From a Services Career

1971 War – Sylhet Ops …

Posted on December 18, 2019. Filed under: From a Services Career |

1971 War: Battle of Sylhet-The first Special Heli Borne Operation.

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ChandiGarh Lit Fest – Balakot, MIGS n F-16s …

Posted on December 15, 2019. Filed under: From a Services Career |

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Extracted from The Wire –

This was at The ChandiGarh Lit Fest when the then Air Chief, Dhanoa andother Senior IAF Officers were present on a Panel Discussion.
Christine Fair – an expert on South Asian political and military affairs – said the IAF story of the operation and its aftermath is based on ‘dubious’ claims.

Fair, professor of security studies at Georgetown University who has spent many years researching in Pakistan, stirred up a heated debate at the Military Literature Festival in Chandigarh on Saturday, when she went on to assert that she did not believe India shot down an F16 fighter during the dogfight between Indian and Pakistani jets in the aftermath of the Indian airstrikes over Balakot.

“I say this clearly with 100% certitude that there were no F16 struck down. I do not believe you did.

Fair also questioned India’s claim of extensive damage to the terror camp at Balakot based on images from open sources, saying that from an international point of view, these have not been accepted. “They are refuted by many scholars who are actually India’s friends.”

Fair went on to allege that the video of the purported F16 going down in Pakistani territory and Punjabi speaking villagers talking about a pilot having crashed there, shared extensively on social media, was “fake”

“Avionics experts outside of India are unanimous in their opinion that this particular MIG Bison was superior on virtually every respect to that particular F16 that Pakistan flies.”  

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India – Pak Air Clash of Feb 27 …

Posted on March 5, 2019. Filed under: From a Services Career, Personalities |

Despite the Air Chief’s understandable Reluctance to Discuss Things, here is an Old Air Chiefs Version of the Recent Air Clash

The NYT Heading reads – After India Loses Dogfight to Pakistan, Questions Arise About Its ‘Vintage’ Military. — That is NOT Quite RIGHT as it Happened This Way ……….

First India didn’t lose the aerial engagement. … I don’t refer to the engagement as a Dog Fight because a DF is a visual manoeuvring engagement in which both combatants are trying to achieve a position of advantage vis-a-via the other in which a missiles or a cannon could be fired to achieve a kill.

The engagement referred to was a beyond-visual-range engagement in which the PAF F-16 fired his AIM 120 first as the IAF MiG 21 came in to its “kill range”.

The intrepid Wg Cdr Abhinandan must have known that he was “illuminated” by the F16 radar, yet he did not do a “last ditch” to attempt escape; knowing that in any case that would have been futile.

He must also have known when the 120 was fired and realised he was a “goner”. A lesser air warrior may have sought to save his life by ejecting before the hostile missile impacted his aircraft.

BUT, he continued, pursuing the F16 (it seems the F16 did not turn tail immediately after firing his missile just to confirm his kill on his own radar) waiting to come within the much shorter kill-firing range of his own missile – flying into the jaws of death. He successfully fired his missile to achieve the first-ever F 16 kill by a MiG 21.

By providence he survived!

The PAF first reported downing two aircraft and three pilots, for two downed aircraft. Three parachuting pilots were reported by non-PAF Pakistanis. Soon enough they realised their faux pas and amended the figures to downing of one aircraft and two pilots.

Actually there were two aircraft and three pilots: 1 MiG 21, one F 16; 1 Indian pilot and two Pakistani pilots. Unfortunately, the “frenzied” locals attacked all three. The IAF pilot and one PAF pilot fortunately survived the mob attack.

The second PAF pilot, alas, perished due to his injuries. The F16 was a twin-seater.

Not much analyses has been done on the import of the fact that a 24 aircraft strong PAF force was heading towards us.

The Indian military spokesman (a major general) at the press briefing said that it was to attack a brigade HQ and its units — to me it appeared a laughable proposition.

Two or at most four aircraft would be the normal strength. My gut feeling is that their planned targets were our air bases at Srinagar and Avantipur in the Valley. When the PAF realised that they had been up-ended, they aborted.

The entire above narrative is my analyses on the basis of media reports. There are absolutely NO INPUTS to me from IAF sources.

There is no doubt that IAF needs to replenish its deficiencies and modernise some of its ageing fleets and I reiterated this on over a dozen TV channels Live and news agencies, including recordings to BBC World (Hindi) BBC Asia(?) (English).

