions are only valid when in consonance with empirical data. Be as it may, IAF can celebrate 5th Sept..

  15. Shows the pre-conceived ideas of the author. The IAF has said that it is 'commmemorating' the '65 war. There was a war (unless Col Shukla doubts that too!!!) So, in the Seminar the good and the bad will come out. Wait for the Seminar dear blogger. The start, with the NDC 'apocryphal' tale is plain and simple a below the belt strike -- you mean to say that the IAF is found only in fiction? All I can say is that your bias for TRP ratings has come out clearly.

  16. Sir do you mean to say that indian Air Force is inferior to PAF even today or are you just pointing out to the blunder of the earlier wars !!

  17. Ajaiji,

    Thanks for the pointer in bharat rakshak for the detailed report as submitted by Dr. S N Prasad. It is an eye opener.


  18. Give some credit to the author, no one doubts IAF, the point is about the Date being highlighted and glorified ( so it can be some other day to pick),
    Second if anything was learnt is IAF .
    Concern if apart from glorification is it presented correctly by IAF.

    So have a point of view.

  19. Dear Ajay Shukla,
    I read n re-read ur post....just to make sure I got it right....ur tone n content both are flawed....why the IAF is conducting a seminar is something they need to consider....but why r U peeved? Didn't u get an invite?

    RD Pradhan, the then Home Minister, YB Chavan's aide, writes in his book about the events leading to the IAF joining in......u wud do well to read it before trying to pass off as a history buff....
    Since when did Fricker's book become authoritative.....the PAF commissioned him to write the book....can a benefactor ever be belittled by a beneficiary? Of course, unless you speak from personal ethics u practice, this is never done! Therefore, young man, it would behoove a good journalist to recheck his facts before spouting off some bluster.....a la...Capt Haddock !
    Don't denigrate the very forces which gave you your identity for your tone and tenor betray arrogance which neither befits your service nor the regard we hold good journalists in.

  20. Sir,
    Why wait for a war? Even in ex COs don't accept failures. All everyone wants the Rum and heat of the campfire.
    I was even shocked at the glory of Prithviraj chouhan that is sung in folklore is not true! He was actually killed in the most merciless way.
    The day we start celebrating our failures in true sense we will succeed in our next attempt. In all walks of life, why only war.

  21. How comforting to know that India is in good hands. No wonder India doesn't go to war despite the numerous LoC violations.

  22. This kind of Articles are not true..he is doing a paid service for our enemies...and the persons who are worried about imported aircraft for IAF,please be informed that we had only Maroot and now HAL LCA ,which are ingeniously built....and it is not an offense done by IAF to import foreign planes...anyways in our country everybody has freedom of ENJOY it..

    1. The first line sounds so commonly fimiliar in my country, Pakistan, too. Our egos drive us blind.

    2. @auqil: Only this time, this article proves ego of ones in your country (Pakistan), to be based on facts as mentioned by this non-Pakistani about Pakistan Air Force. Liberals once again seem to be hurt learning the facts about their own country.

  23. Good honest article. Long time ago I had a discussion with some senior Air Force officers and one of them mentioned that in Indo/Pak contest it is basically a war of the Air Chief’s! Whichever Air Force has a more aggressive Air Chief will do better. Damage to IAF in 65’ could have been much more if Asghar Khan would still have been Air Chief. He was more aggressive than Noor Khan and knew the overall war plans better since he drew them up. During the 71’ war IAF had a much Air Chief of much better caliber.

