Chapter 9: Ceasefire and after
- Category: The India Pakistan Air War of 1965
- Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 June 2013 14:40
- Written by P V S Jagan Mohan & Samir Chopra
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Ever since the hostilities, the UN Security Council had been trying hard to end the fighting. Asking both parties to call a cease-fire and withdraw to actual positions held before 5 August 1965. The Security Council passed a resolution on September 6th, asking both parties to stop hostilities.
However both parties were belligerent and in no mood for peace regardless of consequences. U.N. Sec Gen, U. Thant, made a personal visit to both the countries during the war. First stopping in Pakistan on September 9th and to India three days later. In both the places he tried his best to convince the leadership into accepting the U.N. Resolutions. He called for both the governments to accept the cease-fire without preconditions.
However the public in both the countries were in no mood to accept stop the war. During U. Thant's visit on September 13th, a cabinet meeting was in progress, in which the P.M. Lal Bahadur Shastri recommended the acceptance of the U.N. Resolution for the cease-fire. This was opposed by General J.N. Chaudhuri, who suggested avoiding the acceptance of the cease-fire.
The Army, he said was on the verge of inflicting a great defeat on the Pakistanis and it should be allowed to exercise maximum damage on Pakistani war machine. The Indian military circles were in favour of prolonging the war to enable them to reduce Pakistani armour and other to reduce threat of future attacks. In this line the Defence Minister Chavan too supported the Army's stand.
Other members of the Cabinet appreciated this and suggested that India should still accept the resolution. Pakistan was most likely to reject the resolution anyway. And it would certainly look good on India to have accepted the U.N. terms. If the Indian Govt. expected Pakistan to reject the cease-fire then they were not disappointed. Pakistan put forward its acceptance, subject to conditions that insure the "Kashmir dispute was resolved." Naturally this went against U. Thant's offer of cease-fire without preconditions. And the war went on for another week.
In the meanwhile the battle in the Sialkot sector intensified, the prospect of a long and a bloody war that would result in attrition that may not be tenable, dampened the Pakistani spirits on continuing the war. The U.N. Security Council adopted a third resolution on September 20th, demanding a cease-fire on September 22nd by 12.30 p.m. and acceptance by both parties. India accepted this resolution.
And Pakistan accepted the resolution on September 22nd at precisely the U.N. deadline at 3:00 a.m. Due to the delays in Pakistan accepting the cease-fire, the cease-fire time was extended to 3:30 am, on September 23rd, and at the exactly the same moment, the guns fell silent in the subcontinent.
The advent of the cease-fire bought about much relief and rejoice. Relief at the fact that this veritable slogging match has come to a close, and rejoice in the fact that the Indian Armed Forces had for the first time since the disastrous China War, three years back, was involved in a military conflict in which it has put up a credible show. At the time of the ceasefire India was in possession of about 710 square miles of Pakistani Territory. In turn it had lost 210 square miles of its territory to Pakistan. Most of this was in the Chamb sector.
There were numerous incidents of cease-fire violations and cross border firings after September 23rd. Some of them were just exchanges of both small arms and artillery fire between the two sides. Some of them were brief air violations when aircraft of the opposing air forces inadvertently crossed the borders by mistake.
None of these air incursions resulted in any interceptions till 16th December 1965 when a Pakistani Auster aircraft crossed over the Ichogil Canal and flew straight on across the Indian Border. A CAP of two Gnats were diverted to intercept the unidentified intruder. The Gnat Pilots intercepted the Auster and instructed it to land at Amritsar.
When the Pakistani pilot refused to comply, one of the Gnats put in a burst of cannon shells into the flimsy aircraft. The aircraft came down at Boparai village, about 8 miles from Amritsar. The pilot, a Pakistani Army Captain was already dead by the time villagers came to the wreckage site. Another Pakistani Army Officer, Major Aftab Haider was rescued from the burning wreckage and admitted to a field hospital with severe burn injuries to his legs. Some official documents and a camera was recovered from the aircraft. The Pakistani Army claimed that the Auster was on a routine administrative flight when it strayed into Indian held territory.
The Russian Premier, Alexi Kosygin, had been in touch with the leaders of both the countries even before the ceasefire. As far back as September 18th, Kosygin contacted Shastri proposing a meeting with Ayub Khan at Tashkent. On acceptance by Shastri the offer was made to Ayub Khan. After the cease-fire, when Ayub Khan accepted the offer, the Russians arranged a meeting in Tashkent with Kosygin as the mediator.