I am not aware if these two were aired.

Despite the “vintage” appellation given to My Fair Lady, (this was my coinage in an article “My Fair Lady – An Ode to the MiG 21″

I wrote for the Asian Age ‘The MiG 21″, circa 2003, published later in many main Russian newspapers). It has the PAF & the US highly embarrassed???!!!

This 21, called the Bison by IAF, is upgraded with an excellent AI radar and modern agile A-A missiles.

It might interest you to know that a day before the IAF attack on the JeM training camp, a Hindi channel had organised a day-long शीखर सम्मेलन at Hotel Lalit, Delhi to discuss the avenues available to India to respond the JeM attack on the CRPF convoy.

My co-panellist for the one hour session was Gen Bikram Singh (Army Chief ‘12-‘14). The Q was whether a surgical strike as was carried out by the army earlier was doable.

My take was that retributary action of sufficient attrition was essential to appease an incenced India; this was possible only through air action deep in to Pak where JeM was lodged and/or training in sufficient strength.

Then I delved on the characteristics of air power that afforded more than necessary weight to an attack with range, surprise and optics that would be most telling.

LESS than 15 hours later, the IAF STRUCK!

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Subutai – Russian Role Model …

Posted on February 25, 2019. Filed under: From a Services Career, Personalities |

While talking of the Great Captains of War, we are always prone to limit ourselves to Alexander, Hannibal, Napoleon and the like – hardly ever mentioning the likes of Subutai or Khaled, who were far Greater re Battles Fought and Territores Conquered – as well as the Thought Processes applied.

Here is Subutai (1175 – 1248) who was the General – in – Chief of Genghis Khan and Ögedei Khan.

When he first entered the service of Temujin, the later Cinggis Qan, the realm of that minor Mongol chieftan comprised only a few families.

In his old age, Subotei saw a mighty dominion stretching from the borders of Hungary to the Sea of Japan, from the outskirts of Novgorod to the Persian Gulf and the Yangtze River. And he had a major part in creating it.

He directed more than 20 campaigns conquering 32 nations, winning 65 pitched battles – conquering more territory than any other commander in history. Indeed when his Armies marched, it was not in miles or kilometres that distances were measured, but in degrees of latitude and longitude.

He won victory by imaginative and sophisticated strategies, routinely coordinating armies that were hundreds of kilometers apart.

He is most famed for the campaign that destroyed the armies of Hungary and Poland within two days of each other – by forces over 500 kilometers apart.

Subutai was an innovator in the art of war. His later campaigns demonstrated unprecedented levels of complexity and strategy not seen again until World War II.

In the invasions of China, Russia, and Europe, Subutai routinely coordinated armies of 100,000 men across frontages separated by 500-1,000 km and between 3 and 5 separate armies.

These maneuvers were highly synchronized despite the enormous distances. Subutai’s maneuvers were designed to mislead his foes and strike them from unexpected directions.

The Mongol invasion of the Jin in 1232 continually pulled the hitherto successful Jin forces apart despite their highly advantageous terrain, as they could not determine which Mongol armies were the feints and which were the true threats until their main army became isolated and starved.

Strongly fortified locations would be bypassed and ignored until all organized resistance had been destroyed. Sieges would be limited to critical or vulnerable locations; in other situations, the Mongols either left a blockading force, or simply ignored fortified citadels and devastated the surrounded agriculture so that the remaining people would starve if they remained within fortified walls.

Subutai faced off against elite armies of all nations from west to east and emerged triumphant in every campaign.

The horse archers of other great steppe confederacies, the elite Jurchen cavalry of China in the 1230s, the seasoned Qangli Turk cavalry of the Khwarezm, fresh from conquering their own Empire, and the heavily armored knights of Georgia, Poland, and Hungary were all powerless against Subutai’s armies.

In contrast to the common perception of steppe horse archer armies slowly weakening their foes with arrows for many hours or even days, such as at the battle of Carrhae or the battle of Manzikert, Subutai fought in a much more decisive and fluid manner where heavy firepower was used to create openings for rapid cavalry charges with deep formations.

At the battle of the Kalka River in 1223, Subutai’s 20,000 man army routed the 80,000 man Russian army by stringing it out after a 9-day retreat, and then immediately turning and delivering a decisive charge without a prolonged missile bombardment. The vanguard of the Russian army was already put in flight before the second wave even reached the battlefield and began to deploy.