    1. In 71' India attacked Eastern Pakistan, where Pakistan had limited military resources.

    2. Luckily some anonymous has finally spoken sense. It's truism that changing AM ASGHAR khan through an intrigue by Ayub khan and his Saval Gen . Musa. I had the opportunity to lead the attack against Gen. Nirendra Parshad Div and the attakers led by Col. Desmond Hyde on 6th sept. Same day I led my squadron against pathankot. So I may be permitted to give a view from here. Asghar khan had created the doctrine of PAF, ITS strategy of Pre emptive initiative, inextricably necessary for a small Air Force, lack of geographical depth and restrictive resources. AM Nur khan was appointed just weeks before the war. A great commander with whom I flew almost all working days when he was C IN C . But the PAF Magnum opus was not followed as per Asghar Khan plan owing to confusion rather unexceptable, and total failure by station commander Mauripur. Yes, had the planned strike gone in full force it would have been devastating. But ifs and buts don't justify what did not happen. IAF official record of losses on bharatrakshak as well as well as by three of India's respected historians confirm IAF LOSSES OF 74 To all causes in both 1965- 71 wars. PAF losses were 17 in 65 and 21 I think plus minus 2 in 71. IAF flew 2001 Sorties in 71 Against Dacca and unused Chittagong plus CAS missions. Dacca had just one squadron, single runway in East, and water logged from all sides with no chance of help. 280 or so attack missions were flown against Dacca. Not a single Fighter of PAF was destroyed on the ground. We lost three in the air battles after 19th Nov. It's for sabe minds to judge who came out better with the given preponderance in favour of one of the antagonists. It's your choice.

  24. Thank you Ajai!! Every child in Pakistan knows that the Pakistan military is superior to India's paper tiger military. I hope the Indian fan boys can now accept the bitter truth. Pakistan has the best trained air force even today and can do a repeat of 65 anytime it wants to!

    1. Yes pakistanis are the best humans.pakistani soldiers and pilots are most courageous.indian soldiers and pilots are cowards. happy?. Even hardened generals dont want war.War does not bring any glory.It is nothing but masturbation of nationalistic egos.

    2. Is that why Indian General is still calling and talking about war? (September 06-2017 –

  25. Most people criticizing the author on this article do not read the article in detail or may require to enroll in reading comprehension classes.

    The author asks two potent questions

    1. Why September 5 to commemorate IAF's air campaign of 1965 why not another suitable date ?

    2. Why the year long celebrations?

    To statrt with a war may not be "celebrated" with pomp and pagentry but a more appropriately a solemn ceremony must be conducted.

    The objective of such ceremonies is NOT to celebrate the valiance of one or a group of warriors in executing the other nations warriors. But to solemnly "Honour" the "sacrifices" made by those who stepped up when the nation called upon them to do so.

    Lately in India, Our aspiration to be counted as a world power has also led to people trying to color or abandon the past, altogether. Since we cling to our Armed Forces as an outsider God Like institution , three types of reactions of military personnel and civilians are noticed when there is a contradiction or deviation from the supposed truth.

    1. Complete Denial followed by either complete pessimism and disillusionment.

    2. Complete Denial followed by self indoctrination of some untruth to further artificially boost morale.

    The Idea that India never made and can never make any mistakes or has losses especially in the military realm.

    The paranoia of putting the 'best foot forward' while ignoring the gangrened one in the rear is actually damaging the morale of a nation and its military rather than giving it a actual calm confidence.

    When India goes into combat with Pakistan, it has been more than one occasion that an Indian commander has recommended a Pakistani military man for bravery or valour who has then been subsequently awarded that honour by his government. However, It has never been the case of vice versa.

    Brave fighters are born every where but it takes a real confident and professional Military to acknowledge valiance of the enemy.

    Ladies and Gentleman, by not seeking out the truth, by not admitting mistakes and working doubly hard to improve upon them, by covering up or coloring our history and putting our 'best foot forward', we are only fooling ourselves and becoming a weak, spineless nation of meek misogyny.

    A nation quite similar to a type of nation that refused to admit and abandoned its soldiers who died fighting for them, simply because they lost.

    A nation quite similar to a type of nation whose soldier Capt. Karnal Sher (Nishan-i-Haider) was not recognized by his own Army because the over all objective was lost. They only recognized him when he was recognized by his enemies.

    We will become that kind of nation and military which claims victory in all conflicts and all engagements. And defeat because of every thing else but their own shortcomings.

    Now, regarding 1965. Lets just go by the actual history please. Instead of year long clebration, please contact all veterans and videograph all their interviews.

    For the sake of our nation I ask the high and mighty, in the military and the government to not fudge history but to let the public know, which ever way it is.

    We dont care if we won or lost that Air war or ground war or Naval war of 1965. We dont want great manufactured victorious war stories to be happy with you.
    We are safe today and for that we are thankful and greatful.

    What we do want to know, is the absolute truth, What we do want is to honour the true past, victorious or disastrous. What we do want is that lessons be drawn from our past mistakes and improvements be made.

