Pakistan Air Force | A Proud History


Every Man A Tiger

Pakistan has one of the best, most combat ready airforces in the world. They have to; their neighbour to the east is huge, and the two nations, have a long history of hostilities. For Indian war planners, the Pakistan air Force is their worst fear. Pakistani pilots are respected throughout the world, especially the Islamic world, beause they know how to fly and fight.

On one or two occasions, I had the oppertunity to talk with Pakistani instructor pilots, who had served in Iraq. These discussions, didn’t give me great cause to worry. The Russian domination of training prevented the Pakistanis from having any real influence on the Iraqi aircrew training program.

Still, there had to be a few Iraqi pilots, who had observed and listened to their mentors from France and Pakistan and the useless guidence of their inept leaders. It was those few, I was concerned about – the ones with great situational awareness and good eyesight, who had figured out how to effectively use their aircrafts and its weapons to defend their nation.”

(General Chuck Horner (retd) and Tom Clancey. General Chuck commanded the US and allied air assets during Desert shield and desert storm, and was responsible for the design and execution of one of the most devestating air campaigns in the history. He also served as Commander 9th Air Force, Commander US Central Command Air Forces, and Commander in chief, SpaceCom. Book: Every Man A Tiger).

PAF – Quality If Not Quantity

“Another way in which the PAF satisfies this requirement is in the pursuit of excellence with regard to its combat echelons. Paradoxically, though, that pursuit is by its very nature an expensive procedure and there is a high wastage rate as pilots progress through the training system, with individuals being weeded out all the way along the line. The end result is felt to be well worth the expense involved, however, and personal observations have certainly convinced the author that the average PAF pilot is almost certainly possessed of superior skills when compared with, say, an average American pilot. As to those , who are rated above average, they compare favourably to the very best in a host of western air arms. Standard of accuracy appear comparable to those of the west and may surpass them, one F-6 pilot of No. 15 Squadron having recently put 20 out of 25 shells through a banner in four successive passes. The author can vouch for this having inspected the banner at Kamra and even more remarkably, the pilot responsible for this impressive shooting was a ‘first tourist’.”

(Lindsay Peacock. Journal: Air International, Vol 41. No 5)


“When we arrived in Pakistan in 1971, the political situation between the Pakistanis and Indians was really tense over Bangladesh, or East Pakistan, as it was known in those days, and Russia was backing India with tremendous amounts of new airplanes and tanks. The U.S. and China were backing the Pakistanis. My job was military advisor to the Pakistani air force, headed by Air Marshal Rahim Khan, who had been trained in Britain by the Royal Air Force, and was the first Pakistani pilot to exceed the speed of sound. He took me around to their different fighter groups and I met their pilots, who knew me and were really pleased that I was there. They had about five hundred airplanes, more than half of them Sabres and 104 Starfighters, a few B-57 bombers, and about a hundred Chinese MiG-19s. They were really good, aggressive dogfighters and proficient in gunnery and air combat tactics. I was damned impressed. Those guys just lived and breathed flying.

The Pakistanis whipped their [Indians’] ***** in the sky, but it was the other way around in the ground war. The air war lasted two weeks and the Pakistanis scored a three-to-one kill ratio, knocking out 102 Russian-made Indian jets and losing thirty-four airplanes of their own. I’m certain about the figures because I went out several times a day in a chopper and counted the wrecks below. I counted wrecks on Pakistani soil, documented them by serial number, identified the components such as engines, rocket pods, and new equipment on newer planes like the Soviet SU-7 fighter-bomber and the MiG-21 J, their latest supersonic fighter. The Pakistani army would cart off these items for me, and when the war ended, it took two big American Air Force cargo lifters to carry all those parts back to the States for analysis by our intelligence division.

I didn’t get involved in the actual combat because that would’ve been too touchy, but I did fly around and pick up shot-down Indian pilots and take them back to prisoner-of-war camps for questioning. I interviewed them about the equipment they had been flying and the tactics their Soviet advisers taught them to use. I wore a uniform or flying suit all the time, and it was amusing when those Indians saw my name tag and asked, “Are you the Yeager who broke the sound barrier?” They couldn’t believe I was in Pakistan or understand what I was doing there. I told them, “I’m the American Defense Rep here. That’s what I’m doing.” The PAF remains the only foreign air force in the world to have received Chuck Yeager’s admiration – a recommendation which the PAF is proud of. (Source: PIADS)

(General (Retd.) Chuck Yeager (USAF) , Book: Yeager, the Autobiography).


“The Partition of 1947 signalled the end of the British Empire in India, and the establishment of two independent states, India and Pakistan. They took opposite sides over Kashmir’s struggle for independence in 1947-49, and although open war was averted, India lost 6000 men in the conflict. India annexed Kashmir in January 1957 and there followed a long period of tension with Pakistan. Armed clashes in the Rann of Kutch in western India during January 1965 and Pakistan’s recruitment of a ‘Free Kashmir’ guerrilla army finally erupted into open warfare in August 1965.