Subutai was one of the first Mongol generals, who realized the value of engineers in siege warfare. Even in field battles he made use of siege engines.

In the Battle of Mohi, the Hungarian crossbowmen repelled a night bridge crossing by the Mongols, and inflicted considerable casualties on the Mongols fighting to cross the river the following day. Subutai ordered huge stonethrowers to clear the bank of Hungarian crossbowmen and opened the way for his light cavalry to cross the river without further losses.

This use of siege weapons was one the first recorded use of artillery bombardments against the enemy army to disrupt their resistance while simultaneously attacking them.

In execution, his usage functioned more akin to the creeping barrage of World War I, used to soften and disrupt enemy lines right before an attack. While the stonethrowers were clearing the path to cross the main bridge, Subutai supervised construction of another temporary bridge downriver to outflank the Hungarians.

The Hungarians, focused on the attack at the bridge and knowing that the Sajo river was too deep to ford, did not expect the Mongols to be able to create a pontoon bridge, especially at night.

Subutai’s engineering ingenuity extended to the totally unique use of smokescreens to shroud key areas of the battlefield.

At the battle of the Kalka and the battle of Liegnitz, the Mongol armies drew portions of their foes armies away from their comrades, and used smoke to obscure the enemy vision and prevent them from seeing their isolated units encircled and destroyed.

After the battle, the Jin commander Wan-Yen Heda – the only general in history who was the victor in three different battles against the Imperial Mongol army, was captured. His last wish was to meet Subutai to pay his respects to the legendary general.

“No Mongol general played a greater role than Subotei Ba’atur in establishing and maintaining the early Mongol Empire. Trusted commander and retainer of Chengez, later highly respected servant of Ogodei and Guyuk, Subotei served with distinction in every phase of Mongolian national development during the first four decades of empire.

Subutai’s armies fought unlike any force in history until the Germans and Russians in World War II, seven hundred years later. They did not operate as one distinct mass, but instead moved along 3 – 5 axes of approach, often 500–1000 km apart, and threatened numerous objectives simultaneously.

Like Napoleon, Subutai (and Genghis Khan) would disperse their forces along a wide frontage and rapidly coalesce at decisive points to defeat the enemy in detail.

However, unlike Napoleon, the Mongols retained the flexibility to dispatch armies to widely separate fronts, through inhospitable terrain during most unexpected times, often using some armies purely as means of fixing enemy attention and fomenting division in their enemies.

Their methods were aligned to crush the enemy state’s will to fight – not merely to defeat their armies.

Russia derived the most use out of a careful study of the Mongol campaigns. Their closer proximity to the steppe gave them greater interest and access to the Mongolian campaigns, first analyzed by the Russian General Mikhail Ivanin in the 19th century, which became a recommended text in the Russian military academics up until the mid 20th century.

Ivanin’s work became used in the Deep Battle doctrine developed by Soviet Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky, Mikhail Frunze, and G.S. Isserson. 

Deep Battle doctrine bore a heavy resemblance to Mongol strategic methods, substituting tanks, motorized troop carriers, artillery, and airplanes for Mongol horse archers, lancers, and field artillery. 

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Maj Navdeep on NFU …

Posted on February 6, 2019. Filed under: From a Services Career |

So what is the NFU?

NFU was introduced on the recommendation of the 6th Central Pay Commission with effect from 01-01-2006 to offset the financial loss for lack of promotional avenues in various Government services.

NFU implies that whenever an IAS officer gets empanelled at a particular appointment at the Centre, all other Group-A service officers are also upgraded to the same level after a period of two years from the date of empanelment, on a non-functional basis, irrespective of whether they are actually promoted or not.

For example, if an officer of the IAS of 1989 batch is empanelled as an Additional Secretary to Govt of India, then all other Organised Group-A officers of the 1987 batch shall also be placed in the ‘Additional Secretary to Government of India’ pay grade (Higher Administrative Grade/HAG).

As a result, almost all organised Group-A civil officers are retiring with the pay and pension of much higher grades than the functional grades actually held by them.

The controversy over non-grant of NFU to certain services

While NFU was initially only meant for ‘Organised Group A Services’, it was later extended to the All India Services (other than the IAS) also, that is, the Indian Police Service and the Indian Forest Service.

However, certain cadres of officers which ironically faced the maximum stagnation, were left out- this included the commissioned ranks of defence services and the Group-A officers of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) such as the CRPF, BSF, ITBP etc.

