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India - Pakistan War, 1971; Introduction
By Tom Cooper, with Khan Syed Shaiz Ali
Oct 29, 2003, 04:46

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The sentiment of 1947 lay at the heart of the biggest war fought so far between a Hindu-dominated India and a Moslem Pakistan that at the time was still divided into two parts – separated by India.

Ever since its creation, in 1947, Pakistan was plagued by imbalance between its two parts. West and East Pakistan shared a common religion but they were divided by distance, culture, language and economics. In fact, ever since independence Pakistan’s leaders had failed to forge a strong sense of national identity between West and East. West Pakistan was almost six times larger than East Pakistan and contained the nation’s capital. Political power was concentrated in the west, and West Pakistanis held an almost total monopoly of appointments in the civil service, armed forces and the diplomatic service, despite being outnumbered by eastern Pakistanis by three to one.

By contrast East Pakistan, established in the rich alluvial plains formed by the confluence of three major rivers – the Brahmaputra, Ganges, and Meghna – accounted for 75% of exports and foreign earnings. In return, it received less than 30% of the nation’s imports and investment. To the rules in Islamabad, East Pakistan was a colony that was milked to the extension that per capita income in the west exceeded that in East Pakistan. Such discrimination became increasingly intolerable to East Pakistan.

Between 1947 and 1958 Pakistan had a veneer of parliamentary democracy, but was increasingly controlled by a faction of landowners, industrialists, bureaucrats and the military, mainly drawn from the Punjab. Real power was actually exercised by the Army, which openly ruled from 1958 until 1969, under the presidency of Field Marshal Ayub Khan. The provincial elections of 1954 in East Pakistan saw candidates of the establishment decisively defeated, and the subsequent democratic government was quickly suppressed by the military authorities. By 1966 the leading political figure in East Pakistan, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, put forward a six-point programme that proposed the establishment of a federal Pakistan, with central government having very limited powers. The Sheikh was arrested and in 1968 tried for treason, becoming a martyr who turned eastern demands away from autonomy towards total separation. What finally pushed the East Pakistanis to demand the break up was the fall of Ayub Khan, in March 1969. The dictator promised to hold general elections but his popularity had sunk so low that he was forced to hand over power to the Pakistan Army (PA) commander, Yahya Khan, who banked on no clear majority being obtained by any of political parties, thereby allowing the PA to remain in control.

Mutiny in East Pakistan

Yahya Khan’s problem was that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Awami League dominated East Pakistan, and East Pakistan had a majority of seats in parliament. The following elections, held on 17 December 1970, were catastrophic for the military junta, as the Awami League won 298 out of 310 seats in the east, and 167 seats in the national parliament. The Yahya regime immediately put pressure on the sheikh to come to an agreement, but he refused: on 1 March, Khan announced the indefinite postponement of the opening of parliament. The following day Sheikh Rahman called a general strike, which resulted in riots in the east. To this came also the mutiny of Bangali elements within the Pakistani military: on 3 March 1971, for example, even the Bangali officers of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) stationed at Tejgaon Air Base, near Dacca, threatened to mutiny. Later in the month, the Awami League went so far to declare independence of East Pakistan, as Bangla Desh.

The Pakistan Army (PA) was already on the move, sending reinforcements to East Pakistan onboard Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Boeing 707s and PAF Lockheed C-130B Hercules transports. In total, within the following weeks three PA divisions were transported to Dacca, the capital of East Pakistan, mainly via Colombo, in Sri Lanka. This airlift was reportedly supported by C-130s of the Imperial Iranian Air Force (IIAF) and Türk Havva KuvvetlerI/Turkish Air Force (THK), but it seems that actually Iran used this opportunity to donate all of its four older C-130Bs to PAF – despite an US arms embargo imposed on Pakistan. The heavy equipment of the Pakistani divisions followed, transported by a convoy of ships, escorted by warships of the Pakistani Navy (PN).

On 25 March 1971, Martial Law Administrator in the East, General Tikka Khan, was ordered to “sort things out”, and arrest the sheikh. To conceal what they were about to do, the Pakistani military authorities expelled all the foreign journalists: their first immediate problem was a mutiny of Bangali PA troops, lead by Maj. Rafiq-ul-Islam, which brought a part of Chittagong and several towns nearby under control. Already on 26 March, a PA column advancing from Chittagong towards Kumira was ambushed and 70 PA officers and soldiers killed, causing the others to flee in panic. Without knowing what was going on, PA Maj.Gen. Khadim Hussain Raja flew in a PAF Aérospatiale SA.316B Alouette III helicopter attempting to find the missing column: his helicopter came under fire and was damaged several times, after which the search was cancelled.

The PA’s reaction was swift: reinforcements were deployed from Dacca to the naval base of Chittagong by C-130s and helicopters, on 26 and 27 March, and two columns moved out, one towards Agrabad Road, the other towards Halishahar. The later, moving along the coastline, was also ambushed and suffered heavy casualties, its scattered survivors then being beaten to death in local villages. It was not before 28 March that the local PA commanders re-established control over their troops and continued advance – partially with support of naval artillery bombardment. Two days later the Pakistani forces, with support of Canadair Sabre F.Mk.6s and North American F-86F Sabres from No.14 Squadron PAF (the sole Pakistan Air Force unit based in East Pakistan, originally equipped with 19 Sabres, two T-33As, three Pilatus PC-3 light transports, a single DHC-3 Otter and at least four SA.316B Alouette III helicopters, and based at Tejgaon AB, near Dacca) overran Halishahar after hours-long hand-to-hand battle. By 2 April also the “Bangla Desh” Radio Station in Chittagong was captured by Pakistani troops, in operation code-named “Searchlight”. PA’s mop up operations continued for the following four days. The stream of PIA commercial flights to Dacca via Colombo, with Pakistani soldiers on board, continued: by mid-April two full PA divisions were deployed to East Pakistan.

After stabilizing the situation in Chittagong and the surrounding area, and reinforced by additional troops, on 2 May, Gen. Tikka ordered advance on Ramgarh, Cox’s Bazar and Kaptai. Combining several conventional columns with heliborne deployment of commandos behind enemy lines, the PA troops advanced swiftly and crushed the mutineers, forcing the survivors to flee over the border to India. In the final action, between 26 May and 6 June, the last territory under Bengali control was mopped up and the PA was now back in control of East Pakistan. Having crushed the revolt in East Pakistan, Tikka Khan now began a policy of overkill with a vengeance, the aim being to intimidate the population into submission. The course of action that he pursued had been dubbed “élitocite”: the intelligentsia and Hindus living in East Pakistan were singled out for especially atrocious treatment, but everyone was a potential target in the army rampage that was certainly never credible. According to independent reports, within only three since the mutiny of East Bangali troops, 15.000 Bangalis were killed in Dacca and Chittagong, and in the following months up to one million succumbed to what became a campaign of terror. In return, Pakistan responded with reports about murders of military personnel and their families. Eventually, a propaganda war of large scale developed, with all involved parties publishing ever new details about attrocities committed by the other side.

By April 1971, the outrageous behaviour of the PA in East Pakistan had understandable results: the locals began fighting back, forcing West Pakistan to send additional reinforcements and intensify the campaign against mutineers, meanwhile directly supported by India and known as Mukti Bahini (better known in the West as “Mukhti Bakhini”) – or “Freedom Battalion/Force/Army”.

Mukti Bahini were not “just another” insurgent force: on the contrary, their original core consisted of defectors from the former East Bengal Regiments of the Pakistani Army, who reached the Indian soi1. They were soon reinforced by a considerable number of volunteers, mainly students, then during April and May, Pakistan had purged Bangalis from the armed forces. Many others defected, while those who remained were not trusted – or even murdered. Result was that the combat effectiveness of Pakistani units suffered considerably: the PAF was hit particularly heavy, then many of its ground crews were Bangalis.

Once in India, together with other volunteers from East Pakistan, they were trained and organized into six new East Bengal Regiments, in June 1971. By November 1971, the Mukti Bahini was reinforced by addition of three artillery batteries, as well as a small flying service (operating two Aérospatiale SA.316B Alouette III helicopters, one DeHavilland Canada DHC-3 Otter and a single Douglas DC-3 Dakota transport). They were counting up to 85.000 and their order of battle during the war in December was as follows:

- K Force/Brigade, consisting of 10th and 11th East Bengal Regiment and No.3 Field Battery
- S Force/Brigade, consisting of 2nd and 4th East Bengal Regiment, and No.1 Field Battery
- Z Force/Brigade, consisting of 1st, 3rd, and 8th East Bengal Regiment, and No.2 field Battery.

Map of former East Pakistan (today Bangladesh) and surrounding areas, with most important Indian, as well as main Pakistani air bases, as well as several smaller airfields known to have been used by the PAF from time to time. Note the large number of large rivers intersecting the whole area. (Map by Tom Cooper, based on Encarta 2003 software)


Political Games

Yahya now hoped that Pakistan’s good relations to China and the USA would enable him to counter any threat from India. If war came he could use the Chinese to tie down large parts of the Indian Army, and eventual gains India could make in the west could be traded against any losses in the east. Equally, he expected to receive military aid from different Moslem countries. This was a dangerous miscalculation: the Chinese declared they would fully support the Pakistani people in safeguarding state sovereignty, but provided no full support for the unity and integrity of the nation Islamabad wanted. China was not going to become involved in a war against India. Most of the other Islamic countries provided only minimal or no help at all. As the sub-continent drifted towards war the regime in Islamabad was clearly on its own, facing India that was stronger in military sense than ever before.

Under US pressure, meanwhile, India was becoming increasingly isolated at the UN: up to the end of July the USSR attempted maintaining a balanced approach to New Delhi and Islamabad in an effort to increase her influence on the sub-continent. When the USA and China openly moved toward closer mutual relations and both supported the Pakistani position, Moscow concluded Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation with New Delhi, on 9 August 1971, providing a much needed support for Indian position at the UN. From that moment onwards, the Soviet Union opposed every proposal that could allow a political settlement regarding the future of East Pakistan.

India considered the situation in East Pakistan as most dangerous threat to her security. Although many observers disputed corresponding Indian reports, thousands, and then millions of refugees streamed over the border in 1971, putting additional strain on a country that already had enough social and economic difficulties on its own. An attempt to send the refugees back was impossible, and as diplomacy failed India was left to her own resources. That could only mean war.

India contemplated military action already in May, but decided to wait until its Army was trained to fight in the flat conditions of East Pakistan. Moreover, by delaying action for months, the high Himalaya Passes would be blocked off, preventing Chinese intervention. In addition, on 9 August 1971, an agreement with the Soviet Union was reached to keep Chinese busy as well.

Border Incidents

Through late spring and summer 1971, the steady drift to war became increasingly deliberate, as Pakistani military operations in East Pakistan spilled over into India. By October, namely, the Mukti Bahini guerrillas waged a guerrilla war and had even temporarily captured airstrips at Lalmonirhat and Shalutikar. Both of these were used for flying in supplies and arms from India. In return, while carrying out “hot pursuit” of the Mukti Bahini guerrillas, the PA units several times entered India, causing ever increasing skirmishes, most notably at Kamalpur, between 20 and 22 October, at Boyra (on 21 November), and Hilli (between 26 and 28 November).