    Dont try to trick us into believing you are "invincible". We do not expect you to be. 'Convince' us that you are working very hard at improving yourself.

    When we the public know this, we will back you, the military, up, all the way.

    Jai Hind ! Jai Jawan !

  26. I agree with Broadsword - its indeed correct to call a spade a spade. Its astounding that the IAF have decided to celebrate their "victory" in the '65 War, when the truth is very clearly otherwise. And what is worse is that the Marshal of the IAF Arjan Singh was the Chief during the '65 War. I wonder how was he ever selected to be the Marshal???

    Yes, the IAF learnt its lessons well and went on to do exceptionally well in the '71 War. And yes, there were redeeming moments when brave young fighter pilots went up against superior machines flown by well trained PAF pilots. But there were equal number of gross blunders, perhaps topped by BS Sikand getting lost, landing his Gnat at Lahore by mistake and facing the ignominy of being "Air Arrested" by the PAF ground personnel, when they quickly recovered from their surprise. That Gnat was later flown by their test pilot and used to lead their official flypasts for several years thereafter.

    A professional Air Force is not afraid of the truth, acknowledges past mistakes as such and learns the correct lessons.

    We could have rightfully celebrated our victory in the '71 War.Our present CAS instead appears to be on a PR trip.

    Very disappointing, indeed. Expected much better from the IAF

  27. PAF chickened out in most air wars with India. 1971 one entire squadron (of 16 planes) was destroyed on the ground by PAF officers in East Pakistan as they were chicken and refused to fight the IAF. This has been well documented by American sources (Time Magazine). Kargil - they ran away, were scared and refused to fight again for which PAF was severely criticized by Pakistan Army.

  28. Please give us informed journalism. Not a TRP raiser like this article. Firstly, wars, whether won or lost are meant to be discussed and even commemorated. Secondly, you tripped over the first line of credibility when you mentioned the IAF had 48 sqns. As a matter of fact, it has NEVER reached that strength. At least I haven't even found ONE reference to this figure that you quote. Unless you are adding heptr and tpt sqns too. Thirdly, the PAF was superior in equipment and possibly tactics too, but so was the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain. India was in splendid isolation as a non-aligned nation. PAF had access to a multinational/ US led alliance's expertise (SEATO? CENTO ad what have you). In fact, aircraft for aircraft, there was nothing in it for the IAF. The Sabre was a frontline fighter, battle proven and MISSILE ARMED. The Gnat on the other hand, was actually an advanced jet trainer (that's how the RAF used it before getting the HAWK). I'm sorry to say, I'm not at all impressed by your knowledge (lack of) of military aviation. Reading your blog is quite a waste of time. Amateurs like me can spot flaws, I pity the professionals.

    1. US stopped arms supplies to Pakistan, which is old habit of USA to abandon its allies during wars (especially if the ally is a Muslim-majority). You were helped by Superpowr Soviet Union.

  29. Oh yes.... the first sorties were apparently launched on an emergency request, and WITHOUT a ground controller. Accounts of the meeting between the RM, CAS and the COAS bring out that the possibility of fratricide was brought out by the CAS and ACCEPTED by the COAS as the situation was critical. 20 Lancers reaction is understandable. Yours is a mystery.

  30. This is an interesting article and is largely based on facts which can be checked from multiple sources. To begin with, the attack on Pathankot is detailed on the Web site of Indian airforce and it is obvious IAF was caught with its pants down. Similarly, PAF. Attack on the advancing columns of Indian Army not only halted the attack but broke the moral. Don't forget Anna Hazare was the sole survivor of one of the attacks on the column. While those attacks took place, IAF choose to be absent from the scene. Anyone interested in more details should read Kuldip Nayars book 'Scoops' in which he has described the attack on Lahore and how PAF saved Pakistan from a decisive defeat. Both Pakistan and India had kept their airforce in the dark of actual planning and war came as a surprise. Biography of Air Marshal Nur Khan makes an interesting reading. He was only 38 in 1965.