The stand of the Government was that these services were not exactly termed as ‘Organised Group A Services’ as per various Office Memoranda and they lacked the attributes of being ‘organised’ as per policies of the Department of Personnel & Training.

Decision of the Delhi High Court

Many officers of the CAPFs challenged the non-grant of NFU to them in the Delhi High Court. The Government opposed the relief again on the ground that though CAPFs were Group-A officers, they were not members of an ‘Organised Group -A Service’.

A strange stand was also taken that grant of NFU would adversely affect the operations and functioning of CAPFs.

This was incongruous to say the least, since NFU, on the contrary, would have contributed in increasing the motivation level of the women and men in uniform operating in difficult and trying circumstances.

The reality was in fact the other way round since the functioning was rather affected because of non-grant of NFU since at various places, senior uniformed officers were getting a lower pay and lower grade of facilities than civilian officers of other Group-A services directly serving them as their juniors. NFU was also not bound to affect functioning in the manner projected by the establishment since by its very definition it was ‘Non-Functional’.

This aspect was anyway commented upon by the High Court in the following terms:

“The Government’s contention that NFFU cannot be granted since the CAPFs comprise a strict hierarchy with a well defined Command and Control structure; that any interference with this structure would be detrimental to the interest of the forces and would adversely affect its operation and functioning;

It was thus, claimed that all posts in the CAPFs are functional and there is no room for Non Functional posts, is untenable because by very definition there is no interference with functions, duties or the posts but only an increase in the financial prospects”

In a well reasoned and detailed decision, the High Court granted the relief to affected officers and directed the Government to grant NFU to them. In a very valid parting shot, the High Court also observed the under:

“It cannot be overemphasised that in matters relating to the Armed Forces and the Paramilitary/CAPFs there ought to be clarity and certainty apropos the service benefits which the forces would be entitled to.”

Challenge by the Union of India in the Supreme Court

Averring essentially the same grounds taken earlier, the Union of India challenged the verdict of the High Court before the Supreme Court.

In between, in the year 2017, the Supreme Court by way of a detailed order had even asked the Central Government to attempt to resolve the issue but the contentions of the affected officers were not agreed upon by the establishment.

A separate matter concerning the Railway Protection Force (RPF) was also tagged with the SLPs of other CAPFs. The Apex Court has pronounced its decision today and has upheld the decision of the High Court and has observed its ‘complete agreement’ with the High Court.

The Supreme Court has also made an observation on stagnation in the CAPFs by observing thus:

In order to overcome the stagnation problems, the 6th Pay Commission recommended NFFU to all Group A Officers in various Organised Group A Services.

The purpose of granting NFFU was to give relief to Group A Officers facing the problem of stagnation as fallback option when regular promotions do not come into various factors.

has come on record that CPMFs are facing huge problems of stagnation, more particularly, on one hand they are not being granted the promotions as most promotional posts are filled by deputation, and, on the other hand, they are denied NFFU.”

The Supreme Court has also dismissed a plea by the Indian Police Service Association filed against the High Court decision which was submitted on the pretext that the vacancies of the IPS officers on deputation with the CAPFs would be curtailed if the said forces are treated as organised services.

Declining the applications filed by the IPS Association, the Court has observed that there is no effect of the High Court decision on the posts of the IPS (on deputation).

Who is affected?

Group-A officers of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) falling within the criterion for grant of NFU stand to gain from the decision, including those who were in service as on 01-01-2006 and retired thereafter. It shall also affect the pensionary benefits of those who have retired after the said date.

Closure of a long pending controversy

The decision closes the chapter of the controversy on a positive note and it is hoped that the Government now rises to the occasion and also resolves this anomaly for other cadres which are pending before it or before various Courts and Tribunals. In fact, this exercise should have been initiated with full grace and humility after the High Court decision, rather than taking the matter into appeal.

Major Navdeep Singh is a practicing lawyer at the Punjab & Haryana High Court, the founding President of the Armed Forces Tribunal Bar Association at Chandigarh, and Member of theInternational Society for Military Law and the Law of War at Brussels.

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1971 War – Sam in Pak …

Posted on January 22, 2019. Filed under: From a Services Career |

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By Hamid Hussein –

General Sam Manekshaw speaking to two Pakistani Air Force officers in a plane bringing him to Pakistan for negotiations after 1971 Indo-Pakistan War. Photograph courtesy Brigadier Behram Panthaki.