The ground forces of the two countries appeared to be evenly matched, and their respective offensives (although involving approximately 6000 casualties on each side) were indecisive. The Pakistan Air Force, however, emerged with great credit from its conflict with the Indian Air Force, destroying 22 IAF aircraft in air-to-air combat for the loss of only eight of its own – a remarkable achievement considering that the PAF faced odds of nearly four to one. During the conflict India and Pakistan came under strong international pressure to end the war, and arms supplies to both sides were cut off by Britain and the US. A ceasefire imposed by the UN Security Council then reduced the conflict to a series of sporadic minor clashes, and the national leaders were persuaded to attend a peace conference at Tashkent in January 1966. Their decision to renounce the use of force finally ended the war.”

(Anthoney Robinson, former staff of the RAF Museum, Hendon and now a free lance Military aviation writer . Book: Elite Forces Of The World)

Combat Over The Indian Subcontinent

“In September 1965 a festering border dispute between India and Pakistan erupted into full scale war. The Indian possessed the larger air force numerically, composed maily of British and French types- Hawker Hunter, Folland Gnat and Dassault Mystere fighters, Dassault Ouragon fighter-bombers and English electric Camnberra bombers. The smaller but highly trained Pakistan air force was equipped in large part with F-86F Sabers, plus a few F-104 Starfighters. Fighting lasted little more than two weeks, but during that time, Pakistan gained a definite ascendancy in the air. It was the well proven Sabers that emerged with honors, being credited with all but five of the 36 victories claimed. The Indians claimed 73 victories – undoubtly a considerable overestimate – for an admitted loss of 35.”

(Christopher Sivores, Book: Air Aces)

Fiza’ya: Psyche Of The Pakistan Air Force.

“This is the first definitive account of a relatively small but fascinating air arm, the Pakistan Air Force. Hitherto either casually studied or written up in propaganda fashion, the PAF has needed a detailed analysis of how a developing country with limited resources can nonetheless produce a first class air force.

The Pakistan Fiza’ya (Pakistan Air Force) plays a role in the psyche of its nation unmatched by any air force in the world except that by the Israeli Air Force. The PAF’s motto, loosely translated from the Persian, is ‘Lord of All I Survey’. It calls itself “The Pride of the Nation’, and it is exactly that. Much smaller than India in geographical size and population, Pakistan sees itself as a beleaguered state between India to the East and the Soviet Union/Afghanistan to the West. Since it can never match numbers with India, much in the same way as Israel cannot match numbers with the Arabs, it has always emphasized quality, and projected itself as the Gallant Few against the eastern hordes of many. The mystique of the air warrior, the last jousting knight, the only surviving gladiator on the field of modem war, has been effectively utilized by Pakistan as its symbol of defiance against vastly larger enemies.

The PAF gets the best and the brightest of the country’s young men, and it is given clear preference in the matter of equipment. In 1981, for example, Pakistan paid $1.2 billion for 40 F-16s. By comparison, the entire first five year (1982-87) FMS package from the United States totalled $1.6 billion, of which $0.5 billion was used to cover the shortfalls in the F-16 funding. In other words, virtually half of all military equipment purchased from the US during this period went on one single purchase of fighter aircraft for the PAF.

Had the US been willing to supply an Airborne Warning and Control System to Pakistan in the second package (1987-92), along with additional F-16s again the PAF would have gotten half or more of the total sum. Because the nation spends so much of its precious resources on the PAF, it expects a great dealinreturn. In 1965 the PAF delivered; in 1971,overtaken by circumstances outside of its control, it did not. This took much of the glint, glamour and shine off the PAF. But in the next eighteen years, 1972-90, by dint of solid hard work the PAF did much to restore its prestige.”

(Pushpinder Singh, Ravi Rikhye, Peter Steinemann. Book: Fiza’ya: Psyche of the Pakistan Air Force.)

On Eagles’ Wings

“He was a formidable fellow and I was glad that he was Pakistani and not Egyptian”

(Israel Air Force chief Ezer Weizmen writing about PAF chief Nur Khan in his autobiography, On Eagles’ Wings).

Pakistan Air Force.

“One of Asia’s most competent air arms…”

(World Air Power Journal, Vol 6 Summer 1991)

Pakistan’s Professionals.

“Overall the PAF are a highly professional air force and this is reflected in their high standards of instructions and flying training.”

(Steve Bond commenting about PAF’s flying training program. Journal: Air Forces Monthly, May 1990.)

Airforces Monthly

An article in the May 1993 issue (pages 46-47) of Airforces Monthly, a reputable UK-based air defence magazine, written by a Russian aviation writer, Sergey Vekhov, for the first time in public, provided a first-hand account about the PAF’s pilots:

“As an air defence analyst, I am fully aware that the Pakistan Air Force ranks today as one of the best air forces in the world and that the PAF Combat Commanders’ School (CCS) in Sargodha has been ranked as the best GCI/pilot and fighter tactics and weapons school in the world”. As one senior US defence analyst commented to me in 1992, “it leaves Topgun (the US Naval Air Station in Miramar, California) far behind”.

Article in the May 1993 issue (pages 46-47 by Sergey Vekhov)

Jane’s International Defense (June 24, 1998)

The PAF, although outnumbered by IAF, has at least one qualitative edge over its rival: Pilot Training. The caliber of Pakistani instructors is acknowledged by numerous air forces, and US Navy pilots considered them to be highly ‘professionals’ during exercises flying off the USS Constellation (as co-pilots). The IAF is in an unfortunate position: it lacks an advanced training (and multi-role combat aircraft)




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