Six days of hectic and hard bargaining saw the birth of the Tashkent Declaration on 10 January 1966. Both sides agreed on an immediate exchange of Prisoners of War (POWs) and withdrawal of troops to positions held before August 5th, 1965. However Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri died in Tashkent itself out of a massive heart attack, which sobered an otherwise belligerent nation that might have refused to accept this agreement.
Politically establishment of diplomatic relations, halting of hostile propaganda & restoration of economic and social trades were agreed upon. There was little India gained from the Tashkent Agreement except for six years of uneasy peace. India was forced to hand over all territories captured, and its main objective, that of Pakistan being labeled as the aggressor, too was not achieved. On the whole the declaration achieved nothing and the situation reverted back to status quo.
Exchange of POWs took place immediately after the delegations returned home. In all, India got back 1083 Officers and Men, including the seven IAF pilots. Another 300 who were missing in action were declared dead. In exchange India repatriated about 734 Pakistani POWs including three PAF personnel.
The troop withdrawal too proceeded unhampered and by end of the February 25th, all occupied territories were given up. India got back the Chamb and Khem Karan salient. As confidence building measures, the visits of the Chiefs of Staffs of different forces was also planned. General Mohammed Musa, COAS of the Pakistani Army paid a visit to New Delhi and was received by his counterpart, General Chaudhuri, COAS of the Indian Army.
Paying back on this visit in February 1966, A Tupolev-104 of the Indian Air Force carrying Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh landed in Peshawar, where Air Marshal Noor Khan, Chief of Air Staff of the Pakistani Air Force received him.
Noor Khan showed Arjan Singh around Peshawar base. Arjan Singh couldn't but help notice some of the damage caused by the Canberras in the raid on the night of September 13th still evident and repair work going on. Arjan Singh was of course no stranger to Peshawar, having spent his training days with No.1 Squadron during World War-II at the same air base.
The war had cost India 3261 in dead and 8444 in wounded including those lost in counter insurgency operations in Kashmir from 5 August 1965 onwards. In addition to about 1083 who were taken as POWs in Pakistan. The dead included 359 whose fate was never discovered. Pakistani casualty figures were not given but estimated to be in the same range. With both sides engaging half a million troops in battle during the war against each other, the casualties were relatively less.
No account of the air war would be complete without a numbers count. Even though the numbers play little role in deciding the victor or the loser of the war, it is but pertinent to quantify the losses of each side, if not to decide the victor, at least to see to what extent the objectives of each air force was met.
Pakistani claims of losses inflicted on India, had always needed to be taken with a pinch of salt. There was an element of exaggeration in the figures put forward by the Pakistani Govt., which was more for the consumption of the public rather than any serious analysis. Like the claim of inflicting more than 10,000 dead on Indian casualties, or the occupation of 2000 sq. miles of Indian territory. It also needs to be said, that devoid of wartime hype and hysteria, Pakistan had managed to put forward more credible and conservative claims later on.
Looking at the Pakistani claims for the air war, at the end of the war, a government spokesman claimed the destruction of 104 Indian aircraft against 19 lost by the Pakistani Air Force. The break up of the 19 losses include about 13 Sabres, 2 Starfighters and 4 B-57 Canberras. Surprisingly, the loss of the Bell helicopter was not included and was explained away as one incurred by the Army Aviation. Of the 104 Indian aircraft claimed destroyed, the breakup being about 30 air-to-air kills, 34 aircraft destroyed on ground at Indian air bases, the rest falling to anti-aircraft fire.
Of the air-to-air Kills, all but four fell to Sabres. The remaining four were claimed by Starfighters. These figures require closer examination. For example of the 4 claims by the Starfighters, only 2 are verified through Indian records (Devayya and Lowe). The claim of force landing Sikand's Gnat is denied by India, as Sikand is said to have made a navigational error before landing.
A look at the Sabres claims also brings forward similar results. Rafique's formation over Halwara was supposed to have accounted for five Hunters overall, where in reality only two were lost. Alam's claims of nine Hunters reveal only four losses. The only occasion the Pakistani Sabres came close to estimating correctly was on September 20th when they claimed two Hunters shot down. Overall only 18 air combat losses can be assessed from Indian admissions against a total of 35 claims by the PAF. The remaining 12 lost in the air being to anti-aircraft fire.