Contrary to previous times, the Indian government allowed its forces not only to fight back and carry out retaliatory action, but also to cross the border. Indian forces provided artillery fire for Mukti Bahini guerrillas across the border into East Pakistan, and repeatedly stopped the Pakistani Army from pursuing them into Indian territory. With secure lines of withdrawal, the guerrillas – despite several early defeats - undertook ever deeper raids, preventing Pakistani authorities from restoring order: shelling and tank fire from the Indian Army inflicted casualties on Pakistani posts and provided support for Mukti Bahini. By autumn, the Mukti Bahinis and Indian troops executed a well-coordinated series of attacks against Pakistani border posts, eliminating them one after the other and bringing large territories along the borders to India under Bangali control. Cornered, on 12 October Pakistan proposed a mutual troop withdrawal and posting of UN observers in the border areas: India refused. In fact, by the time the PA units along the borders of East Pakistan were under such pressure, that they had to move out of the range of Indian artillery, and consequently it withdrew its units some 20km behind the border.

Four days later IAF Canberras were sent to fly reconnaissance missions over East Pakistan. By early November, Indian troops were infiltrated on 23 different points, and actively taking part in a number of actions and capturing a number of PA’s positions: for all practical purposes – and in accordance with clear orders from their superiors - they were fighting an undeclared war against Pakistan. The PAF was active all the time since emergency was declared in East Pakistan. The No.14 Squadron flew on average between 100 and 170 combat sorties a month: its Sabres were not only supporting PA’s ground units, but also flying escort for PAF Fokker F.27 transports bringing reinforcements to Jessore, while the sole T-33As had flow a number of reconnaissance missions.

The best-known Indian operation into East Pakistan before the war officially began, was launched on 20 November 1971, when the Indian Army (IA) 14 Punjab Battalion - supported by a squadron of 14 PT-76 tanks from 45 Cavalry – was sent to capture Garibpur, a village near Boyra, astride the road from India to Jessore. The Pakistanis deployed their 107 Infantry Brigade, supported by 3rd Independent Armoured Squadron, equipped with M24 Chaffee light tanks, to counterattack. Theoretically, the much stronger Pakistani force should have overrun enemy positions easily, especially as the Indians lost the moment of surprise while still approaching their objectives. Deploying their infantry and recoilless rifles into defensive positions, and sending PT-76s to outflank the enemy, on 21 November the Indians ambushed the Pakistani charge and repulsed it with heavy losses. In exchange for six destroyed PT-76s and 40 casualties, the Indians destroyed eleven Pakistani M24s and captured three, while mauling the 107 Brigade.

The action was not yet over. At 14:49hr the same afternoon, as the Indian troops were busy mopping up the battlefield, three Sabre F.Mk.6s of the No.14 Squadron PAF, attacked the Indian and Mukti Bahini positions in the Chowgacha Mor with rockets and machine-gun fire. Ten minutes later, as the Sabres made their third strafing run, they were attacked by four Gnats from No.22 Squadron IAF. The Gnats appeared unobserved behind their opponents and shot down two Sabres in the first moments of encounter. The Indians attacked also the Sabre of the Pakistani leader, Wg.Cdr. Afzal Chaudhry, before he turned around to claim one of the Gnats in return: in fact, all Indians returned safely. Two PAF pilots, Flt.Lt. Mehdi and Flt.Lt. Khalil, ejected safely but were captured by Mukti Bahini and taken to India.

The violent clash at Garibpur – followed by another similar engagement near Hilli, on 24 and 28 November, in which the Indians claimed to have killed 80 Pakistani troops and destroyed six M24 tanks – had not only had surprising results for both sides, but also far-reaching implications. Thus far, India had not used aircraft against PAF air attacks over East Pakistan. This changed now, but with the result that since the interception of three Sabres over Garibpur the PAF stopped sending fighter-bombers to support own troops. Not only that the Indians were now free to continue their advance towards Jessore already before the war officially began, but they also forced the Pakistanis to vacate Chaugacha without fighting. The morale of the PA units in East Pakistan, already hit by massive defections of Bangali troops, dropped significantly.

On the next day, 23 November, the Pakistani government declared a state of emergency and began deploying infantry divisions, backed up by armour, on Jammu border – while evacuating the population of local villages. The Indians responded in kind, deploying a total of no less but 126 formations of different size along the border, together with enormous quantities of supplies. The IAF and PAF were mobilised and began increasing their combat readiness, as well as preparations for offensive operations, in the scope of which reconnaissance aircraft of both sides were penetrating enemy airspace. Pakistani Mirage IIIRPs, sometimes escorted by Sabres, flew a series of reconnaissance missions over India. Initially, the reconnaissance Mirages flew alone. On 2 December, one of them was intercepted by IAF Gnats while underway over Kahuta: the Pakistani fighter escaped, but from that moment the recce-Mirages were always acompanied by one Mirage IIIEP interceptor. The sole surviving PAF RB-57F high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft was also active, and conducted extensive ELINT missions, attempting to pin-point the evasive Indian P-35 radar positioned near Amritsar, code-named “Fish Oil” by the Pakistanis.

The IAF was active over Pakistan as well. On 1 December 1971, IAF reconnaissance Canberas penetrated deep inside the Pakistani airspace, before scrambled PAF interceptors forced them to withdraw.

Ballance of Forces

With six million refugees in India by November 1971, and facing the prospect of the figure doubling during the winter, India could not afford to wait any much longer. Military preparations were already well underway and Indian forces ready. The war plan was relatively simple, even if extremely complicated to execute. India had to avoid losses in the west and overrun East Pakistan before possible international intervention. At all costs, India also had to prevent Pakistan making substantial gains in the west, and holding out in the east: especially the war in East Pakistan had to be won quickly.

In the West, the IA deployed the XV Corps in Jammu and Kashmir, comprising 3, 10, 19, 25 and 26 Infantry Divisions and three brigades (including one armoured). Further south, the I Corps – consisting of 36, 39, and 54 Divisions, as well as two armoured brigades – was deployed in the area between Thakurpur, Pathankot and Samba. A better part of this corps was held in reserve for offensive operations.

The IA’s XI Corps was responsible for defence of Punjab and comprised the 7, 14, and 15 divisions, together with one armoured brigade, deployed from Amritsar in the north, via Khemkaran and Ferozepur in the centre. Two other larger formations, the 11 and 12 Infantry Divisions, were assigned to the Southern Command, while the 1 Armoured Division was held in reserve.

With rivers up to eight kilometres wide criss-crossing East Pakistan the extent of problems facing IA on that battlefield cannot be properly described. The IA also had to prevent the PA from slipping back into the Dacca Bowl, a triangle of land around Dacca, formed by the chord across the confluence of the Meghna and Jamuna Rivers: in the aftermath of the monsoon, namely, Dacca was almost an island fortress. The IA set up four commands under Lt.Gen. Jagit Singh Aurora. There were, in the West Bengal, II Corps with two divisions and three armoured and artillery units. In Bihara, the XXXIII Corps with one division, two brigades and two other units; IV Corps in Tripura with three mountain divisions and three supporting units; and 101 Communication Zone with a single brigade in Assam.

In 1971, the total strength of the Pakistan Army was about 365.000 men, with additional 280.000 in para-military forces. In the west, the PA deployed its 12 Infantry Division and part of 23 Infantry Division along the ceasefire line in Kashmir. Further to the south, the powerful I Corps – comprising 8 and 15 Infantry Divisions, supported by 8 Independent Armoured Brigade – was deployed near Sialkot, opposite Chhamb. This concentration of forces was backed up by the 6 Armoured and 17 Infantry Divisions.

Pakistani IV Corps was holding the sector between Lahore and Bahawalpur, with 10 Infantry Division and 3 Independent Armoured Brigade near Lahore, and 11 Infantry Division in Kasur area. The newly-established 33 Infantry Division was deployed between Bahawalpur and Sukkur. In the Sind sector, the 18 Infantry Division – supported by an armoured regiment – was deployed between Rahimyar Khan, Naya Chor and on to Badin. The PA had around 100 M47s, 100 M48s, 100 T-54s, 50 T-55s, 200 T-59s, 200 M24s, 75 M41s, an unknown number of older M4 Sherman tanks, and 20 PT-76s, as well as 300 M113 APCs. Majority of older models – especially M24s and PT-76s, was deployed in East Pakistan, where the PA included four infantry divisions, totalling about 40 battalions of infantry, with two light armoured units in support. The 9th Infantry Division was facing the Indian II Corps. The 16th Infantry was deployed between the Ganges and Jamuna Rivers, opposite XXXIII Corps. The 36th PA Infantry Division was opposite IV Corps and the 14th Infantry Division in the northern part, opposite to 101 Communication Zone. These PA units were supported by a small number of M-24 Chafee, and even few PT-76 tanks, captured from Indians in 1965. It should be mentioned here, that this Pakistani force had to hold an area with a population of about 70 million and a border of nearly 2.250km long. The PA’s task was therefore utterly impossible, had it not been for the fact that with so many rivers dissecting East Pakistan the Indians had to make all their efforts along narrow and restricted fronts. Strongly defended positions, held in depth, could b used to attack Indian advances. The PA was therefore deployed forward in order to hold the Indians at the border, the intention being to strengthen the Pakistani diplomatic position.

Major problem of the PA, however, was that its officer corps had been politicised, especially at the general officer level. The need for political balance in the government often overrode the requirements for ability in many senior military appointments, resulting in poor overall leadership and competence of generals in key positions, as well as lack of cohesion and trust.

Contemporary assessments considered that India had a capability to wage a two-month war on two fronts: the IA could deploy one armoured, 13 infantry, and ten mountain divisions, two armoured and a variety of other independent brigades. Overall, the Indian Army deployed about 250.000 men for invasion of East Pakistan, and relied heavily on the active support of about 100.000 Mukti Bahini, and the help of local population. The plan for invasion envisaged attacks from all directions to break East Pakistan into fragments, and then driving directly on to Dacca – as fast as possible. As first the IA had to eliminate, surround or by-pass salients and strongpoints held by the Pakistani Army. The main purpose was to infiltrate and get behind Pakistani positions in order to ensure the enemy formations could not withdraw to Dacca.

PAF in 1971

By 1971, the Indian Air Force and the PAF both had come quite some way since the Kashmir War, in 1965.

Pakistan found itself notionally cut off from Western supplies after the Kashmir War. In the face of an US arms embargo, the PAF was left with a worn out combat fleet to some 60 operational North American F-86E Sabres (modified to standard similar to F-86F), 25 Martin B-57B Canberras, and seven Lockheed F-104A/B Starfighters. Worst yet, the Pakistani economy was in a very precarious condition all through the 1960s and 1970s – to a degree where it cold not support any large-scale acquisitions of heavy weapons.

The F-104 Starfighter was once the star of the Kashmir War, in 1965: equipped with AN/ASG-14TI fire-control radar for interception, excellent General Electric T-171-E3 Vulcan six-barrelled 20mm Gatling-type electrically powered rotary cannon (better known as M61A1 since 1962) and AIM-9B Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, on the paper, the Starfighter was superior in speed and armament to anything in the IAF. Despite some rumours, PAF F-104s were not equipped with any kind of electronic countermeasures or chaff&flare dispensers. Available only in minimal numbers they proved insufficient to win the 1965 War, and then also not manoeuvrable enough to mix with low-flying Indian fighter-bombers. By 1971, therefore, the PAF F-104s were considered somewhat of a “silver bullet” asset, slanted for use under most favourable conditions, foremost for intercepting night bombers or other high-value assets, or low-level/high-speed airfield interdiction missions. .

