The First Air Combat, 1965: A Thrilling Dog Fight

7

This single engagement was enough to remind the IAF about the faith and strength of the PAF air warriors. After this demoralizing event, for the IAF they immediately withdrew over 80 Vampires and over 56 Dassault Ouragans from frontline service.

alam-f8-66

The Indo-Pak Wars of 1965 and 1971 are full of the most daring and thrilling dogfights of the jet age. The first day of the air combat, on September 1st, 1965 was marked with the victory of Pakistan air warriors, when they took the IAF Vampires over Chamb and forced the others to retreat. Sqn. Ldr. Sarfaraz Ahmad Rafiqui and Flt. Lt. Imtiaz A. Bhatti shot down four IAF Vampires versus no loss.

The commencement of the Operation Grand Slam on 1st September, 1965, took the Indians by complete surprise because of the audacity of the plan. A strong army, consisting of an infantry division, two armored regiments and extensive artillery support, started the attack on Indian positions. Brig. Man Mohan, the commander of the 191 Infantry Brigade, outnumbered and outgunned, called for air support. The nearest base was Pathankot, and the armed Vampires had been waiting for orders since the morning. Three missions were planned, and on the deliverance of orders, Sqn. Ldr. Sudesh K. Dahar led the formation of four aircrafts. To their dismay, the ground Indian Army was attacked by their own jets, and one of the planes in the Dahar’s formation was shot by their own ground fire.

Air Defence Alert (ADA) duties were shared by different F-86 Sabre Squadrons at the Sargodha air base. Sqn. Ldr. Sarfaraz Ahmad Rafiqui and Flt. Lt. Imtiaz A. Bhatti took off their Sabres and moved towards the border. Moving towards the Sialkot-Chamb direction, the second formation of the four Vampires led by Flt. Lt. A. K. Bhagwagar was busy in fighting. Bhatti spotted two Vampires and informed his leader. Rafiqui followed his prey. Just then, two more Vampires from Dahar’s formation, which were on their way out after completing their missions, were spotted by Bhatti.

Rafiqui dispatched one of the Vampires and chased the other. The Vampires that Bhatti had taken in the target were setting close on Rafiqui. The situation was getting dangerous and risky. Bhatti yelled, “Break left!”, but Rafiqui reacted to Bhatti’s call after shooting the second Vampires. Rafiqui readjusted to the wing of Bhatti who shot down a Vampire. The three pilots of the second formation of Vampires lost their lives at the hands of the PAF eagles, and one pilot Fl. Off. Sondhi staggered back to tell the horrifying tale of the IAF Vampires. The IAF lost four Vampires that day. The two daring PAF Sabres took four IAF Vampires and forced other Vampires of the IAF to retreat back to Pathankot. This single engagement was enough to remind the IAF about the faith and strength of the PAF air warriors. After this demoralizing event for the IAF, they immediately withdrew over 80 Vampires and over 56 Dassault Ouragans from frontline service.

“Well done, my boys!” were the complimentary words voiced by Air Marshal M. Nur Khan, who came and met the victorious duo at the Sargodha Air Base.

Brigadier Amjad Ali Khan Chaudhry, Commander Artillery of 4 Corps wrote in a letter to the C-in-C, ‘Your very first action in Chamb left no doubt in our minds that we did not have to worry much about the enemy air power. The pattern was set there and then. We will never forget that spectacle – it lifted our spirits and gave us a flying start.’ For their immaculate and daring air show, Sqn. Ldr. Sarfaraz Ahmad Rafiqui and Flt. Lt. Imtiaz A. Bhatti were awarded Sitara-i-Jur’at.

Comments

comments

is researcher and a regular contributor at PKKH. She is a Human Rights, Youth and a Peace Activist and has done her MPhil in ‘Peace and Conflict Studies’ from NDU. She can be reached at [email protected] and she tweets at @battlehawk_

Discussion7 Comments

  1. The commencement of the Operation Grand Slam on 1st September, 1965, took the Indians by complete surprise because of the audacity of the plan. A strong army, consisting of an infantry division, two armored regiments and extensive artillery support, started the attack on Indian positions.

    Well well well….. you started the 1965 conflict, when there was no reason to… and now you’re proud of it !!! I’m glad that you’re finally admitting the truth.

  2. On 6th September 1965 when Squadron Leader Sarfaraz Ahmed Rafiqui embraced Shahadat while attacking Halwara Air Base, he was the top gun among the PAF pilots at that time, all PAF pilots were disapointed at his loss but M M #Alam give a motivating speech that night to the Pilots that they should not disapoint themselves because of the loss of Rafiqui but should have courage in themselves and next morning on 7th September 1965, M M Alam downed five Indian aircraft in less than a minute, the first four within 30 seconds, establishing a world record, with total of 9 aircraft downed in the war.

    • You might want to double check your “facts”. 3 of Alam’s “kills” were not in the same sector and awarded to other PAF Pilots until the mid – 1980s, when suddenly, records were fudged and by 1988, the official PAF journal no longer carries the names of Indian pilots. How convenient

      Here is a Pakistani source that casts aspersions on his claim http://www.defencejournal.com/2001/september/alam.htm

      As regards the removal of Vampires – they were slow aircraft, no match for the American F-86s. What you need to know is that they were replaced by the Gnats – which is also called the Sabre Killer

  3. So one a pair of pilots downed couple of India fighters which are slow compared to Paks. So we changed the fighers are won the war for India. History clearly says that India attained full air superiority in less that 4 days. World talks about India won the 1965, 1971, Kargil war etc. How many did pak win against India.. ohh wait a minute, That will be ZERO.

Leave A Reply