Air Warriors of the 1965 War

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Selection by Rabia Tariq


We regard the magnificent performance of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) heroes and the supreme sacrifice made by them as a debt of honour to be repaid in deeds of glory when the occasion arises.

Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas

On August 20, 1971 Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas, a pilot still under training, was taxing out a T-33 Jet trainer for take-off. An instructor pilot from the same unit forced his way into the rear cockpit, seized control of the aircraft and having taken off, headed the aircraft towards India. With just 40 miles of Pakistan territory remaining, having failed to regain control of his aircraft, Minhas had only one course of action open to him to prevent his aircraft from being taken to India. Living up to the highest traditions of Pakistan Air Force, he valiantly forced his aircraft to crash at a point 32 miles from the Indian border. In doing so Pilot Officer Minhas deliberately made the supreme sacrifice of his life for the honour of Pakistan and the service to which he belonged.
For this act of heroism above and beyond the call of duty, he was awarded the highest gallantry award of Nishan-i-Haider.

Sqn. Ldr. Shabbir Hussain Syed
On 7 September, 1965, Sqn Ldr Shabbir Syed led a flight of four F-86s on two separate strike missions against Kalaikunda, during which he and his flight destroyed on the ground ten Canberra light bombers and two unidentified enemy aircraft. In the ensuing aerial combat, Sqn Ldr Shabbir destroyed one enemy Hunter. For displaying exceptional flying skill and outstanding valour he was awarded Sitara-i-Jurat.
He later rose to the rank of Air Marshal, and retired as Vice Chief of the Air Staff.

Sqn. Ldr. Muhammad Mahmood Alam
During September 1965 War with India, flying in his F-86 Sqn Ldr M M Alam displayed exemplary skill and bravery shooting down five enemy aircraft. For this unparalleled act of dauntless courage, he was awarded a bar to Sitara-i-Jurat.
He rose to the rank of Air Cdre. To date, he regularly contributes to the PAF’s educational activities.

Sqn. Ldr. Sarfraz Ahmad Rafiqui
On 1 September, 1965 Sqn Ldr Sarfraz Rafiqui shot down two Indian Vampires in Kashmir. On 6 Septemberhe led a formation of three F-86s against Halwara. In the ensuing battle, his guns jammed after shooting one Hunter. Still, he refused to leave the battle area, providing cover to his formation. He laid down his life in an outstanding display of courage against overwhelming odds.

For his bravery and selfless leadership he was awarded both Sitara-i-Jurat and Hilal-i-Jurat.
Sqn. Ldr. Abdul Hameed Qadri
On 17 May, 1986, on a routine western CAP near the Afghan border, Sqn Ldr Hameed Qadri intercepted four SU-22 aircraft. When his missiles failed to launch, he closed in with the enemy aircraft and shot down two SU-22s with his guns.

He rose to the rank of Air Cdre and laid down his life in an air crash on the last day of his command as Base Commander Minhas.
Flt. Lt. Khalid Mehmood
On 12 September 1988, Flight Lieutenant Khalid Mahmood, leading a formation of two F-16s, intercepted a formation of six Mig-23s intruding from Afghanistan. In a quick action he shot down two Mig-23 aircraft. Later, on 3 November the same year, he shot down an SU-22 aircraft near Thal.

He is now a Group Captain and is serving in the Project JF-17 Thunder.
Flt. Lt. Saiful Azam
Flight Lieutenant Saiful Azam has the unique distinction of having kills against air forces of two different countries. As a young Flying Officer during the 65 War, Saiful Azam scored a kill against an Indian Air Force Gnat, in recognition of which he was awarded Sitara-i-Jurat. Two years later Saiful Azam became the first Pakistani pilot to score against the Israeli Air Force in the 1967 Arab-Israel war. He shot down a Vatour Bomber, a super Mystere, and a Mirage IIIC, all in only two missions thus raising his tally to four kills. To-date he remains the highest shooter of Israeli aircraft.
He has been highly decorated with gallantry awards by both Jordan and Iraq for his extraordinary display of skill and courage. He retired as a Group Captain from Bangladesh Air Force. In 2001, he was honoured by the United States Air Force (USAF) and enjoys the status of being one of the twenty two ‘Living Eagles’ of the world.
Flt. Lt. Muhammad Wasim Ansari
Flight Lieutenant Muhammad Wasim Ansari, a signals officer achieved Shahadat as a result of a direct bomb hit on his place of work. The officer, inspired by a feeling of patriotism, carried on working under extremely dangerous conditions. This was above and beyond the call of duty. In recognition of his courage, devotion to duty and patriotism, the officer has been awarded the Tamgha-i-Basalat.