Due to the poor economic situation and Western arms embargos, the condition of the PAF F-104-fleet by the early 1970s was so poor, that most of the aircraft were non-operational and the sole unit that flew the type, No.9 Squadron, was provided with old F-86Fs to keep pilot hours up. The situation improved significantly in March 1971, when the USA channelled a shipment of spares to Pakistan, enabling the PAF to make the remaining five F-104As and two F-104Bs operational again. Nevertheless, the depleted fleet of the No.9 Squadron was reinforced on 10 December 1971, when ten F-104As from the No.9 Squadron Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) arrived. These became operational two days later, but were not wired for AIM-9Bs: their capability as intercepted was thus very limited and they were mainly deployed as airfield-interdictors. Most – but certainly not all – of Jordanian Starfighters should have been camouflaged by the time they arrived in Pakistan.

The depleted fleet of PAF No.9 Squadron's F-104As was reinforced by addition of at least eight Starfighters from the Royal Jordanian Air Force's No.9 Squadron. (Artwork by Tom Cooper)


The Pakistani fleet of some 50 surviving F-86F Sabres, of which 44 were operational, was reliable, but in an increasingly poor condition. The Sabre was a modern fighter in the 1950s, highly regarded all over the world. By 1971, its subsonic speed and armament of only six machine-guns were considered insufficient, despite better manoeuvrability than most of Indian fighters, or the fact that 24 F-86Fs were modified to carry AIM-9B Sidewinders. The majority of the later was concentrated within the No.26 Squadron, the creation of which stood in direct relation to the poor condition of the surviving Pakistani F-86Fs. The number of operational airframes necessitated the disbandment of the No.16 Squadron: the personnel of this unit then joined that of the Flight Leaders School Wing (an “Aggressor” type of training outfit), to form the No.26 Squadron.

The “advantage” of Sidewinder-armed Sabres was actually of very limited nature. The fact was that the PAF not only received a very limited number of AIM-9Bs, but that also the earliest surviving rounds were meanwhile nearing the end of their shelf-life. The first 60 Sidewinders were donated to Pakistan in 1964, at the same time all the PAF Starfighters were re-engined with J-79-GE-11 engines. A number of rounds was spent or lost during the 1965 War, so that afterwards the PAF faced an acute shortage of air-to-air missiles. It was not before March 1971 that another batch of some 150 AIM-9Bs was delivered. Nevertheless, once these arrived, the PAF technicians did their best to wire also 18 F-6s (six with each operational unit) for Sidewinders. This was a massive task, undertaken in rush during November 1971, with help of US technicians.

Some 50 F-86Es (all modified to F-86F standard) remained operational with PAF by 1971. While their main role was air-to-ground, they were used as interceptors and for battlefield interdiction tasks as well as for attacks against enemy airfields. (Artwork by Tom Cooper)


Pakistan therefore looked to China: just months after the end of the Kashmir War, on 24 November 1965, Islamabad and Beijing agreed a delivery of 72 Shenyang F-6. After training of a group of 14 pilots and 35 technicians in China, the first 31 Shenyangs were flown to Sargodha AB, in Pakistan, directly from People’s Republic of China, on 31 December of the same year, entering service with the No.11 Squadron, followed by the newly-established No.25 Squadron. The F-6 was a copy of the MiG-19P interceptor, the first Soviet supersonic fighter, put on a very large scale production in China, where over 4.500 examples were manufactured. It was armed with three NR-30 cannons, calibre 30mm; a small number was modified in Pakistan to carry US-made AIM-9B Sidewinder heath-seeking air-to-air missiles.

Early examples supplied to PAF were all F-6As, without parabrake housing on the basis of the fin: it was not before 1980 that PAF began receiving F-6Cs, equipped with such housing, mainly from Batches 105 and 106 (each batch of F-5s manufactured in China counted a total of 40 airframes). By that time a rebuild factory for F-6s was donated to Pakistan by the Chinese, and erected at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, at Kamra. Although some first parts of this complex were supplied already in early 1972, formal commissioning of this factory took place on 8 November of 1980.

Indonesia provided 20 additional (Soviet-made) MiG-19s, by 1971 – free of charge – thus bringing the total to around 90 airframes. Theoretically, this figure offered the PAF a significant attrition reserve. Actually, only three units were equipped with the type, and by December 1971 there were only some 54 intact F-6s and MiG-19s with the PAF, of which 48 were operational. Namely, the squadrons equipped with the type experienced very heavy attrition rates already during peace-time operations, so that the 20 F-6s delivered in 1971 were badly needed as replacements. Besides, there was a major problem with their gyro gun-sights, and – even more so – with their manufacturing quality: according to a first-hand account, every airframe was built for only some 30 flying hours and had to be overhauled subsequently, meaning that a considerable part of the fleet was permanently in deep maintenance. Consequently, each squadron had to have a considerable number of airframes in order to keep between 12 and 16 permanently in working condition.

This F-6A wears the markings of the No.11 "Arrows" Squadron PAF, the first Pakistani unit that converted to this type. Early during its service with PAF the type proved a maintenance- and flying-nightmare. Up to two dozens were lost in accidents, while a considerable number of airframes was always on general overhaul in China. Without surprise, despite receiving more than 70 F-6s from China, and 20 MiG-19s from Indonesia, by 1971, the PAF could barely muster 48 airframes for three operational units. (Artwork by Tom Cooper)


Lacking numbers to match Indian numerical superiority, the residue F-86s were complemented by 90 Canadair F.Mk.6 Sabres. These were bought in 1967, by Iran - via a Swiss intermediary - from Germany, without a US end-user certificate (but probably with US convinience). The reported price of the total package was $10 million. Upon their arrival in Iran, the Imperial Iranian Air Force - which operated only a handfull of US-supplied F-86s at the time - plegded inability to overhaul them. For this purpose all the ex-German Sabres were sent to Pakistan - and they never came back. Instead, they were integrated into three PAF units, and by 3 December 1971 at least 88 remained intact, of which 74 were operational. A total of 48 of these were wired for Sidewinders: the PAF thus had a fleet of exactly 72 72 Sidewinder-compatible F-86F/Sabre F.Mk.6s.

The ex-Luftwaffe Canadair-built Sabre F.Mk.6s were easily recognizible from older PAF F-86Es by their "NATO-standard" camouflage of the late 1960s. Serials and known fates of these aircraft can be found in Appendix I of this feature. (Artwork by Tom Cooper)


The most important reinforcement – and the one considered the most dangerous threat by Indian pilots – arrived from France, where 18 Mirage IIIEP interceptors, three Mirage IIIDP two-seat conversion trainers, and three Mirage IIIRP reconnaissance fighters were acquired from Dassault. This was a considerably expensive acquisition, then the price for a total of these 24 fighters, their weapons and spares in the frame of the “Project Blue Flash One”, was $100 million – compared to only $10 million paid by Iran for German Sabres. But, Saudi Arabia financed this deal, and in the late 1960s it was “en vogue” to have the victorious Mirages, famous for their performance from the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, even if the associated Cyrano Ibis radar and Matra R.530 air-to-air missiles proved very vulnerable to proper handling, and the later had a short shelf-life. PAF Mirages became operational in October 1968, with No.5 Squadron, based at Sargodha and initially commanded by the hero of the Kashmir War, Wg.Cdr. M.M. Alam. The PAF experienced considerable problems in operating them, then Mirages proved prohibitively costly: in fact, so much that Pakistan could hardly afford any weapons for them, except for French-made SAMP bombs, calibre 250-, 500 and 1.000kg, a limited number of Matra R.530 radar-homing air-to-air missiles, and then the same AIM-9B Sidewinders, which the No.5 Squadron had to share also with the No.9 Squadron and the PAF fleets of F-86 Sabres and F-6s! Nevertheless, with Saudi financial backing, in 1970, the PAF issued the next order to Dassault, this time for 28 Mirage 5PA fighter-bombers and two Mirage 5DP two-seaters. These were not to arrive before the next war with India.

The Mirage IIIEP was probably the best fighter-interceptor on the Indian Subcontinent of the early 1970s. Equipped with an advanced radar that enabled it even blind low-level navigation, as well as increased internal fuel tankage, it could outfight anything the IAF might have thrown against it. However, Pakistan was in such financial problems at the time, that the PAF Mirage-fleet could not be supported with sufficient amount of spare parts, or proper weapons. Therefore, the whole fleet was to barely make an appearance during the war, when it was mainly used as night interceptor.


The balance of the PAF fleet consisted of US-made types, and included foremost different versions of Martin B-57 Canberra-bombers. Pakistan originally received 24 B-57Bs, one B-57C, and two RB-57Ds. The B-57Bs were all former 345th BG(T) USAF mounts, and originally taken from storage before delivery. As all were missing their all-weather bombing systems, while the PAF required “full-USAF standard” Canberras, they entered service with relatively poor equipment. In 1964, they were equipped with RB-1A George Peach bombing systems, drawn from stock at the Warner Robins Logistic Centre. PAF B-57s were further modified with additional plumbing for carriage of underwing drop tanks (in addition to wing tip drop tanks). They proved effective in night attacks during the 1965 War, and were respected for their bomb-carrying capability, as well as for operational ceiling of over 16.000m, where no IAF fighters could follow.

The single B-57C, nick-named “Baba” by PAF crews, was used for training purposes (this aircraft remained in service until 1982, when it crashed after a bird strike, killing Wg.Cdr. Masroor; the Mauripur AB was re-named in memory of this officer).

Originally, two units were equipped with B-57s, the No.7 and No.8 Squadron, but combat attrition and lack of spares forced the PAF to search for replacements. In 1966, the No.8 Squadron was re-equipped with Harbin H-5 bombers (Chinese copy of the Ilushin Il-28). The Pakistanis eventually found the type unsuitable for the task and returned all H-5s to China, in 1969; afterwards the No.8 Squadron was disbanded, leaving No.7 Squadron as the sole bomber unit.

The two RB-57Ds were converted to RB-57F standard before delivery, and originally operated by the No.24 Squadron, an unit reinforced in October 1964, through addition of two newly-built RB-57Fs. The later were deployed to Pakistan with the purpose of monitoring Chinese nuclear tests. They were flown by CIA and USAF crews until shortly before the 1965 War, when one of them was returned to the USA. The No.24 Squadron continued operating the other RB-57F – modified locally to carry a 2.000kg bombload – and two converted RB-57Ds, from Mauripur AB, near Kharachi. All three aircraft were involved in directing attacks on Indian radar stations: the sole RB-57F, usually underway at levels up to 71.000ft (23.000m), sometimes operated together with two ex-RB-57Ds, with the later tracking but also jamming Indian radars and communications. During training for one of these operations a RB-57Ds was shot down in error by Pakistani AAA.