This picture is dated 29 November 1972, when Indian Army Chief General (later Field Marshal) Sam Manekshaw flew to Pakistan for negotiations after 1971 Indo-Pakistan war.

The two Pakistani Air Force (PAF) officers were prisoners of war and brought by Sam as a good will gesture.  Both officers were shot down in western theatre of war.  The one near Sam with handle bar moustache (matching Sam’s own impressive moustache) is then Squadron Leader Amjad Ali Khan.  

His F-104 was shot down on 05 December 1971 by anti-aircraft fire while attacking Amritsar Radar.  He retired as Air Vice Marshal.  The other officer is then Flight Lieutenant Wajid Ali Khan. His F- 6 was also shot down by anti-air craft fire during a close air support mission over Marala headworks on western border.

After repatriation, he left air force and settled in Canada.  He became member of Canadian parliament serving from 2004 to 2009.  

Indian Air Force (IAF) TU-124 VIP plane brought Sam Manekshaw to Lahore.  When plane was taxing to reach the parking bay, it passed the skeleton of the burnt Indian Airlines Fokker Friendship aircraft, ‘Ganga’, that had been hijacked on January 30, 1971 on its flight from Srinagar to Jammu and brought to Lahore. 

On February 02, the hijackers had set the aircraft on fire.  Sam was received by Pakistan Army Chief, General Tikka Khan.  Tikka Is wearing his famous dark glasses. 

General Sam Manekshaw and General Tikka Khan at Lahore airport 1972.  

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General Tikka Khan receiving General Sam Manekshaw at Lahore airport.

After initial pleasantries, all got into Pakistan army chief’s seven-seater American limousine.  Tikka and Sam sat in the rear seat whereas Sam’s ADC Behram sat in front next to driver.  Tikka’s ADC was his son Captain Tariq Mahmood who drove in follow-up car.  

For first few minutes there was an eerie silence except for the whirr of the car engine.  Sam could not take this for long and he turned to Tikka and said: “Tikka, you do not drink, you do not smoke, you have no other vices, so why are you wearing dark glasses?  It is I who should be wearing them.” 

That broke the chill and the mood changed.

Punjab Governor Ghulam Mustafa Khar hosted the Pakistani brass and Indian delegation to lunch at the sprawling Governor’s Mansion. 

Before lunch delegation was entertained at an impressively laid out bar that was stocked with all types of alcohol, local and foreign, save one. 

Sam’s Military Secretary Lieutenant Colonel (later Lieutenant General) Depinder Singh requested the barman if he could have their famous locally-brewed Murree beer.  To everyone’s surprise the barman blurted out, ” Sahib, bahut tha, pur sub Dacca mein reh gaya” (Sir; there was a lot but it all got left in Dacca). 

There was no breakthrough in talks and the Indian delegation left the same night.  The Indian Government did not allow the delegation to stay overnight at Lahore.

On 07 December 1972, the Indian delegation came for yhe second round and agreement was reached about some border adjustment.  

This time lunch was arranged at Corps Artillery mess.  Sam was looking at the impressive display of trophies when he recognized a trophy of his old battalion 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment; now 6 Frontier Force Regiment of Pakistan army. 

He inquired what this trophy was doing in artillery mess?  A Pakistani officer replied that this was borrowed from the battalion for this special occasion. 

General Sam Manekshaw (with back to the camera), sitting next to Sam is Indian DGMO Lieutenant General Inderjit Singh Gill, General Tikka Khan (facing Sam) and Lahore Corps Commander Lieutenant General Abdul Hameed Khan sitting next to Tikka. 

In addition to these two PAF pilots, two who were shot down in eastern theatre also became POWs.  In East Pakistan, on 22 November 1971, three F-86s of No 14 Squadron ‘Tail Choppers’ led by Squadron Commander Wing Commander Afzal Chaudhry embarked on a mission to check Indian incursion in Jessore sector. 

Four Indian Gnats of Dum Dum based No 22 Squadron ‘swifts’ surprised the Pakistani formation.  Flight Lieutenant Pervaiz Mehdi Qureshi (known as PQ Mehdi) and Flying Officer Khalil Ahmad were shot down.  Both ejected and were taken POWs. 

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Flight Lieutenant Pervez Mehdi Qureshi after his ejection in Indian captivity 1971. Photograph courtesy of Air Commodore Kaiser Tufail. 

