1965 War: Indian accounts-The Indian Air Force

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1965 War: Indian accounts-The Indian Air Force


On a wing and a prayer

Last updated on: October 26, 2005





The Indian Air Force played a key role in the 1965 conflict. As part of Rediff.com’s special series to mark the 40th year since that war, they brought out two excerpts from a seminal book on the subject, The India-Pakistan Air War of 1965, by PVS Jagan Mohan and Samir Chopra.

September 9th, the battle at Khem Karan

By the morning of September 9th, the battle at Khem Karan had started. A mixed formation of 7 and 27 Squadron Hunters led by Squadron Leader Bishnoi was detailed for close support and interdiction.

Bishnoi's No. 2 was Flight Lieutenant Gurbux Singh Ahuja. The second section consisted of Flight Lieutenant SK Sharma of 7 Squadron and Flying Officer DK Parulkar.

The four Hunters arrived at Kasur at low level. Noticing dust raised by the movement of a heavy armoured column, Bishnoi alerted the formation and the Hunters switched on their electricals to arm their rockets. As they reached their target, the anti-aircraft fire from the heavy 40-mm machineguns on the tanks greeted them. Bishnoi led the first attack.

He pulled up to 300 feet and rolled into a dive onto a cluster of three tanks. His salvo of eight rockets had immediate effect: as he pulled away from the target, three tanks could be seen burning. Ahuja and Sharma followed with rocket attacks on tank targets. They accounted for several tanks and armoured personnel carriers as well as soft skinned vehicles. The Hunters made repeated passes flying through the wall of flak till they had expended all their rockets and front gun ammunition.

The last to dive into the attack was the No.4, Parulkar. His Hunter faced the concentrated fire of the AA machine guns of the tanks, which had by then found time to correct and coordinate their fire. Just into the dive, Parulkar's Hunter was hit. The first thing Parulkar noticed was the explosive decompression as a bullet pierced the pressurized cockpit. The bullet pierced the floor of the cockpit, traveled up and through Parulkar's right arm, through the seat's headrest and finally made a hole in the Plexiglas canopy.

Parulkar was lucky. He was crouching to the front to peer thru the gunsight when the bullet went through his headrest, otherwise his head would have been in the path of the bullet. The resultant depressurization misted the cockpit obscuring visibility. Since there was a hole in the canopy the airstream cleared the condensation on the windscreen. Parulkar continued the attack and fired off his rocket salvo at the tanks.

As he pulled out of the attack, Parulkar felt sharp pain in his arm and felt his flying suit being soaked with blood. He decided not to report it to Bishnoi, sensing the attack might be aborted if he told Bishnoi that he was wounded. Bishnoi by then had expended his second salvo of rockets on other tanks and commenced gun attacks on soft skinned vehicles.

At the end of his fourth pass, Bishnoi called for the formation to assemble for the flight back. On exiting the target area, Parulkar radioed Bishnoi and informed him that he had been hit in his right arm by ground fire and was bleeding profusely. The rest of the formation was concerned: though Parulkar could fly back with one arm, he would need both to land. Bishnoi suggested that Parulkar eject over Indian territory. Parulkar refused, assuring Bishnoi that he would be able to land safely. The formation decided that Parulkar would land last so as to not block the runway if his landing failed.

Moments later Parulkar made his approach. Dizzy due to the loss of blood he carried out an overshoot and came around. He was able to land successfully during the second attempt. Ambulances and crash tenders approached his aircraft, but ignoring them, Parulkar taxied his Hunter to dispersal. Parulkar's overalls were drenched in blood. Still in extreme pain, he was rushed to the base hospital.

An inspection of Parulkar's Hunter revealed how lucky he had been. The bullet -- after striking Parulkar in the arm -- had gone through his headrest and through the top of the ejection seat, severely fraying the static line that connects the drogue parachute with the main parachute of the seat.

Had Parulkar fired the seat the main chute would not have deployed, as the static line would have severed with the force of the opening impact of the drogue chute. The seat would have dropped to the ground without the main chute deploying. Parulkar was ignorant of this damage, making his decision to attempt the landing even more commendable.

Excerpted with permission from The India Pakistan Air War of 1965, PVS Jagan Mohan and Samir Chopra, Manohar Books.

PVS Jaganmohan and Samir Chopra

The Wolfpack in action

October 26, 2005

In this second extract from The India Pakistan Air War of 1965, we look at how four Gnats got into a dogfight with the superior Pakistani Sabres, and won.

September 19: Chawinda-Pasrur Sector

September 19, 1965: That afternoon, a flight of four Mysteres of 1 Squadron was detailed to carry out an offensive sortie in the Chawinda-Pasrur Sector.

9 (Wolf Packs) Squadron was given the task of providing escort to the four Mysteres. The Gnats consisted of two sections. The first was led by Squadron Leader Denzil Keelor with Flying Officer 'Munna' Rai as his wingman. Flight Lieutenant Viney `Kaddu' Kapila - with Flight Lieutenant Vijay Mayadev as No.4 - led the second section.

The Mystere and Gnat formation made its way to the target area at Chawinda at low-level and were greeted with anti-aircraft fire. Kapila spotted a formation of four Sabres ahead and above at 2000 feet and called out his sighting on the R/T to Keelor and JP Singh.

Singh decided to make a single pass over the target area and exit quickly without hanging around for a second pass. About this time, Mayadev, the No.4 in the formation, also called out a warning on the R/T about the four Sabres. Keelor put the formation in a shallow climbing turn to bring the Gnats in a favourable position.

