Pakistan Air Force:
A Symbol of Pride for the Nation
Selected by: Adeel Noshaad
In 1947, the British left sub-continent after dividing it into two sovereign states of India and Pakistan. Pakistan Air Force (PAF) was born immediately afterwards. Distribution of military assets between the new states was to follow. However, India with an inherent resentment towards the creation of Pakistan tried to subvert our capabilities by crippling Pakistan militarily. It denied the then Royal Pakistan Air Force (RPAF) even the officially agreed small portions of weapons, equipment and aircraft allocated by departing British as its legitimate share. Much of what was eventually received from India was inoperable. Crates of equipment contained nothing but scrap and waste. The RPAF got 16 fighter aircraft as its foundation. It started off with one squadron of eight Tempest aircraft and a small remnant of No 1 Squadron Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF) which was subsequently utilized to raise No 5 Squadron.
Within three weeks of independence, Indian hegemonic designs sparked off the first war between Pakistan and India. Pakistan’s young air arm was called upon to fly supply missions with one of the two war weary Dakotas. Contending with the unpredictable weather, the difficult terrain, and the enemy fighters was an uphill task. The strength was replenished with two more Dakotas only as the skirmishes resumed the following winters. In the narrow valleys of Kashmir, the stirring tale of Flying Officer Mukhtar Dogar defiantly scissoring his lumbering Dakota with pursuing RIAF Tempests taking pot-shots at him defined the fighting doctrine of the PAF, defend Pakistan and learn to fight outnumbered. Within the span of a year this young air force had completed 437 mercy drops, delivering more than 500 tons of supplies and food.
Whilst these brave pioneers were documenting the historic beginning of PAF, the force was faced with the enigma of finding aircraft to fly. However, despite the lack of funds and market places, PAF entered the jet age in August, 1951 with the induction of British built Attackers. Until mid-1950s PAF’s fighter force comprised nearly 100 Hawker Furies and a dwindling number of Tempests. Then, the first air defence radar was installed and the PAF was rapidly setting up its own advanced flying and technical training institutions. F-86 Sabers and T-33 jet trainers were inducted in PAF as a result of the United States (US) aid.
From 1955 to1965, the Air Force armed its squadrons with the most modern jet fighters and bombers, Sabers and F-104 Starfighters as fighters, B-57s as bombers and the ubiquitous C-130s as transport fleet. The seven years of rigorous training with realistic threat perception, planning and preparation had enabled PAF to inflict a humiliating defeat on the enemy in 1965 when the mutual hostility of the rival neighbours escalated into a war. PAF struck hard its rival and kept it reeling under tactics of shock and unpredictability. Many victories came to PAF pilots who exacted an even retribution on the enemy, leaving it in total disarray. At the end of the war, India had lost 110 aircraft with 19 damaged, not including those destroyed on the ground at night, against a loss of 16 PAF planes. Thus the outnumbered PAF emerged triumphant over a four times larger force, its air defence controllers, engineers, logisticians and hands just as much the heroes as its pilots.
The third war between the South Asian foes began when, in December 1971, the Indian Army crossed into East Pakistan and from the encircling air Bases ten squadrons of the IAF challenged the PAF’s only squadron, No 14, located at Dhaka. The Tail Choppers of 1965 rose heroically to meet the aggressors, and before their squadron was grounded by a bombed out runway, they and their ack ack gunners had destroyed 23 IAF aircraft. The PAF’s Mirages, B-57s, Sabers, F-6s and a few F-104s spearheaded Pakistan’s retaliation from the west. At war’s end IAF had lost 130 aircraft in all. The three-to-one kill ratio that Pakistan scored, however, could not prevent the tragic fall of Dhaka. The trauma of separation of East Pakistan and a preventable military catastrophe affected all Pakistanis deeply and lingered long afterwards. However a stoic recovery was brisk. PAF soon reorganized and re-equipped assimilating the new threat environment on the sub-continent.
Derived from the national military objectives, the PAF leadership has clearly visualized and laid down the operational doctrine for the nation’s air arm. PAF takes its pick of the finest young people in the land. It has now acquired new depths of human skills and initiative. Together, all branches of PAF are delivering unprecedented serviceability rates and efficient management of all resources. Poised on the threshold of tomorrow, PAF remains, as the Quaid said, “Second to None”; fully abreast with the requisite will and mechanism to live by its standards in the coming millennium and beyond.