Captain HS Panag (later Lieutenant General) who was adjutant of 4 Sikh Regiment in East Pakistan saw a pilot ejecting from the plane and raced his jeep to the scene. 

Mehdi had landed in area of 4 Sikh and some Sikh soldiers had been there and beat Mehdi with rifle buts.  Panag secured him and offered him a cup of tea.  Panag was very impressed that despite being just shot down from the sky and landing among Sikhs who beat him, Mehdi’s demeanor was dignified and confident.  Panag was impressed by his bravery. 

Mehdi’s seat is now a souvenir at 4 Sikh mess.  After repatriation, Mehdi steadily rose to higher ranks and ended his career as Pakistan Air Force Chief. 

When Mehdi became air chief in 1997, he received numerous congratulatory calls and letters but one from Donald Lazarus in India was unique.  Lazarus was the Indian pilot who had shot Mehdi’s plane in 1971. 

During Kargil war in 1999, PQ Mehdi was Pakistan air force chief.  Army brass kept air force in the dark and didn’t involve it in planning stage. 

Mehdi had heated arguments with then army chief General Pervez Musharraf and relations between air force and army brass were severely strained. 

After the October 1999 coup, on Mehdi’s retirement, Musharraf now in charge took his revenge and five air marshals were superseded to appoint junior most air marshal as air force chief.  PAF officers jokingly call their own brass as ‘Kargil Martyrs’. 

Khalil had passed elite Central Superior Service (CSS) examination.  After repatriation, he left PAF and joined civil services (Customs).  Later, he migrated to United States.

Ironically, commander of Indian No 22 Squadron Wing Commander Brijpal Singh Sikand was POW in Pakistan in 1965 war when his Gnat was forced landed at Pasrur by a Pakistani F-104.

He was related to Indian Foreign Minister Sardar Swaran Singh and later rose to the rank of Air Marshal. 

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Squadron Leader B. S. Sikand in Pakistani captivity 1965. Photograph courtesy of Air Commodore Kaiser Tufail. 

Another Pakistani pilot Flight Lieutenant Sajjad Noor was also shot down in a dogfight in East Pakistan. However, he was picked up by a PAF helicopter after ejection.

Wing Commander SM Ahmad was also shot down near Dacca, but his body was never recovered.  It was assumed that he was killed by Mukti Bahini(Bengali freedom fighters) after his ejection.

PAF fought in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) with severe handicap.  PAF had only one No 14 Squadron in East Pakistan equipped with fifteen aging F-86s. There was only a single airfield in Dacca called Tejgaon.

Kurmitola was secondary airfield ten miles north of Tejgaon and was only for emergency use. 

Sole long- range radar at Kurmitola and single C-130 plane were withdrawn to West Pakistan before the war started.  About thirty to forty percent of PAF personnel were Bengalis and in March 1971, after many defections, they were grounded and removed from sensitive positions. 

Many Bengali personnel defected and provided to Indians all information about deployment, equipment and logistics of PAF.  Mobile Observation Units (MOUs) are a critical part of air defense.  Mukti Bahini harassed air force personnel of MOUs and killed Flight Lieutenant Shafi forcing pull back of MOUs. 

When war was declared on 03 December, 14 Squadron had now only eleven F 86s as four were lost in previous combat air support operations.  These eleven F 86s were to operate without radar coverage against eleven squadrons of Eastern Air Command (EAC) of Indian air force. 

Against heavy odds, 14 Squadron held out as long as it could.  The game was over when IAF finally made sole Tejgaon airfield non-operational on 06 December. 

Message was received to destroy all remaining F-86s.  First batch of pilots took Otter twin engine plane and escaped to Burma followed by the second batch few days later in an old Beaver used to spray crops.

Indian air force now completely controlled the air space of eastern theatre of war.  On 16 December 1971, eastern garrison surrendered with emergence of newly independent Bangladesh.

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Photos of Army Life …

Posted on January 18, 2019. Filed under: From a Services Career |

A Sons Salute to his Late Indian Army Dad

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1965 War – AF Stories …

Posted on January 10, 2019. Filed under: From a Services Career, Pakistan, Personalities |

From Hamid Hussain –

1965 POWs

Seven Indian Air Force officers who were prisoners of war during 1965 conflict prior to flying back to India; 22 January 1966, Peshawar 

Left to Right – Vijay Mayadev, Kodendera ‘Nanda’ Cariappa, Brijpal Singh Sikand, unidentified Pakistan army Lieutenant Colonel, Squadron Leader (later Air Vice Marshal) Bahar ul Haq of Pakistan Air Force; Captain of the plane, Onkar Nath ‘Piloo’ Kacker, Mahendra Vir Singh, Lal Sadarangani and Manmohan ‘Mani’ Lowe.  On the plane stairs are two unidentified members of the plane crew.  