India admitted a loss of 35 aircraft to all causes and claimed 73 Pakistani aircraft as destroyed. The breakup for the Pakistani aircraft being 4 F-104s (not counting Devayya's Starfighter), eight B-57, 47 F-86 (12 in air-to-air combat), two C-130s and the rest, miscellaneous trainers and transport aircraft. It is believed any exaggeration is due more to the claims of the ack-ack guns than the IAF attacks.
A rough breakup would be 13 aircraft claimed in air-to-air combat, another 18 on the ground in the Pakistani airfields and the rest to anti-aircraft fire. Looking at Pakistani admissions some 8 of the air combat kills, A lone Sabre on the ground and about five aircraft to anti-aircraft fire can be verified. It is a huge discrepancy in Indian claims and Pakistani admissions, but before one gets tempted to dismiss the Pakistani figures as propaganda and cover up, it is fair to say that the Indian claims would be more far off the mark than Pakistani cover-ups.
There is no substantiation in the Indian claims of over 18 aircraft destroyed on the ground in Pakistani airfields. The figure is believed to be closer to about half a dozen against one loss admitted by Pakistan. All the kills coming from the ill-fated Sargodha raids.
By far the main culprit in misjudging the losses seems to be the anti aircraft gun regiments of the Army's Artillery Wing. From Kashmir to Kutch to the East, the Regiment provided anti-aircraft coverage to Vital Areas (VAs) and Vital Points (VPs). There appears a clear case of exaggeration in the claims covering PAF aircraft shot down by ground fire.
More often than not, the Artillery Regiment was liberal in giving claims of aircraft shot down without proper verification. More often than not, aircraft that were victims of air combat were claimed to have been hit by ground fire. A few awards were made to personnel of the anti-aircraft guns in this context too.
One glaring example of the exaggeration is the joint claim of a shot down Sabre over Kalaikonda. Flt. Lt. Alfred Cooke's Sabre kill was also claimed by the Indian Army as an ack-ack kill. Lance Naik Mudalai Muthu was awarded the Vir Chakra for this claim. It is not to bring down Lance Naik Muthu’s gallantry or bravery, but the services needed to have better co-ordination in assessing the claims and counterclaims. The same seems to have been the case of the anti-aircraft kill at Jammu. Several occasions where the attacking aircraft were damaged by anti-aircraft and observed trailing smoke or fire, but not seen as crashed were claimed as shot down. Though it is difficult to actually assess their fate.
A clear and effective argument posed by PAF being if its losses were really in such an extent, why the end of the conflict there were only three POWs to show for it. Even looking at dead pilots recovered is not more than six which included the navigator of a Canberra.
There is a tendency observed on the Pakistani side to cover up. Combat losses as operational losses, as can be adjudged by the Pakistani versions of the losses of Amjad Hussain's F-104 Starfighter which was lost because of "flying through debris of an exploding Mystere", or the Loss of N.M. Butt's F-86 Sabre on September 5th, which was "shot down by own anti-aircraft fire", or Alaudin Ahmed’s Sabre "which flew through the debris of an exploding train". All these were attempts to deny credit to the Indians.
India on the other hand in admitting its losses, showed a marked reluctance to discuss its losses on ground. Aircraft losses in the air were admitted to a certain extent. Losses over Pakistani territory and losses relating to incidents in which pilots lost their lives on Indian territory were acknowledged. But the losses on the ground were never admitted or acknowledged officially. The losses explained here were either gathered from books or various personal interviews.
The IAF had lost a total of 16 aircraft lost on the ground. Six at Pathankot, eight at Kalaikonda, possibly two at Baghdogra and one UN Aircraft at Srinagar. Thus Pakistan could confirm approximately 20 of its 30 claims.
The Gnat was the surprise of the war to the IAF. They came out with a surprisingly low attrition. Only three were lost, versus the seven F-86 Sabres claimed shot down in air combat. No.23 Squadron alone claimed three of the seven, with No.2 and No.9 Sqn sharing the rest equally. All the three squadrons lost one aircraft each. The war had strengthened the IAF's belief in the tiny fighter, and subsequently the production of the aircraft was stepped up to equip more squadrons.