The No.24 Squadron continued operations over India after the war as well. In 1966, the sole remaining “original” RB-57B was underway near Ambala when almost hit by two SA-2s, which caused extensive damage. The pilot was able to make a successful emergency landing at Peshawar: after repairs in Pakistan, this aircraft was returned to the USA. The last RB-57D converted to F-version, equipped with ELINT/SIGINT equipment, remained operational with the PAF and – as mentioned previously – flew reconnaissance operations along the Indian border up to November 1971. It is known to have been written off only upon an IAF strike against Masroor AB, in the night of 5 December. The No.24 Squadron was disbanded already before, and the whole fleet of Pakistani B-57s operated by No.7 Squadron at the time.

In 1971 the PAF still operated 18 Martin B-57B/RB-57Bs. All were meanwhile assigned to the No.7 Squadron: ten were deployed at Masroor and eight at Mianwali AB. (Artwork by Tom Cooper)


The other US-made aircraft still operational with PAF in 1971 were mainly of training nature. Out of some 18 originally delivered Lockheed T-33As, 13 were still operational. Of these, eleven were on strength with the No.2 Squadron, while one was in service with No.14 Squadron, based in East Pakistan. The former unit lost one T-33A on 20 August 1971, when a defecting Bangali pilot attempted to fly it to India. Recognizing his intentions, Flt.Off. Rashid Minhas, who was in the rear cockpit, crashed the aircraft barely 60km from the border. The small No.20 Squadron operated three survivors from five originally delivered RT-33As.

The small PAF fleet of T-33A trainers was rushed into combat service on the southern front.


Finally, during the 1971 War, an agreement was reached with the Imperial Iranian Air Force to deploy a squadron of Northrop F-5A Freedom Fighters to Pakistan. These aircraft were actually owned by the USA, and – technically – only “loaned” to Iran in the frame of the Military Assistance Programme. By the time of the 1971 War, they were already slanted to be transferred to South Vietnam, Greece and Jordan, in 1972. The first four Iranian F-5As, however, arrived in Pakistan only on 16 December 1971: too late to take part in hostilities. The PAF operated them for few months and then all were returned to Iran. Unconfirmed Indian reports claim that Pakistan received also a total of 35 F-86Fs from Saudi Arabia and Iran during the war, but there is no confirmation for this as of now.

Last but not least, the PAF operated some 40 North American T-6 Texan training aircraft, few of which were rushed to operational service, as well as 37 Cessna A-37 Tweet-birds, none of which was armed.

In summary, on 3 December 1971, the PAF had seven F-104A/B Starfighters, 23 Mirage IIIEP/RP/DP (of which some 20 were operational), a total of 136 F-86F and Sabre F.Mk.6s (118 operational), 54 F-6 and MiG-19s (48 operational), 19 B-57Bs (18 operational), one B-57C and two RB-57Fs, eleven T-33As and three RT-33As, 37 Cessna T-37As, some 40 T-6s (of which 17 were deployed in combat), at least three Fokker F.27s and nine C-130s, for a total of 263 combat-, around a dozen of transport-, and slightly over 80 training aircraft, as well as 12 helicopters.

The PAF was therefore only marginally better equipped then in 1965: even if a number of new types became available these were not operating any new or modern weapons. Namely, already in late 1969, the PAF requirement for reinforcements had been indicated to the government in a report of Inter-Services Defence Evaluation Comittee. This requirement included six additional fighter-bomber squadrons, two additional major air bases (including one in East Pakistan), replacement of remaining F-86/Sabres and B-57s, and modernization of remaining equipment. This report had been seen by the chiefs of staff, and the high resource board, headed by Finance Minister, on 15 January 1970. The minister fully agreed to give the most urgent attention to the PAF’s requirements. However, no further meeting of this board to this topic was held, nor was any effort made to meet these requirements. Consequently, not only that it would take years for these plans to be implemented, but also all the planning was in vain and PAF was not to be considerably reinforced until much too late.

So it happened that in December 1971, the Pakistan Air Force was equipped and deployed as follows:

HQ (Command Operations Centre) at Rawalpindi
- No.2 Squadron, 11 T-33A, ? T-6 Texans, based at Masroor (CO Wg.Cdr. A.A. Randhawa)
- No.5 Squadron, 17 Mirage IIIEP, 3 Mirage IIIRP, 3 Mirage IIIDP, based at Sargodha (CO Wg.Cdr. Hakimullah)
- No.6 Squadron, 9 C-130B/E Hercules, based at Masroor (CO Wg.Cdr. S. Nisar Yunus)
- No.7 Squadron, 18 B-57B, 1 B-57C, 1 RB-57F, with 8 B-57s at Mianwali and the ballance of the fleet at Masroor (CO Wg.Cdr. M. Yunis)
- No.9 Squadron, 5 F-104A, 2 F-104B, based at Sargodha, moved to Masroor on 6 December, then temporary detachment in Bhagtanwala (CO Wg.Cdr. Arif Iqbal)
- No.11 Squadron, 16 F-6A, based at Sargodha, detachment at Mianwali (CO Wg.Cdr. Sikander M. Khan)
- No.12 Squadron, 3 F.27 for VIP-transport, based at Chaklala (CO Wg.Cdr. M.M. Suhail)
- No.14 Squadron, 16 Sabre F.Mk.6 (8 AIM-9-equipped), 1 T-33A, 4 SA.316B, based in Tejgaon/Dacca (East Pakistan), (CO Wg.Cdr. M. Afzal Choudhry)
- No.15 Squadron, 12 F-86F, based at Murid (CO Wg.Cdr. S. Nazir Jilani)
- No.16 Squadron, not active: all pilots to No.26 Squadron
- No.17 Squadron, 18 Sabre F.Mk.6, based at Rafiqui (CO Wg.Cdr. G. Mujtaba Qureshi)
- No.18 Squadron, 24 Sabre F.Mk.6, based at Masroor (CO Wg.Cdr. A.I.Bukhari)
- No.19 Squadron, 16 Sabre F.Mk.6 (none equipped with AIM-9B), 8 F-86F (all AIM-9B-equipped), based at Masroor (CO Wg.Cdr. Sheikh M. Saleem)
- No.20 Squadron, 3 RT-33A, based in Masroor (CO Flt.Lt. Parvez Saeed)
- No.23 Squadron, 16 F-6A, based in Risalewala, detachment at Shorkot (CO Wg.Cdr. S.M.H. Hashimi)
- No.25 Squadron, 16 F-6A, based at Sargodha, detachment at Murid (CO Wg.Cdr. Sa’ad A. Hatmi)
- No.26 Squadron, 24 F-86F, based at Peshawar (CO Wg.Cdr. S.A. Changezi)
- No.83 Squadron (?), 8 (?) SA.316B, based at? (CO ?)

Note: the PAF operated a squadron with 12 Aérospatiale SA.316B Alouette III helicopters, acquired from France in 1967. The designation of this unit remains unknown, but it was probably No.83 Squadron. Four of its mounts should have been deployed to East Pakistan; at least one suffered some kind of heavier damage during the war, while the others were flown out to Burma.

Simultaneously with acquisition of Mirages, Pakistan also purchased 12 Aérospatiale SA.316B Alouette III helicopters. These were used intensively during the 1971 War, mainly for liaison and VIP-transport: at least two examples should have been deployed in East Pakistan. (Artwork by Tom Cooper)


Of course, the PAF was still considered for as highly trained force as in 1965, even if not optimally deployed and suffering from the loss of at least 30% of technical personnel and 10% of pilots upon purge of Bangalis from its structure. It should not be forgotten, that a large number of PAF pilots did tours of duty with different Middle Eastern air forces, which had received Soviet and British aircraft, and thus gained considerable experience with aircraft like MiG-21, Su-7, and Hunter – all of which were operated by India. Therefore, at least in the field of tactics, the PAF pilots should still have had some advantages when compared to their adversaries.

The strategic role and capabilities of the PAF were laid down in the War Directive No.4, issued on 9 August 1969. This envisaged, that the main threat was that from India, and that the secondary threat was from (Soviet-supported) Afghanistan; that Pakistan would probably have seven days advance warning of impeding hostilities; that it could not expect any kind of substantial help from outside; that the war with India would be intense and fought with great severity, with ammunition reserves being limited, in turn demanding Pakistan to finish the war successfully and quickly. This directive furthermore expected that normal communications between East and West Pakistan would be disrupted and that even if the war could start in the east, the major and decisive battles would be fought in the west.

Correspondingly, the role of the PAF was to fight the air battle offensively, so to make it possible for the Army to operate without serious interference from the enemy air force. Furthermore, in essence the PAF was to provide limited close air support and reconnaissance support to the Army and Navy, but also maximum support in the case of a major battle on the ground; to coordinate all early warning systems; and to transport troops and equipment in both theatres of operations.

Understanding that the PAF would always be smaller than the IAF, as well as that the Indians had increased and modernized their air power since 1965, it was obvious that the PAF would hardly be sufficient to meet the threat. Therefore, a concept of planning was necessary that would keep own losses low while inflicting maximum possible losses to the IAF. For such reasons the PAF was to avoid a war of attrition, instead attacking the IAF at its weakest points, while operating in favourable environments as often as possible; the PAF was to maintain a high state of air defence initially, in order to minimize the effects of likely Indian counter-air strikes saturating Pakistani airfields. Such strategy was to inflict the Pakistani ability to inflict heavier losses upon the IAF raids against PAF airfields, or to draw Indian fighters over own territory and fight under advantageous conditions, under own radar cover and with adequate fuel status. The Pakistani aircraft were not to be unnecessary exposed to small arms fire, AAA and SAMs until the results fully justified this: for example, the PAF was to launch strikes against forward Indian airfields in order to reduce the overall weight of attack that could be launched from these in return; also strikes against Indian radar stations were to be flown, but the main task was again to inflict losses on attacking IAF aircraft that were expected to be underway towards the Pakistani airfields and other strategic objects, in attempt to force the enemy to abandon his strike plan. Operations in East Pakistan were to be undertaken in such manner as to conserve the PAF force as long as possible.

IAF in 1971

The IAF was considerably expanded and modernised since 1965, and by 1971 was a huge air force, boasting some 50 Squadrons – including transport and helicopter units – and over 80.000 officers, NCOs and soldiers. Between 1966 and 1971, it received a mixed force of around 740 Soviet, Western, and Indian-origin combat aircraft. By November 1971, some 656 of these were deployed with operational units. Each IAF combat unit should have had 18 fighter-bombers on strength and therefore the IAF could reach back on eight squadrons with some 144 MiG-21FL and MiG-21Us, six squadrons with 104 Su-7BMKs and 12 Su-7UMs, eight squadrons with 144 Gnats, six squadrons with 95 Hunter F.Mk.56s and T.Mk.66s (reported number of airframes as of 1971; other sources report up to 126 airframes in operational units), two Squadrons with some 36 HF-24 Maruts, two squadrons with 36 Mystére IVA, and five units with a total of 85 Canberra bombers of all versions. The reported mission capable rates were between 65 and 70%, and many IAF squadrons lacked experienced and qualified officers, so that the actual maximal number of aircraft the IAF could deploy at once was closer to 630.

Nevertheless, the IAF had a sizeable attrition reserve, including up to 50 MiG-21s, 30 Su-7s, up to 15 HF-24s, perhaps as many as 30 Hunters, and at least 20 Mystére IVAs.