  31. I was a XII class student in September 1965 in the then East Pakistan. I joined PAF in 1966 and commissioned in 1968, finally retired from Bangladesh Air Force in 2003. I have known many star PAF and IAF officers through my association with Staff College and the National Defence College. 1965 War was a fiasco for both sides from many angle. Pakistan's planning Ops Gibraltar without considering Air or Naval forces, its assumption that few infiltrators and a radio station will ignite a revolution, her assumption that war will remain limited to Kashmir and that India will not cross the international boundary, all proved wrong. The first kill of the War was two IAF Vampires shot down over Chamb sector by PAF Sabres on 2 Sept 1965 - that needs to be stated. Both air forces started full-scale counter air ops from 6-7 Sept. PAF appeared to have done better in by 7 Sept, which is celebrated as the Air Force Day in Pakistan. Pakistan's commando operation against IAF airfields was a disaster as stated in the blog. It's true. Similarly, IAF's attack against air fields in Jessore and Chittagong was useless because they had never had military assets since the end of WWII. In Dhaka attack, the IAF Pilots were briefed to attack non-operational runway at Kurmitola. leaving the only operational base at Tejgaon untouched. The pilots were briefed not to attack Tejgaon, although that's where Sabres were operating from since 1963. It's strange that the Indian intelligence did not know from where the Sabres were operating, although they had a Deputy High Commission in Dhaka since partition. Similarly, IAF Eastern command assured Kalaikunda base that it is beyond the reach of Sabres. So they left their Canberras and Vampires neatly lined up on the tarmac when the Sabre attack came. Kalaikunda raid proved to be costliest for the IAF. PAF had only 2 RB-57 reconnaissance aircraft. One got badly damaged over Delhi due to SA-2 missile that burst close to the aircraft to cause major damage and the aircraft was declared "damaged beyond repair". The other one was shot down a few days after ceasefire by Pak Army's own ack-ack fire when it was trying to do dive bombing run over a mobile radar station near Sargodha. The AA Guns were on "Hold Fire", means not to fire under any circumstances, yet one lone gunner, assuming that the site is under attack, opened fire that killed both the crew - pilot and navigator. So the fiascoes were on both sides. In one incident, an IAF Canberra was shot down by an F-104 at night as it was returning after raid over Peshawar. The F-104 was positioned by Ground Radar behind the Canberra near Mianwali, but the F-104 was not able to get a missile tone because of the tail-warning radar of the Canberra was warning the Canberra pilot and he was all the time maneuvering. Then as the Canberra crossed Sahiwal, for some reason, the Canberra switched off its tail-warning Radar and resumed straight and level flight and that was the time F-104 got a lock-on and fired its Sidewinder. The Canberra exploded in a ball of fire. It was the only Canberra shot down in air at night during the entire War. Anonymous wrote that AM Nur Khan of Pakistan was from India, to clarify let me say he is from a place known as Talagang in Pakistani Punjab. He was, of course, commissioned in Royal Indian Air Force before partition, like many others. For many in Pakistan, he is considered the Father of the PAF.

  32. @ Ishfaq

    Thank you for your honest and balanced comment. You have added great value to this thread. I hope you will continue to visit broadsword and share your views.

  33. @Ishaq, a correction. The RB-57F 'Droopy' was actually fired on (SA-2) after the war, on 10th Oct 1965. Also it was not declared 'beyond repair' by PAF. It was repaired with the help of PIA engineers and returned to USAF from whom it was leased.

  34. Unfortunate you refer to Fricker's book as authoritative. It was commissioned by the PAF, and is thus not credible. There is only one book that does a good, dispassionate job of analysis. Please read, "The India-Pakistan Air War of 1965", by P.V.S. Jagan Mohan and Samir Chopra, Manohar Publishers. Highly recommend all readers of this blog to read that book and then make up their minds on Col.Shukla's post.

  35. Kindly read the article by Air vice Marshal A K Tiwary in Indian defence review based on facts and data and not delusional ramblings. Yes the IAF could have performed better but it was not on the mat as the author tries to project rather it started getting the upperhand as the war progressed and that is the "real spade"

  36. No wars, we need peace and progress. A Pakistani.

  37. Don't IAF realized that MM Alam was , is & Will Remain "Baap" of IAF.
    Whatsoever Happened on 5th September.
    Just be aware.

  38. Thanks for sharing this post ! A very unique and informative post. Keep it up.
    Bomber jackets available online


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