The Mysteres flew with five squadrons, eight of them were lost, including two in air combat. The Mystere though had its origin as a fighter was employed in a ground attack role. Mainly because its sluggish nature in dog fighting had it at a disadvantage with the Sabre. All the Mysteres lost were during interdiction missions. No air defence sorties were flown by them.
The Hunters suffered the highest attrition. 13 being lost to various causes in the air. It is believed as many as 9 of them were victims of air combat. 13 aircraft out of a total force of 48 represented more than 25% attrition of the Hunter force which in normal circumstances would have a crippling effect. No.7 Battle Axes Squadron suffered abnormally high losses of 9 aircraft and five pilots which constituted half their strength.
All 9 of the 13 Hunters, which fell in air combat, fell to the Sabre. But before one forms an opinion about the aircraft, it is noticeable that the Hunters claimed 6 Sabres in air combat, out of which Pakistan admitted four losses. Part of the reason, the Hunters suffered is attributed to their size, which when compared to the Gnat was larger and offered an easier target.
Since the war, the IAF had admitted to losing 19 officers being killed including one navigator, 21 airmen lost in PAF Raids and about seven officers becoming POWs with Pakistan. Pakistan had accepted the loss of 10 pilots and 3 navigators as killed. And another two pilots and a navigator were prisoners of war with India. Pakistan's losses on the ground are not known. To put it more clearly, Pakistani losses of 12 pilots were about half of India's 25.
IAF POWs before thier repatriation to India.
Pakistan revised its initial figures to claim about 54 aircraft destroyed in one of their official histories, which may be right near the mark. A look at Indian admissions reveals a list of 30 names of pilots who ejected or crashed or were taken POW roughly about twenty were lost against air opposition. We know that 16 aircraft were lost on the ground. It is safe to assume that the IAF lost about 55 aircraft throughout the war, including civilian and aircraft belonging to neutral parties as well as operational accidents.
However it must be stated that war is never so clinical that one can apply formula's to assess the damage done to the enemy. Truth is always the first casualty of the war. To bolster a nations morale, deliberate untruths are fed into the public, intending to keep both the public as well as the military in high spirits. Admissions of severe setbacks or of inaction against an enemy would invite public anger and the downfall of the respective governments.
Both India as well as Pakistan abides by this style. Thus the Indian public never heard of the retreat to Jaurian, or of the retreat to Khem Karan, while the Pakistani public never hears of its retreat from Wagah, or the battering its armour received at Assal Uttar. The Pakistanis overdo the propaganda by adding incredible and exaggerated claims to the achievements of the military. There is a hint of vagueness and exaggeration on the Indian side too.
A press conference was conducted immediately after the war on 24 September 1965 at New Delhi illustrates this point to some extent. Both General Chaudhari and Air Marshal Singh participated in the conference in which they answered several questions put forward by the press. It now appears that in the light of newer information most of the claims put forward by them as inaccurate. It appears most of the information was given off the cuff, probably under the pressures of the journalists themselves. Arjan Singh made several statements, which since have turned out to be false. Probably Arjan Singh did not have the clear facts and was speculating.
Arjan Singh mentioned that the PAF started the war with about 104 Sabres and 24 B-57s in the west and at least half of the PAF was either knocked out or damaged. Apparently this was not verifiable. Air Chief Marshal Singh tacitly admitted the loss of one MiG-21 by inviting the reporters to see eight of the original nine MiG-21s that the IAF started the war with. He correctly ridiculed the claims of the PAF.
Arjan Singh also claimed that only aircraft from the Western Sector were employed in the conflict. He further went on to claim that a not a single aircraft was withdrawn from the Eastern or the Central Commands to the West. Obviously Arjan Singh did not have the complete picture. He did not know the employment of No.16 Canberras which was employed in raids against Sargodha and Badin.
Responding to a question on whether India used SAMs in the war, Arjan Singh said, "None that I know of." Forgetting the deployment of the SA-2 missiles in the conflict. Probably Arjan Singh was mentioning that none were fired, but he did not clarify the point. Though he mentioned about the PAF having an advantage of using the Sidewinders, he failed to mention the employment of the K-13s, used by the MiG-21s. Most accounts never mention that the MiG-21 actually encountered air combat. Of course the MiG-21 encounter was an isolated incident.