The IAF fleet of transport aircraft was also immense, counting over 450, including 25 Douglas C-47/Dakotas, 60 C-119G Box Cars, 20 Ilushin Il-14s, 30 Antonov An-12s, 25 DeHavilland DHC-3 Otters, 15 DeHavilland DHC-5 Caribou, and 12 Hawker Siddeley HS.748s, while the helicopter fleet was also significant, counting 80 Mil Mi-4s, some 150 Aérospatiale SA.316B Alouette IIIIs, ten Bell 47s and few early Mil Mi-8s.

The Indian Air Force operated a large fleet of helicopters, most of which were deployed with Army units, supporting them on the field. In IAF service already since the early 1960s, the Mi-4s hauled troops and supplies, enabling the Indian Army's lightning campaign in East Pakistan. (Artwork by Tom Cooper)


The large IAF fleet of Aérospatiale SA.316B Alouette IIs, many of which were manufactured under licence in India by HAL as "Chetak", played an important role as light transport-, liaison-, artillery observation and even CASEVAC/MEDEVAC helicopter. Some of Chetaks broke several records for high altitude operations while supporting Indian Army troops in the Kashmir region.


The most modern interceptor in service was the MiG-21, a type that was important for India for several reasons. The first variant purchased by IAF, the MiG-21F-13, proved insufficient in range and capability (and was one of disappointments of the 1965 War), but already in 1962, India signed an agreement for licence production of a simplified, but also refined and improved version of the MiG-21PFM by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL). One of the most important Indian experiences from different wars and emergencies of the 1960s was the need for self-sufficiency in arms acquisition. A huge country like India needed its own defence industry, capable of producing also major and most complex weapons systems – including tanks and aircraft. While the Pakistani industry remained underdeveloped, and Pakistan was unable to get significant amounts of modern arms from the West when cut-off by embargo, in the late 1960s, India managed to develop an arms industry that eventually made her independent not only from the West, but even from the Soviet Union. In face of different embargos, India also had received and continued to receive military equipment from abroad, Moscow. Thus, even the Chinese military aid to Pakistan could not provide military balance.

Indian license production of MiG-21 was a colossal task, accomplished successfully, resulting in a variant designated Type 77, or MiG-21FL (FL stood for Forsazh Lokator: afterburner & radar), which had a greater fuel capacity, but no SRO-2 IFF system. Initial aircraft were delivered in kit form to India for assembly, between 1965 and 1968, while the first batch of Indian-manufactured aircraft was delivered between 1966 and 1973. The Tumanskiy R-11-FS-300 twin-spool turbojet that powered this aircraft was manufactured at Koraput, Orissa, the first engine being delivered to IAF on 2 January 1969. Avionics – including the R2L “Spin Scan” radar – was built at Balangar, Hyderabad, while the aircraft were assembled and flight-tested by HAL at Ozar, Nasik.

Eight IAF squadrons converted to and were operational with MiG-21FLs, 196 of which were delivered by 1973. In addition, the IAF received 40 MiG-21U “Mongol” two-seat conversion trainers, designated Type 66 in Indian service, by mid-1971. Pleased with the speed and handling of the MiGs, Indian pilots trained intensively and gained not only considerable confidence, but also expertise. Namely, the MiG-21FL was neither as easy to fly nor to operate in combat under conditions the IAF had to expect in the case of a new war with Pakistan: the type was designed as simple point-defence fighter-interceptor that was to operate under close GCI-control and attack its targets from the rear hemisphere with R-3S (ASCC-Code AA-2 Atoll) heat-seeking missiles. The Indians, however, were to use it as an air superiority fighter, over extended ranges and well inside the enemy airspace, with minimal or no GCI-support at all – as well as a fighter-bomber. It was therefore little surprising when they required the aircraft to be armed with cannons. Given there was no space within the fuselage, a gun-pack, housing a twin-barrel GSh-23, 23mm cannon, was developed. Small number of these packs, designated GP-9, was imported in kit form from the USSR and entered service in time to be used during the war in 1971: although this pod developed considerable vibrations while in action, many IAF pilots trusted them far more than unreliable and flimsy R-3S missiles.

The IAF Base Repair Depots introduced also several additional modifications on MiG-21FLs, including the plumbing of underwing pylons for carriage of 490-litre drop tanks, greatly increasing endurance and range. Additionally, all Type 77s equipped to carry the GP-9 pod have got also the corresponding wiring, electrical ranging system and predictor gun sight in the cockpit.

The No.1 Squadron "Tigers" of the Indian Air Force is the unit with longest traditions in the IAF. Established already in 1933, in the jet age it flew Vampires in the 1950s and Mystére IVAs in the 1960s, before converting to MiG-21FLs, in July 1966 - shortly before several other IAF units followed the pattern. (Artwork by Tom Cooper)


The other new Soviet-made type in IAF service was the Sukhoi Su-7BMK, originally designed as fighter-interceptor for the same requirement as MiG-21. Capable of supersonic speeds of up to Mach 1.5 thanks to its giant Lyul’ka AL-7F1-200 engine, the version supplied to India was equipped as fighter-bomber, armed with two powerful 30mm cannons mounted in wing roots, with steel skin over the adjacent fuselage. The Su-7 had excellent handling at all speeds and was a stable weapons platform. However – and despite the fact that the version supplied to India had four underwing pylons (for a total of six, including two under the fuselage) – the type had an extremely poor ability to carry fuel and weapons at the same time, and slow acceleration because the afterburner needed up to seven seconds to lit up. While eventually over 210 Su-7s were delivered to India, by mid-1971 some 116 Su-7BMKs and 12 Su-7U two-seat conversion trainers were in service with six units, and they were the main Indian strike fighter in 1971.

There are very few colour photographs of IAF Su-7s from the time of the 1971 War, and most of these are of poor quality, which makes the identification of colours used to camouflage them extremely problematic. From available black&white photographs, it is obvious that most Sukhois were hastily and heavily camouflaged, usually with paints of poor quality, which - together with heavy use as well as hot and humid weather - swiftly made the aircraft appear badly worn out and dirty. Most of the IAF Su-7BMKs appeared either in "bare metall" overall, or a three-colour camouflage as seen on the example from the No.32 Squadron bellow. Some, however, should have got a camouflage like this, in sand and dark earth (although, it is very likely that fields in dark earth were actually either dark green or even black).


The Soviets were swift to deliver the first 90 Su-7s to India, in 1968 and 1969, and six IAF units re-qualified on the type by September of the later year. Therefore, the IAF obtained a fleet of almost 100 fighters within barely a year. Additional examples delivered by 1971 brought the fleet to between 100 and 116 Su-7BMK operational airframes by the time of the war with Pakistan, in 1971. This example should have served with the No.32 Squadron.


Interestingly, the Indian government paid the full price for all MiG-21s and Su-7s purchased from the USSR, resisting cheap Soviet offers in exchange for political influence. The actual reason for the purchase of Su-7BMK were uncertainties surrounding the future of the indigenous Indian fighter project, the HF-24 Marut. It was already in 1950 that the Indian government authorised development of an Indian combat aircraft. Contracting Dipl-Ing. Kurt Tank, the renewed Focke Wulf designer, to lead a team of German and Indian engineers assembled by Hindustan Aircraft at Bangalore, the work on HF-24 began in 1956. The original objective was to create a multi-role fighter bomber, capable of reaching Mach 2 – with minimal technical risk. The prototype, powered by two Rolls-Royce Orpheus 701 single-shaft turbojets, proved generally successful, but underpowered. The first two out of 18 pre-production Maruts (“Wind Spirit”) officially entered service with the IAF in May 1964, when Hindustan Aircraft was reorganised into Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. German staff leaved in 1967 and an Indian design team continued the search for a more powerful engine. The production was slow due to many technical problems: very precise work and reporting by the first two units equipped with the type, No.10 and No.222 Squadrons, was needed in order for hundreds of minor modifications to be made. It was not before January 1971, that the second series of Maruts began reaching operational squadrons. These aircraft included a number of improvements, including a more sophisticated ISIS gun sight and wing of a longer chord for better turning performance, but also an increased weight that in turn made the aircraft slower. Marut was armed with four 30mm Aden Mk.2 cannons (each with 120 rounds) and retractable Matra pack of 50 SNEB 68mm rockets but never equipped with radar, and it always remained underpowered.

The HF-24 Marut entered service with No.10 Sqn IAF, in May 1969. This squadron was followed by No.220: both units were initially based at Poona. The type proved an excellent weapnos platform, despite many initial problems. A detachment from No.10 Squadron was based at Uttarlai during the 1971 War, sharing this airfield with a detachment of MiG-21FLs from No.29 Squadron. (Artwork by Tom Cooper)


The backbone of the IAF fighter-bomber fleet, however, was still the Hawker Hunter F.Mk.56 and T.Mk.66, 160 of which were originally acquired from September 1957. Additional examples – designated F.Mk.56A and T.Mk.66D, representing refurbished ex-Belgian and Dutch Hunters – were obtained subsequently as attrition replacement, so that by 1971 there were still some 95 Hunters in IAF service. Their main role was ground attack, especially tank-hunting, for which this type was well-armed with four Aden 30mm cannons as well as unguided rockets.

A suberb all-round combat aircraft, the venerable Hunter F.Mk.56 equipped six IAF squadrons as of 1971. Belowed by its most satisfied pilots, the Hunter remained the backbone of the Indian Air Force, even if other types became more nummerous by the time. The version in Indian service was equipped to carry bombs of 250kgs or up to 16 unguided rockets, and proved especially effective in anti-tank operations.


The IAF also had eight squadrons equipped with the Hawker Siddeley Gnat F.Mk.1 lightweight fighters. Gnat was designed by Teddy Petter with intention to reverse the trend towards larger and more complex combat aircraft. India signed a licence agreement in September 1956 and by early 1973, HAL delivered a total of 165 Gnats to the IAF, in addition to receiving 25 F.Mk.1s and 25 sets of parts from Folland. The small and nimble fighter proved most effective already in air combats of the 1965 war, and was to remain an exceptionally effective – even if often ignored – asset of the conflict in 1971.

Often neglected, the IAF's sizeable fleet of Gnat F.Mk.1 fighters was an important factor in 1971 War. Epitome of a "light-weight" fighter, this early version - which lacked the "wet" wings of the later F.Mk.2/Ajeet - had short endurence, but acquitted itself well and proved most effective in close combat.


Long-range interdiction was still the main task of the Canberras. India ordered its first batch of these medium bombers already in 1957, and by 1965 received 65 B(I).58s, eight PR.57s, and seven T.54. These aircraft included upgraded navigation equipment, radio altimeters and autopilots, and equipped five squadrons, of which the No.106 Squadron was the recce unit. Attrition during the 1960s resulted in further orders. In 1961, six B(I).58s were ordered, followed by two PR.57s, plus a T.54, in 1962. All of these Canberras were delivered in 1963. The fourth order, issued in 1964, called for three T.54s. The fleet was finally increased by an order for 12 B(I).66s and two PR.67 aircraft, issued in October 1969. Before completition, the number of B(I).66s was reduced to ten and this variant was obtained by the refurbishment of ten ex-RAF B.15/B.16 aircraft. Delivery commenced in October 1970. The two PR.67s were updated versions of the PR.57 and two former RAF PR.7s were modified to the new requirement, for delivery in August 1971. Meanwhile, in 1970, eight fatigue-life expired B(I).8 standard aircraft (designated B(I).12) and two T.13s modified to T.14 standard, were purchased from New Zealand.