Repatriated IAF PoWs 1965 War - 1 (002)

Seven IAF pilots on repatriation to India meeting Indian Air Force Chief Air Marshal Arjan Singh in his office; 22 January 1966.  From left Vijay Mayadev, Lal Sadarangani, O. N. Kacker, K. Cariappa, B. S. Sikand and Air Marshal Arjun Singh. M.V. Singh is next to Arjun Singh with face partially hidden and M. M. Lowe is hidden behind Lal.  Photograph courtesy of Air Marshal Kodendera ‘Nanda’ Cariappa.

Flight Lieutenant Kodendera Nanda Cariappa was serving with No 20 Squadron.  His Hunter was shot down on 22 September 1965 by Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA) fire near Kasur.  He was injured during ejection.  He was first treated at Combined Military Hospital (CMH) Lahore and later transferred to Rawalpindi.  Pakistan army chief General Muhammad Musa visited him at CMH Lahore and in Rawalpindi Ayub Khan’s son visited him.  After repatriation, he steadily rose to higher ranks. 

He commanded No: 111 Helicopter unit and later commanded No: 8 Squadron.  He retired at Air Marshal.  His father was first Indian Commander-in-Chief Field Marshal K. M. Cariappa.  Field Marshal Cariappa was Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s brigade commander before partition of India in 1947.

Squadron Leader Brijpal Singh Sikand was serving with No: 23 Squadron. On 03 September 1965, he was part of a four Gnat sortie over Lahore.  Indian plan consisted of four Mystères luring the Sabres, while low flying Gnats were to pounce on Pakistani jets from two different directions.

Two F 86s Sabres and one F-104 Starfighter were in the air. The four Mystères, having apparently lured the patrolling Sabres, turned north and exited the battle area, leaving the Gnats to strike from behind.  Indian Gnats broke off on appearance of F-104 and headed back.  One Gnat flown by Sikand, however, having gone back, turned about and re-entered Pakistani airspace. Another F-104 was scrambled and Gnat landed at an unused airfield of Pasrur.

A field ambulance was stationed near the air strip commanded by Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) Dr. Yahya Ghaznavi who took surrender of Sikand. Two PAF pilots arrived to take custody of Sikand and the Gnat.  Sikand told his captors that he got separated from his formation, lost directions and with low fuel landed on the air strip.  In 1971 war, Sikand was commanding Kalaikanda based No: 22 Squadron.  He retired as Air Marshal.

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On left Squadron Leader Saad Hatmi talking to B. S. Sikand at the airfield after surrender; 03 September 1965.  Photograph courtesy of Air Commodore ® Kaiser Tufail.

Flight Lieutenant Vijay Mayadev was commissioned in 1962.  In 1965, he was serving with No: 9 Squadron based at Adampur flying Gnats.  Initially, No: 9 Squadron was mainly flying Combat Air Patrols (CAPs) to protect vital installations and airfields.  Later, Gnats were used to escort Mysteres for ground support attacks in combat zone. 

On 19 September, four Mysteres of No: 1 Squadron were launched in a ground support attack.  They were escorted by four Gnats of No: 9 Squadron.  Vijay was wingman of this pair of Gnats.  He was shot down by Flight Lieutenant Saif ul Azam of No: 17 Squadron flying F-86E. After repatriation, Vijay became flying instructor and seconded to Iraqi Air Force for a while.  Vijay retired in 1980 at the rank of Wing Commander and joined Air India. 

Flight Lieutenant Saif ul Azam who brought down Vijay was a Bengali and his life story is amazing. 

Saif won gallantry award of Sitara-e-Jurrat for this action in 1965 war.  During 1967 Arab-Israeli war, he was in Jordan on deputation.  He volunteered for combat missions and wearing Jordanian uniform, shot an Israeli Mystere – IVA. 

When Jordanian air force was destroyed, he then moved on to Iraq.  Now wearing Iraqi uniform, he was engaged in combat with Israeli aircraft.  After separation of East Pakistan in 1971, he was repatriated to his new homeland of Bangladesh where he retired as Group Captain. 