AIR COMBAT TRENDS
One interesting observation noted by defence experts worldwide were the considerable number of aerial combat encounters that occurred between both sides. Ever since the Korean war, air combat strategists have stressed that the future belonged to the air-to-air missile and interceptors. Dog fighting ability and pilot skills were supposed to play a very diminutive role in air combat. The era of gun victories was a thing of past.
The air war proved just the opposite. Aircraft relied more on the gun than the missile, and things like maneuverability, turning dogfights and pilot skills played a major role than ever. Most of the combats took place at low level rather than high altitudes. In short the air war rewrote the doctrine of how air wars were going to be fought in the future in the subcontinent.
Both sides put together claimed over 50 aerial combat victories, 13 by the Indian side and about 30 by the Pakistani side. In reality the actual losses are about half. In the about 20 encounters or so, Pakistan accepted about 8 losses in air-to-air combat, India had about 18 air combat losses.
Pakistani pilots had a slight edge in the sense some of them were flying the Sabre against obsolete aircraft like the Vampire, the Canberra or against the Hunter in ground attack configuration. Breakup of the Indian air losses would be four Vampires, 1 Canberra, two Mysteres, two Gnats, three Hunters in the ground attack configuration and 6 Hunters in the air defence configuration. The Pakistanis on their turn accept the loss of 1 Starfighter and seven Sabres in air combat, though India claims the figure is much higher. Of the Sabres lost, the Pakistanis admit four to the Hunters and three to the Gnats.
There were two Pakistani pilots with multiple air combat kills. Sqn. Ldr. M.M. Alam was the top scorer of the war. He had four aerial victories (Rawlley, Brar, Bhagwat and Bunsha) can be confirmed on the Indian side, even though he had claimed a total of nine Hunters!
Sqn. Ldr. S. Rafique was the second highest scorer with two Vampires and one Hunter (Pingale) as his kill. The remaining 11 air-combat kills being claimed as singular kills. Some of the Indian losses are very much in dispute. Like who actually shot down Fg. Off. A.R. Gandhi, with both Younus and Cecil Choudary being credited with Hunters on that day?
Ultimately Cecil Choudary was credited with shooting down Gandhi. On the Indian side none of the pilots had multiple air combat kills. All the air-to-air combat kills claimed were single kills. It was not until the 1971 war did an Indian pilot score his second combat kill.
Pilots from neither side disengaged nor refused to fight from combat except in extreme circumstances when they were short of fuel. There is a observation on the Eastern Wing that the No.14 Sabre Squadron was instructed to withhold from operations after September 14th, in view of the deteriorating supply strengths of Pakistan and the need to conserve their strength.
Wartime propaganda suggests to either nation that the pilots of the opposing nation fled from air combat. But it is generally accepted that both Indian, as well as the Pakistani pilots, never shirked from getting involved in air combat. Whether it was the case of the Vampire pilots on the first day or the case of a rookie pilot like Shaukat against Pingale.
Pakistani pilots were more experienced in flying and battle tactics with more hours behind them. Since they were operating as close knit units for quite some time, the PAF squadrons were highly optimised. India on the other hand had diluted its pilot strengths after the post 1962 expansion. Many units were bled of expert pilots and commanders to help raise new units.
Thus the average Indian Air Force Unit had a higher percentage of newly inducted pilots with lesser flying hours than ever. Instead of focusing the Air Force’s best pilots to fight against Pakistan, the air force had dispersed its strengths throughout its squadrons. Some of the units like No.14, No.37 and No.17, all equipped with Hunters, wasted their time patrolling against the Chinese during the war.
Though the abilities of the individual pilots is left to debate, one area that the Indian Air Force had that definitely needed to be addressed was aircraft protection on the ground. This aspect was perhaps was responsible for nearly 40% of all losses of the Indian Air Force.
The Indian Air Force received a significant share in the gallantry awards, given to the Indian Armed Forces. The subject of Gallantry Awards had always been a touchy one. The awards themselves are seen as a necessity to both motivate as well as preserve the ethos of the Forces.