Indian larger fleet of Canberra B.Mk.58 bombers was to play a dominant role in the 1971 War, flying a series of devastating nocturnal attacks. This Canberra, serialled IF976, wears the red elephant insignia of the No.5 "Tuskers" Squadron IAF, based at Agra AB. (Artwork by Tom Cooper)


The IAF units were organised on regional basis, within three operational commands and an independent group. Most of the units were concentrated within the Western Air Command and the Eastern Air Command, of which the later was responsible for supporting the invasion of East Pakistan, while the balance was assigned to the Central Air Command.

The IAF still had some 60 Mystére IVAs in 1971, of which around 40 were in service with No.3 and No.31 Squadrons. The type fought its last war against Pakistan, mainly flying close-air-support missions over Kashmir. (Artwork by Tom Cooper)


Eastern Air Command
HQs at Shillong, near Calcutta
AOC-in-C Air Marshal H.C. Dewan
Sector Jessore (western East Pakistan)
- No.2 Squadron, Gnat F.Mk.1, based at Dum Dum then Amritsar/Ambala (CO Wg.Cdr. Greene)
- No.7 Squadron, 16 Hunter F.Mk.56 & 2 Hunter T.Mk.66, based at Baghdogra; 6 December eight Hunters to Nal, balance of unit to Hindon; on 12 December all aircraft to Pathankot, Chhamb sector (CO Wg.Cdr. Coelho, then Wg.Cdr. Suri)
- No.14 Squadron, Hunter F.Mk.56, based at Kalaikunda (CO Wg.Cdr. Sunderesan)
- No.16 Squadron, Canberra B(I).Mk.58/B.Mk.66, based at Kalaikunda (CO Wg.Cdr. Gautam)
- No.22 Squadron, Gnat F.Mk.1, based at Dum Dum and Kalaikunda, then Calcutta (CO Wg.Cdr. B.S. Sikand)
- No.30 Squadron, MiG-21FL, based at Kalaikunda (CO Wg.Cdr. V.S. Chadha)
- No.221 Squadron, Su-7BMK, based at Panagarh (until 14 December), (CO Wg.Cdr. Sridharan)
- No.104 Helicopter Unit, SA.316B Alouette III, based at ?
- No.110 Helicopter Unit, Mi-4, based in Dum Dum

Sector Sylhet-Comila (eastern East Pakistan)
- No.15 Squadron, Gnat F.Mk.1, based in Gauhati, later to Agartala (CO Wg.Cdr. M.M. Singh)
- No.17 Squadron, Hunter F.Mk.56, based at Hashimara (CO Wg.Cdr. N. Chatrath)
- No.24 Squadron, Gnat F.Mk.1, based at Gauhati (CO Wg.Cdr. R.L. Bhadwar)
- No.28 Squadron, MiG-21FL, based at Gauhati (CO Wg.Cdr. B.K. Bishnoi)
- No.105 Helicopter Unit, Mi-4, based at Agartala
- No.121 Helicopter Unit, SA.316B Alouette III, based at?

Most of the IAF, a total of 24 fighter and fighter-bomber squadrons, and four squadrons were deployed within the Western Air Command, as follows:

Western Air Command
HQ at New Delhi
CO Air Marshal Minoo Merwan Engineer
Sector Kashmir and Chhamb
- No.1 Squadron, MiG-21FL, based at Adampur (CO Wg.Cdr. Upkar Singh)
- No.3 Squadron, Mystére IVA, based at Sirsa, then Hindon/Halwara (CO Wg.Cdr. Dogra)
- No.18 Squadron, Gnat F.Mk.1, based at Srinagar (CO Wg.Cdr. Raina)
- No.20 Squadron, Hunter F.Mk.56, based at Pathankot (CO Wg.Cdr. Parker)
- No.23 Squadron, Gnat F.Mk.1, based at Pathankot (CO Wg.Cdr. Mohan)
- No.26 Squadron, Su-7BMK, based at Adampur (CO Wg.Cdr. Batra)
- No.27 Squadron, Hunter F.Mk.56, based at Pathankot (CO Wg.Cdr. Mehta)
- No.31 Squadron, Mystére IVA, based at Hindon/Halwara (CO Wg.Cdr. Trehan)
- No.32 Squadron, Su-7BMK, based at Ambala (CO Wg.Cdr. Manget)
- No.45 Squadron, MiG-21FL, based at Chandigarh, then Pathankot, finally Nal (CO Wg.Cdr. Anand)
- No.101 Squadron, Su-7BMK, based at Adampur (CO Wg.Cdr. Khanna)
- No.108 Squadron, Su-7BMK, based at Halwara, then Chandigarh (CO Wg.Cdr. Deshmukh)
- No.120 Squadron, Mystére IVA, based at Nal (CO ?)
- No.222 Squadron, Su-7BMK, based at Halwara (CO Wg.Cdr. D’Costa)
- TACDE (one flight), MiG-21FL, based at Amritsar/Ambala (CO Wg.Cdr. Mukerjee)
- TACDE (one flight), Su-7BMK, based at Amritsar/Ambala (CO Wg.Cdr. Mukerjee)

Sector Naya Chor and Ramgarh Desert
- No.10 Squadron, 16 HF-24 Maruts & 2 Hunter T.Mk.66s, based at Uttarlai/Jodhpur (CO Wg.Cdr. Aggarwal)
- No.21 Squadron, Gnat F.Mk.1, based at Uttarlai/Ahmedabad (CO Wg.Cdr. Malik)
- No.29 Squadron, MiG-21FL, based at Hindon, det. at Uttarlai (CO Wg.Cdr. Swardekar)
- No.122 Operational Training Unit, 4 Hunter F.Mk.56 & T.Mk.66, based at Jaisalmer, (CO Wg.Cdr. D.M. Conquest)
- No.220 Squadron, HF-24 Marut, based at Uttarlai/Jodhpur (CO Wg.Cdr. Dhawan)

Sector Rann of Kutch and Gulf of Kutch
- No.6 Squadron, L-1049 Constellation, based at Poone
- No.35 Squadron, Canberra B.(I).Mk.58/B.Mk.66, based at Poone (CO Wg.Cdr. Badhwar)
- No.47 Squadron, MiG-21FL, based at Jamnagar/Halwara (CO Wg.Cdr. Gill)
- No.106 Squadron, Canberra PR.Mk.57, based at Agra (CO Wg.Cdr. Thakar)
- JBCU, Canberra (different marks), based at Agra (CO Wg.Cdr. S.Thakar)

Central Air Command
- No.5 Squadron, Canberra B(I).Mk.58/B.Mk.66, based at Agra (CO Wg.Cdr. Talwar)
- No.8 Squadron, MiG-21FL, based at Poone (CO Wg.Cdr. Sen)
- No.9 Squadron, Gnat F.Mk.1, based at Jamnagar, later Halwara (CO Wg.Cdr. Yadav)

- No.107 Helicopter Unit, Mi-4, based in Goa
- No.109 Helicopter Unit, Mi-4, based in Goa
- No.111 Helicopter Unit, Mi-4, based in Goa

Transport Units
- No.11 Squadron, HS.748, based in Palam
- No.12 Squadron, C-119G, based at Chandigarh
- No.19 Squadron, C-119G, based at Chandigarh
- No.25 Squadron, An-12B, based at Chandigarh
- No.33 Squadron, DHC Caribou, based at ?
- No.41 Squadron, DHC Otter, based at Agra, (CO Wg.Cdr. Vashist)
- No.42 Squadron, Il-14, based at Palam
- No.43 Squadron, C-47, based at ?
- No.44 Squadron, An-12B, based at Chandigarh
- No.48 Squadron, C-119G, based at Tezpur
- No.49 Squadron, C-47, based at ?
- No.59 Squadron, DHC Otter, based at ?

By all practical purposes, the IAF was therefore the fifth largest air force of the world, after those of the five “superpowers”, and in front of the immense South Vietnamese Air Force – reinforced by huge deliveries of US-made aircraft at no charge.

The flying component of the IAF was supported by a – meanwhile – relatively well-developed radar net. The IAF obtained a number of long-range P-35 and P-30 radars from the USSR, and these covered most of its borders towards east and west, leaving relatively minor blind spots in between. However, this radar net was optimised for medium and high levels and almost blind bellow 500m. When tensions with Pakistan increased, in autumn 1971, additional radar units were forward deployed, for example in Amritsar and to Uttarlai, in order to cover the few most sensitive gaps.

The IAF also operated a large number of radar-controlled anti-aircraft guns, and deployed seven squadrons equipped with V-75 Volga/SA-2 Guideline SAM-systems. These were foremost responsible for the defence of larger cities and vital installations of strategic importance, but at least three were placed also closer to the border. IAF SAM-sites were well-integrated with the radar network, and their coverage of medium and high altitudes was at least fairly extensive.

Airfields as Fortresses

In the aftermath of the 1965 War, and especially after learning about experiences of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, both air forces considerably improved their airfields. A large number of blast pens and hardened aircraft shelters was constructed on most of their air bases – especially those considered exposed to enemy air attacks. Other installations were widened, runways lengthened, and maintenance facilities improved, while the capacity of bulk petroleum installations was significantly augmented. All installations were heavily defended by a large number of anti-aircraft guns. The PAF Sargodha complex, for example, should have been defended by up to 60 weapons alone.

In the last days before the war both the IAF and the PAF also brought up significant amounts of ammunition and aircraft spares to their airfields, so to increase the readiness of deployed units while making them less vulnerable to eventual problems in supply chain. In the last moments, essential spares were air-lifted from abroad – especially by Indian Air Force transport aircraft, which hauled considerable amounts of MiG-21- and Su-7-spares from the USSR. On the other side, PAF C-130-fleet was hauling jet fuel from Rangoon in Burma, and Sri Lanka, to Tejgaon AB.

In the west, the PAF was supported by a well-developed (but by far not perfect) radar net, established by the Americans in the early 1960s, and based on powerful early warning radar stations at Sakesar in the north, Badin in the south, and Sargodha. The Pakistani air defence network, however, was by no means comprehensive: it lacked low-level (bellow 300 metres) detection capability, and had considerable gaps in southern central Pakistan, as well as over Kashmir. The PAF also suffered considerably from defection of a large number of Bangali personnel: these should have compromised details about the Pakistani air defence network to India, enabling the IAF to better penetrate the Pakistani airspace.

The PAF was in the process of establishing a number of forward airfields, in 1971. Such so-called “Forward Operational Bases” (FOBs) were constructed at Murid, Chander (activated shortly before the war), Risalewala, and Rafiqui. Interestingly, even the Pakistan Army constructed a road-runway at Okara – at break-neck speed, but due to financial constraints and incompetence of the PAF High Command, the construction of other FOBs – including Nawabshah, Talhar and Jacobabad – was badly behind the schedule and they were to be badly missed during the war. In fact, work at Talhar and Jacobabad was completed, but they did not become operational, in part because of understandable concerns regarding their exposition to Indian attack.