The four Sabres - from Sargodha's 17 PAF Squadron - were being led by their CO, Squadron Leader Azim Daudpota. Neither Daudpota nor his wingmen noticed the four Gnats led by Keelor come in at low level behind them. As Keelor began maneuvering the Gnats behind the Sabres, they were noticed and a quick call put the Sabres into a defensive break. The Gnats split up in two sections. Keelor and Rai went after one pair of Sabres, and Kapila and Mayadev after the other. When Keelor followed the first pair of Sabres in a tight turn, Rai lost visual contact with both Keelor and the Sabres. Keelor instructed Rai on the R/T to set course for Adampur and to get out of the fight, which Rai complied with immediately. This left Keelor tangling with the first section of two Sabres.

Meanwhile Kapila and Mayadev got behind the second section of the Sabres, who then reversed their turn and broke into the attackers. By the time the Gnats recovered from this maneuver Kapila found himself at a very low altitude, less than 100 feet from the ground and flying at treetop height. However he still had one of the Sabres in his gyro sight.

The Sabre tried to shake off Kapila by first engaging into a steep turn starboard and then again in the opposite direction to port. Kapila had by this time jettisoned his drop tanks, which gave him a slight edge in maneuverability. He accelerated and opened fired with his cannon at 500 yards, scoring direct hits on the Sabre.

The Gnats had met the Sabres at an altitude of 1500 feet, and now the Sabre - damaged by Kapila's first burst - fell back. Kapila fired a second burst from 300 yards and again the cannon shells tore into the Sabre. Its pilot though, still executed turns and breaks to shake off Kapila who in quick succession let off two more bursts. As he finished the third burst, scoring more hits on the Sabre, he noticed the Sabre begin to roll over.

Kapila broke off the attack and hauled his Gnat vertically upward as he heard Keelor's call on the R/T, "Kaps you hit him!". Kapila banked his aircraft and saw the Sabre hit the ground, but neither he nor Keelor saw the pilot ejecting.

Keelor, meanwhile, was not only keeping an eye on his two adversary Sabres but also on Kapila's section, giving them periodic 'tail clear' messages. He missed seeing the No.4 Sabre from the PAF formation - flown by Flying Officer Saif-Ul Azam - sneak in behind Kapila's section and get on Mayadev's tail. Mayadev's tail and elevator surfaces were riddled with .50 caliber bullets by Azam's gunfire. Mayadev ejected barely 500 feet above the ground from his stricken Gnat.

Having lost contact with Mayadev's Gnat, Kapila looked around to spot Keelor's Gnat and turned around to join him. By that time Keelor had observed another Sabre break out of the melee and head for safety. He put his Gnat into pursuit.

The Sabre failed to notice the Gnat and did a hard turn to the right, which bought it within range of Keelor's guns. The Sabre was hit and started streaming smoke and losing altitude. Keelor pulled out of the attack as his closing speed was high and he had lost enough altitude to be skimming the treetops.

As the Sabre started moving away, Kapila came in to deliver the coup-de-grace with a well-aimed cannon burst. However once again, Kapila's guns jammed after the initial burst and he had to pull out of the attack. His gun camera film clearly showed Keelor's smoking target in his sights.

Subsequent analysis on gun camera film and combat reports at Halwara and Adampur resulted in both Keelor and Kapila being awarded aircombat kills and the Vir Chakra at the end of the war. The Sabre kill by Denzil earned the Keelor family a unique distinction. Both the brothers now had Sabres to their credit and both earned the Vir Chakra, making it the first time brothers had won the Vir Chakra for identical feats.

Extract and picture from The India Pakistan Air War of 1965, PVS Jagan Mohan and Samir Chopra. Samir Chopra and PVS Jagan Mohan'

Mole in IAF?

The Times of India, Sep 22 2015

Mole in IAF helped Pak plan attack: 1965 war hero

A 1965 war gallantry award winner, Wing Commander Jag Mohan Nath (Retd), on Monday said a “Pakistani mole“ had been detected in the IAF's Western Air Command (WAC) in the run-up to the conflict. Nath, who was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra twice for flying several secret reconnaissance missions over Pakistan on his Canberra aircraft during the war, said the “mole“ was a group captain handling flight movements at the WAC. “He had given information to Pakistani intelligence that led to the shooting down of an Indian surveillance aircraft over Pakistan in April 1959. The Pakistani Sabre fighters were waiting for our plane on that day ,“ Nath told TOI.

The group captain was later removed from his post.“Why take his name? He is no longer alive. But to maintain top secrecy during the 1965 war, the then IAF chief Arjan Singh used to directly give me, a lowly squadron leader, orders for the surveillance missions to be flown,“ Nath said.

Flight commander of the strategic photo reconnaissance squadron, Nath led his unit in risky missions several times over hostile territory to obtain vital information of enemy locations and defences in the long-distance flights.

See also

1965 War: Indian accounts-1

1965 War: Indian accounts-The Indian Air Force

1965 War: Pakistani accounts-1

1965 War: Pakistani accounts-2

1965 War: The air forces of India and Pakistan

1965 War: The role of the Indian Navy

1965 War: The role of the Pakistan Navy

1965 War: Third-country accounts

1965 War: The role of third-countries

1965 War: journalists’ and writers’ accounts-1

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