His life highlights the ironies of the times.  He was born a British subject in Indian Bengal and in 1947, became Pakistani citizen and served his country well.  He fought against Israel helping Arabs and in 1971, became citizen of Bangladesh.

He has the distinction of wearing the uniform of four air forces and winning gallantry awards from three countries; Sitara-e-Jurrat from Pakistan, Husam-e-Isteqlal from Jordan and Noth-e-Shuja from Iraq. 

Squadron Leader Onkar Nath ‘Piloo’ Kacker serving with No: 27 Squadron was flying Hunter that was shot down on 07 September by Squadron Leader M.M. Alam. He rose to the rank of Wing Commander.  He was Commanding Officer of No: 10 Squadron equipped with Indian manufactured HF-24 Marut.  He was killed in a HF-24 crash in 1970. 

Flight Lieutenant Lal Sadarangani was serving with No: 8 Squadron.  His Mystere-IV was shot down by AAA fire on 13 September.  He retired as Wing Commander and joined Air India. 

Flight Lieutenant Manmohan ‘Mani’ Lowe was serving with No: 5 Squadron.  His Canberra was shot down on 21 September by Squadron Leader Jamal Ahmad Khan flying F-104.  His navigator Flying Officer K. K. ‘Raj’ Kapur was killed.  Mani retired as Wing Commander and joined Air India. 

Flying Officer Mahendra Vir Singh was commissioned in 1962.  He was serving with No: 27 Squadron.  His Hunter was shot down by AAA fire on 08 September and he had leg injury.  He retired as air commodore.

Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh (1919-2017) was a fine officer and gentleman.  Arjan and Pakistan Air Force Chiefs Air Marshal Asghar Khan (1957-65) and Air Marshal Nur Khan (1965-69) were pioneers of Royal Indian Air Force before independence in 1947. 

Although now commanding rival air forces, they had profound respect for each other.  In the spring of 1965, Indian and Pakistani troops clashed in Rann of Kutch area.  Pakistan Air Force Chief Air Marshal Asghar Khan contacted his counterpart in India Air Marshal Arjan Singh and they agreed to keep their air forces out of this conflict that could lead to a general war. 

Arjan always praised Asghar and Nur for their professionalism and called them ‘my dear friends’.  In 1966, when Arjan Singh visited Pakistan, he stayed with Nur Khan. 


Air Marshal Arjan Singh and Air Marshal Nur Khan in Peshawar 1966

Even at the age of 97, Arjan had such a graceful personality as evidenced by a photograph below;

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Viet Nam War – Tunnels to Victory …

Posted on December 31, 2018. Filed under: From a Services Career |

In order to combat better-supplied American and South Vietnamese forces during the Vietnam War, Communist guerrilla troops known as Viet Cong (VC) dug tens of thousands of miles of tunnels, including an extensive network running underneath the Cu Chi district northwest of Saigon.

Soldiers used these underground routes to house troops, transport communications and supplies, lay booby traps and mount surprise attacks, after which they could disappear underground to safety.

The tunnels of Cu Chi were built over a period of 25 years that began sometime in the late 1940s. They were the improvised response of a poorly equipped peasant army to its enemy’s high-tech ordnance, helicopters, artillery, bombers and chemical weapons.

Cu Chi tunnels grew to house entire underground villages, in effect, with living quarters, kitchens, ordnance factories, hospitals and bomb shelters.

In some areas there were even large theatres and music halls to provide diversion for the troops (many of them peasants) and their supporters.

Soldiers cooked, ate, slept, worked, and even went to school in these tunnels as conflict raged above. Believe it or not, every important facility was built into this extraordinary tunnel system. Cu Chi was also used as a base for sabotage teams and intelligence agents to infiltrate Saigon.

Earlier in 1954, they had tunnelled to Victory at Dien Bien Phu against the French ….

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India China in Perspective …

Posted on December 30, 2018. Filed under: From a Services Career |

At the strategic level, joint-ness strengthens political will since the Commander-in-Chief, Xi Jinping, understands the war escalation ladder – or the spectrum between credible deterrence and military coercion.

Without robust political will, the chances of a nation succumbing to military coercion increase exponentially. A case in point is April 2018’s Wuhan informal summit, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought peace with President Xi Jinping following the 2017 Doklam crisis.

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