Nevertheless, PAF's main bases were well developed. Sargodha was the biggest Pakistani airfield, consisting of one main and three satellite airfields, and defended by no less but 80 anti-aircraft guns. Mauripur/Masroor air base, near Karachi, was the second largest installation, defended by over 50 anti-aircraft guns, while other important airfields were at Peshawar, Sakesar, Badin, and Dhaka.

The situation in the East Pakistan was not as positive: the PAF High Command considered that at least two fighter squadrons should be based there, which were to get a choice of several airfields. Consequently, a new air base was built at Kurmitola, near Tejgaon. The construction of this was not completed before the war, however, just like the building of another air base, some 90 kilometres further to the north, which was planned but never even approved. The project for establishing three landing strips along the existing roads near Bogra, Sylhet and Joydevpur was never realised either.

The situation on the other side was completely different, then the IAF was at its all-times high. By May 1971, with the tensions in East Pakistan increasing, the IAF increased the pace of training operations. Extensive flying programmes ordered for all units, all of which were operations oriented: air-to-air combat, low-level strikes, navigation, close-support missions including air-to-ground gunnery were trained intensively, before a majority of units was ordered to stand quick reaction alerts (QRAs), in October.

Both sides also deployed a large number of mobile observer units (MOUs) along frontlines. These were groups of soldiers trained in aircraft identification, equipped with radio stations, integrated into the ground control system. Their main task was to report sightings of all aircraft operational within their field of view. While rudimentary, this organisation proved its worth – even if the PAF’s MOUs deployed in East Pakistan had to be withdrawn after a number of their members were killed by Mukti Bahini.

Map of north-western border area between India and Pakistan, with most important IAF and PAF airfields, as well as main early warning radar stations (marked with blue triangles) of both sides. Especially interesting is the forward position of two Indian airfields, at Pathankot and Amritsar: both were shelled by Pakistani artillery already before the official begin of hostilities. (Map by Tom Cooper, based on Encarta 2003 software)


Map of south-western Indo-Pakistani border, together with most important airfields of both sides in this area. Note also the overal lack of well-developed early warning radar stations in this area. (Map by Tom Cooper, based on Encarta 2003 software)





Appendix I

Pakistan Air Force Serials in 1971

- Mirage IIIEP
All PAF Mirage IIIs were delivered camouflaged in dark green and dark grey over, light blue under. Black serials were applied on the rudder, and the last three digits repeated on the rear fuselage.

Known serials (IIIEP): 67-101/101, 67-102/102, 67-103/103, 67-104/104, 67-108/108, 67-114/114, 67-115/115 (No.5 Sqn)

Known serials: (IIIRP): 67-201/201, 67-202/202, 67-203/203

Known serials (IIIDP): 67-201/301, 67-302/302, 67-303/303

- F-86F (all upgraded to F standard)
Most of PAF Sabres were left in bare metal overall. Black serials were applied on the rear fuselage, with the last three sometimes repeated on the nose. Some aircraft had black anti-glare panels in front of the cockpit.

Known serials: 51-13226, 51-13315, 51-13407, 51-13447, (5)25026 (former mount of Sqn.Ldr. M.M. Alam; No.11 Sqn), (5)25384/384 (No.19 Sqn), 52-5412, 53-1102/102, 53-1105, 53-1107, 53-1109/109, 53-1076, 53-1125/125, 53-1127, 53-1163, (5)3176 (No.17 Sqn; preserved at Korangi Creek AB), 53-1182, 53-1192, 53-1216, 53-1632, (5)4-5987, (5)4-5029/029 (No.14 Sqn), 55-3850, 55-3854, 55-4018, (5)5-4021, 55-4029, 55-4993, 55-5005/005, (5)55011/011, (5)54995/995, 55-4996, 55-5001, 55-5005.

- B-57B
PAF Canberras were generally painted in gloss black overall, and had red lettering and serials.

Known serials: (5)33061, (5)33885, (5)33946, (5)33948, (5)33952, (5)33955.

- RB-57F
Exact details about a possible camouflage pattern of RB-57Fs operated by No.24 Squadron remain unknown. In service with USAF these aircraft have had their fuselage left in “bare metal” overall, and wings in white.

Known serials: 63-13297 (returned to USA before 1965 War), 63-13286 (the example badly damaged by IAF SA-2s, in 1966), 63-13500 (shot down by Pakistani AAA during training sortie against the Rahwali radar station, in September 1965), 63-13502 (destroyed on ground, on 5 December 1971).

- F-6A/C
Originally, all F-6s arrived in Pakistan left in bare metal overall. Few examples are known to have received a hastily applied disruptive camouflage during the 1971 War, mainly consisting of irregular splotches in sand, dark earth and olive green. These were obviously temporary colours of poor quality, which quickly began suffering to weather conditions. This practice was discontinued soon after the war, the aircraft subsequently being left in bare metal again, even if many have got large unit insignia applied, while in the 1980s the whole fleet received a new camouflage pattern, similar to that applied on PAF F-16s. Serials were initially applied in black on the rear fuselage, with the last three repeated – in much larger fonds - bellow the cockpit. This practice was subsequently discontinued: while the serial was left on the rear fuselage, in most cases not only three but frequently the last four were repeated on the forward fuselage. The last three were often repeated also on the drop tanks. Serials of MiG-19s delivered from Indonesia remain unknown, but it is very likely that they received serials similar to those of original F-6s.

Known serials: 47-1003/003, (47)1083, (47)1120/120, (47)1504, (47)1606, (47)1610, (47)1613, (47)1617, (47)1618/618, (4)7626/7626, (47)1628/628, (?)3812/812, 47-1823/823, 47-1825/825, (47)1911/911, (47)1917/917, (4)7918/918, (4)81918/8918, (?)7110/7110, (?)7635/635, (?)7637/7637, (?)7704/704,

- T-33A/RT-33A
All were left bare metal overall. Black serials were applied on the fin, and code on the nose. Some aircraft wore large strips – usually outlined in black – of yellow around the rear fuselage and/or wings, others also on the nose. Inner sides of wing-tip tanks were usually painted in matt black, and an anti-glare panel was painted in front of the cockpit. There are unconfirmed reports that some of the examples used during the 1971 War were camouflaged in different shades of green and brown, but there is no confirmation for this available.

Known serials (T-33A): (5)18835/DT-835, 535533 (No.2 Sqn), 561746/SA

Known serials (RT-33A): 535090 (No.2 Sqn)

- T-6G
Very few PAF Texans were camouflaged in 1971, and if then in green. Most of the aircraft were left in “bare metal” overall, with panels on the nose, rear fuselage and wings in yellow. No serials are known.

- Canadair F.Mk.6 Sabres delivered via Iran to Pakistan
(Legend: front row is construction number, followed by former Luftwaffe serial, and the fate of the aircraft)

1592 BB-362 IIAF - PAF w/o 1971
1594 BB-364 IIAF - PAF w/o 1971
1595 BB-365 IIAF - PAF decoy in Masroor
1606 BB-376 IIAF - PAF – captured by Indians in 1971, became BAF "1606"
1607 BB-377 IIAF - PAF w/o 1971
1608 BB-378 IIAF - PAF w/o 22Jan1971
1614 BB-384 IIAF - PAF w/o 1971
1616 BB-286 IIAF - PAF w/o 1970
1617 BB-287 IIAF - PAF w/o 1972
1618 BB-288 IIAF - PAF w/o 1971
1621 JA-107 IIAF - PAF w/o 1972
1622 JA-108 IIAF - PAF dumped in 1979
1623 JA-109 IIAF - PAF
1624 JA-110 IIAF - PAF, w/o 1973
1626 JA-112 IIAF - PAF, dumped in 1978, on display at PAF Museum
1627 JD-248 IIAF - PAF
1629 JD-243 IIAF - PAF decoy in Masroor, later preserved at Masroor AB
1632 JD-247 IIAF - PAF preserved in Kharachi at Main Defence Roundabout
1634 JD-237 IIAF - PAF dumped in 1980
1636 JD-245 IIAF - PAF w/o 1978
1639 JD-241 IIAF – PAF, on display at Shaheen Chowk
1650 JD-121 IIAF - PAF w/o 1970
1652 JD-116 IIAF - PAF dumped in 1968
1653 JD-231 IIAF - PAF w/o 1971
1655 JD-110 IIAF – PAF, on display at Chawinda War Memorial
1656 JD-115 IIAF – PAF, on display at Madina-ul-Hikmat University
1657 JA-234 IIAF - PAF w/o 1971
1658 JD-119 IIAF - PAF w/o 1967
1660 JD-106 IIAF - PAF w/o 1974
1662 JD-114 IIAF - PAF w/o 1971
1663 JD-117 IIAF - PAF w/o 1971
1665 JD-109 IIAF - PAF dumped in 1976
1669 JD-113 IIAF - PAF w/o 1971
1670 JD-102 IIAF - PAF preserved outside Fortress Stadium, in Lahore
1671 JD-104 IIAF - PAF w/o
1674 JC-107 IIAF - PAF w/o 1968
1683 JC-110 IIAF - PAF w/o in 1975
1689 JC-105 JC-367 IIAF - PAF w/o in 1971
1692 JC-111 IIAF - PAF w/o in Feb 1976
1693 JC-251 IIAF – PAF, preserved at School of Artillery, Malir
1695 JC-234 IIAF - PAF w/o in 1974
1701 JC-243 IIAF – PAF, on display at NED University
1702 JC-244 IIAF – PAF, on display at Shikarpur City
1703 JC-245 IIAF - PAF w/o in 1971
1705 JC-247 IIAF - PAF decoy in Masroor, later on display at Bagh Company
1709 JC-242 IIAF - PAF decoy in Masroor, later on display at Fizagath Park, Mingora
1718 JB-249 IIAF - PAF w/o 1971
1719 JC-121 IIAF - PAF w/o 1971
1720 JC-236 IIAF - PAF w/o 1968
1722 JC-234 IIAF – PAF, on display at ISSB Office, Malir Cantt
1728 JC-113 IIAF – PAF, on display at Lahore Metropolitan Corp. Build.
1733 JC-119 IIAF - PAF museum (as 1733/33)
1735 JC-107 IIAF - PAF w/o 1971
1739 ??..................- PAF, decoy at Masroor
1742 JC-106 IIAF - PAF w/o 1968
1747 JA-243 IIAF – PAF, preserved at Samungli AB
1749 JC-102 IIAF - PAF w/o 1968
1751 JA-245 IIAF – PAF, on display at KMC Garden
1754 JB-234 IIAF – PAF, on display at Masroor AB
1756 JB-243 IIAF - PAF dumped in 1978, later on display at PAF Museum
1763 JB-242 IIAF - PAF w/o 1971
1764 JB-240 IIAF - PAF decoy in Masroor, later preserved at Malir AB
1765 JB-239 BB-271 IIAF - PAF w/o 1968
1766 JB-119 IIAF - PAF w/o 1970
1771 JB-117 IIAF - PAF dumped in 1978
1772 JB-111 IIAF - PAF w/o 1971
1777 JB-110 IIAF - PAF dumped in 1978
1778 JA-247 IIAF – PAF, on display at Sehwan Sharif, Sindh
1781 JB-115 IIAF - PAF dumped in 1975
1783 JB-109 IIAF – PAF, donated to Chinese National Air Museum
1786 JB-108 IIAF - PAF
1787 JA-117 IIAF - PAF w/o 1971
1788 JB-107 IIAF - PAF w/o 1980
1789 JB-105 IIAF – PAF, preserved at Masroor College (with wrong serial “1769”)
1790 JB-102 IIAF - PAF 18 Sqn, later decoy, then preserved at Masroor AB
1792 JA-101 IIAF - PAF dumped in 1980, later preserved at PAF Museum
1794 JA-250 IIAF – PAF, preserved at Faisal AB, in PAF workshops
1797 JA-105 IIAF – PAF, on display at Mianwali
1798 JA-115 IIAF - PAF w/o 1974
1800 JA-113 IIAF - PAF w/o 1972
1802 BB-187 IIAF - PAF w/o 1971
1803 JA-114 IIAF - PAF w/o 1971
1804 JA-104 IIAF - PAF w/o 1971
1808 BB-189 IIAF - PAF w/o 1978
1809 BB-299 IIAF – PAF, dumped in 1977, later preserved at PAF College, Sargodha AB
1810 BB-190 IIAF – PAF, preserved in Korangi Creek
1811 BB-191 IIAF - PAF w/o 1975
1812 BB-192 IIAF - PAF dumped in 1974




Appendix II

Fates of PAF F-104 Starfighters

F-104As:
- 56-773: delivered 8 June 1964, shot down on 12 december 1971, while flown by Wg.Cdr. ME Middlecoat (KIA)
- 56-798: delivered 1 March 1965 (from ROCAF), preserved at Sargodha AB (Since moved to PAF Museum Karachi and displayed besides the Quaids Viking)
- 56-799: delivered ? (from ROCAF), preserved at PAF Museum in Kharachi? (Does not exist)
- 56-800: delivered ? (reported as re-serialled into 56-808), not certain if ever existed
- 56-802: delivered 1961, crashed on 9 November 1963 during training mission, Flg.Off. Asghar Shah ejected
- 56-803: delivered 1961, crashed on 3 September 16 during training mission, Flg.Off Tariq Majeed killed
- 56-804: delivered 1961, shot down on 6 December 1971, Sqn.Ldr. Amjad Hussain Khan ejected
- 56-805: delivered 1961, w/o on 10 July 1968 after fire on the ground
- 56-807: delivered 1961, crashed on 15 April 1968, Flg.Off. Abbassi killed
- 56-868: delivered 1961, crashed on 17 September 1965 while flown by Flg.Off. Abbassi
- 56-874: delivered 1961, preserved at Peshawar AB
- 56-875: delivered 1961, preserved at PAF Academy, Risalpur, mounted on Pole
- 56-877: delivered 1961, shot down on 7 September 1965 while flown by Flt.Lt. Amjad Hussain Khan
- 56-879: delivered 1961, preserved at PAF Masroor.

F-104 Bs:
- 57-1309: delivered 1961, preserved at PAF Museum, Karachi
- 57-1312: delivered 1961, preserved at PAF Faisal near Karachi (Photo available on warbirdsofindia)

Suspected RJAF F-104As shot down in air combats with IAF MiG-21s
- 56-787: delivered in 1971, shot down by MiG-21 in 1971, while flown by Flt.Lt. Samad Ali Changezi




Appendix III

Indian Air Force Serials in 1971

- MiG-21FL/Type 77
All IAF MiG-21FLs were originally delivered in “bare metal” overall. During the 1971 War, some were crudely camouflaged, mainly with dark earth paint of relatively poor quality, the condition of which would soon suffer due to the sun and humidity.

Known serials (MiG-21FL/Type 77): C448 (No.3 Sqn), C460, C518, C585 (No.37 Sqn), C589, C746 (with heavy camouflage in dark earth or chocolate brown and dark olive; No.28 Sqn), C776 (No.8 Sqn), C778 (MOFTU), C779 (No.8 Sqn), c989 (No.8 Sqn), C992 (with “tiger stripes” in dark earth or black; No.1 Sqn), C996 (No.8 Sqn), C1111 (No.28 Sqn), C1108 (No.8 Sqn), C1128 (No.1 Sqn),

Known serials (MiG-21U/Type 66): U655

- Su-7BMK
Originally, all IAF Su-7s were delivered in bare metal overall. Shortly before or during the 1971 War most were crudely camouflaged, usually along a patter that later became standard for the whole fleet. This consisted of the base colour of medium grey overall, with thick fields of olive green on the fin and mid-fuselage, and dark earth, black or chocolate brown around the cockpit. Undersides were originally left in bare metal, later painted in “Soviet light blue”. There were several variants of this pattern, including one with sand overall and earth brown fields, or with brown field on the fin instead of olive green. It is possible that in some cases olive green was replaced with black. A considerable number of Su-7s had their national markings and serials overpainted, in 1971. Serials were applied in black on the top of the fin, directly above the fin flash. Before the war it was a regular practice for the serial to be repeated – very small – on the front fuselage.

Known serials: B798, B817 (No.222 Sqn), B836, B839 (shot down on 5 December 1971; No.32 Sqn), B845 (later seen in black overall; No.222 Sqn), B910 (shot down on 8 December 1971), B914 (left bare metal overall during the war), B917, B935

- Su-7UM
Most of Indian two-seat Sukhois were left in bare metal overall. Other details like on Su-7BMK.

Known serials: U976, U1236

- Hunter F.Mk.56
All IAF Hunters were left in their original camouflage consisting of dark green and dark sea grey over, and silver under. Serials were carried in black, on the rear fuselage, and sometimes repeated on the cover of front wheel bay. Some aircraft wore prominent unit insignia on the nose.

Known serials: B201, BA209, BA220, BA271 (No.122 Sqn), BA285 (No.7 Sqn), BA319, BA341 (No.14 Sqn), BA360 (No.7 Sqn), BA485 (No.20 Sqn), BA569

- Hunter T.Mk.66
Details were the same as on F.Mk.56s.

Known serials: BS370 (No.7 Sqn), BS489 (No.7 Sqn)

- HF-24 Marut
All IAF Maruts were left in bare metal overall. Serials were applied in black on the rear fuselage. Small black anti-glare panel was applied in front of the cockpit. The first series of HF-24s was apparently serialled in the BD-xxx range. The second series, delivered from January 1971, got serials from D-1192 upwards. Note that no Marut Mk.1Ts dual-control trainers were supplied to IAF before 1975.

Known serials: BD-830, BD-835, BD-845, BD-851, D-1192, D-1196, D-1209, D-1210, D-1211, D-1214, D-1221, D-1224, D-1235,

- Mystére IVA
IAF Mystéres were also left in bare metal overall. Large black serials were applied on the rear fuselage.

Known serials: IA1329, IA1334.

- Gnat F.Mk.1
All IAF Gnats were left in bare metal overall. Serials were applied in black on the rear fuselage. Many aircraft have got an anti-glare panel, usually in black (it is possible that this was sometimes applied in dark green), in front of the cockpit.

Known serials: IE1024, IE1045, IE1203, IE1246, IE1247.

- Canberra B(I).Mk.56, B(I).Mk.58 and B(I).Mk.66
Originally, all IAF Canberras were left in bare metal overall. By 1971, most were camouflaged in dark green and dark sea grey over, but left either bare metal or silver on lower surfaces.

Known serials (B(I).Mk.58): BF595 (first of six new-built aircraft delivered from 1963), BF596, BF597, BF598, BF599, BF600, IF860, IF861 (No.5 Sqn), IF895 (first of 18 new-built aircraft, diverted from RAF-contracts, delivered from April 1957), IF896, IF897, IF898, IF899, IF900, IF901, IF902, IF903, IF904, IF905, IF906, IF907, IF908, IF909, IF910, IF911, IF912, IF913, IF914 (first of 21 newly-built aircraft, delivered from April 1957), IF915, IF916, IF917, IF918, IF919, IF920, IF921, IF922, IF923, IF924, IF925, IF926, IF927, IF928, IF929, IF930, IF931, IF932, IF933, IF934, IF919, IF922, IF960 (first from 14 newly-built aircraft, delivered from April 1957), IF961 (No.5 Sqn), IF962, IF963, IF964, IF965, IF966, IF967, IF968, IF969, IF970, IF971, IF972, IF973, IF974 (first of eleven new-built aircraft delivered from July 1958), IF975, IF976 (No.5 Sqn), IF977, IF978, IF979, IF980, IF981, IF982, IF983, IF-984 (No.35 Sqn).

Known serials (B(I).Mk.66): IF1020 (first of ten refurbished B.Mk.15/B.Mk.16s), F1021, F1022, F1023, F1024 (shot down in 1971), F1025 (No.5 Sqn), F1026, F1027, F1028, IF1029.

Known serials (T.Mk.54): IQ994 (first of two new-built aircraft diverted from RAF T.Mk.54), IQ985, IQ996 (first of six delivered in 1958), IQ997, IQ998, IQ999, BQ744 (single ex-T.Mk.4, delivered in 1963), Q495 (one ex-T.Mk.4, delivered in 1968), Q496 (embargoed and sold to Peru), Q497 (embargoed, used for fire practice in 1988), Q1791 (first of six refurbished ex-T.Mk.4s, modified to TT.Mk.148s), Q1792, Q1793, Q1794, Q1795, Q1191 (first of two ex-RNZAF aircraft, purchased in 1970), Q1192.

Known serials (PR.Mk.57): IP986 (first of three delivered in April 1957), IP987, IP988, IP989 (first of five delivered in May 1957), IP990, IP991, IP992, IP993, BP745 (first of two refurbished ex-PR.Mk.7s, delivered in 1963 and 1964), BP746, BP744 (single ex-T.Mk.4).

Known serials (PR.Mk.67): P1098 (first of two ex-PR.Mk.7s), P1099 (No.106 Sqn)





Sources & Bibliography


Aside from discussions on ACIG.org forum, especially contributions by PVS Jagan Mohan and Usman, the following sources of reference were used:

- WAR IN PEACE, An Analysis of Warfare since 1945, Consultant Editor Sir Robert Thompson KBE, CMG, DSO, MC (author of chapter on The Algerian Revolution was Jon Pimlott); Orbis Publishing, London, 1981 (ISBN 0-85613-341-8)

- "AIR WARS AND AIRCRAFT; A Detailed Record of Air Combat, 1945 to the Present", by Victor Flintham, Arms and Armour Press, 1989 (ISBN: 0-85368-779-X)

- “ENGLISH ELECTRIC CANBERRA AND MARTIN B-57”, by Barry Jones, The Crowood Press, 1999 (ISBN: 1-86126-255-8)

- “HAWKER HUNTER”, by Alan W. Hall, from Warpaint Series (No.8), Hall Park Books Ltd., 2001 (ISSN: 1363-0369)

- “MARTIN B-57 CANBERRA”, by Kev Darlin, from warpaint Series (No.45), Hall Park Books Ltd., 2004 (ISSN: 1363-0369)

- “MiG-19 FARMER (in Action)”, by Hans-Heiri Stapfer, Squadron/Signal Publications (Aircraft Number 143), 1994 (ISBN: 0-89747-311-6)

- Bharat-Rakshak.com website

- PakDef.Info website





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