However in War, such intentions are clouded by the smoke of the war and intentions to boost public morale through such awards. Most of the awards were made during the conflict itself. At least in the Air Force's case, it needs to be said that these awards were made only to pilots involved in air-combat, successfully and to aircrew whose contribution was exceptionally outstanding and immediately perceivable.
The IAF received four MVCs, of which one was to a Mystere pilot (Sqn. Ldr. Devayya), the rest to Canberra pilots. 41 Vir Chakras were also awarded to the airforce, seven of them going to navigator crew of the Canberra squadrons. 12 of them going to Hunter and Gnat pilots who had air combat kills.
Surprisingly only one Vir Chakra was awarded posthumously, to Sqn. Ldr. Jasbir Singh. Certainly there must have been occasions where pilots who failed to return must have deserved the awards. A case to point would be the three Vampire pilots lost over Chamb, or the two Hunters which plunged into a scrap with intercepting Sabres to cover the escape of their squadron mates.
Most of the interdiction awards went to Hunter and Mystere pilots. The solitary Vir Chakra that was given to a Gnat pilot for interdiction and successful leadership (as against an award for a air combat kill) went to Sqn. Ldr. Johnny Greene.
A solitary Kirti Chakra was awarded to Sqn. Ldr. Sawardekar who rescued Sqn. Ldr. M.J. Marston from the burning Vampire in Baghdogra. Two VSM Class I (Later PVSM) medals were awarded to the base commanders of Halwara and Adampur. Group Captain G.K.K. John, Station Cdr. of Halwara AFB and Group Captain W.V.A. Lloyd, Station Cdr. of Adampur AFB.
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Arjan Singh was honored with the Padma Vibhushan, as was the Army Chief, General J.N. Chaudary. Besides Arjan Singh's deputies too were honored with these decorations. The AOC-in-C Western Air Command, Air Vice Marshal Rajaram was awarded the Padma Bhushan. Shivdev Singh, the AOC-in-C Eastern Air Command, was missing from the honours list.
Surprisingly the Vice Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal P.C. Lal was decorated with Padma Bhushan. This incident of a Staff Officer being given the honour over a Field Officer is strange, perhaps pointing to active involvement in the direction of the war. He is credited with the successful introduction of the SA-2 SAM missile into the air defence environment of the IAF just before the war. However the role of these SAM missiles is unknown. In all probability they never saw the opportunity to be deployed and fired.
A major grouse of the Indian Army had always been that the Air Force received more than it deserved. This was much in evidence in various books published since then mostly by Indian Army Officers. The nation in general was accused of dishing out awards liberally to the air force in order to both sustain the morale of the IAF in face of the high attrition as well as to create a favorable impression to the general public. This would be a heartless statement to make even against an enemy. The fact remained that the IAF produces many individual acts of gallantry that are too important to be ignored or to be undervalued. These resulted in a greater percentage of awards.
All this was of little importance to the Government or the IAF. In view of the effort put by the IAF in the war and keeping in mind the expansion the force had seen in the past years, the government saw fit to upgrade the post of the Air Chief to that of Air Chief Marshal. Thus pegging the Air Chief equal to the rank of the Army Chief for the first time since independence. Accordingly Air Marshal Singh became the first Air Chief Marshal of the Indian Air Force. All air ranks which were earlier held by Air Vice Marshals were now upgraded to be commanded by those holding the ranks of Air Marshal.
PAF GALLANTRY AWARDS
The Pakistani Gallantry Awards are also loosely based on the British and Indian systems. Their topmost award being the Nishan-e-Haider. Followed by the Sitara-e-Juraat and the Tahgma-e-Juraat. Besides there is the Hilaal-e-Juraat for leadership and direction. Almost all the Pakistani pilots who were killed, received the SJ. The exceptions being those lost in accidents.
Several pilots received double awards. Sqn. Ldr. Rafique, killed over Halwara received both the HJ and the SJ. Sqn. Ldr. M.M. Alam received a SJ and a bar. Even the Chaklala Station Commander, Eric Hall received a SJ for flying along in a C-130 bombing mission. The commanding officer of the transport squadron, Wg. Cdr. Zahid Butt and six of his members got the SJ.
Many pilots of the Starfighter squadron, like Flt. Lt. Amjad Hussain, Sqn. Ldr. Mervyn Middlecoat received the SJ. Pilots of the Sargodha Strike Wing, including Wg Cdr Shamim , Flt. Lts. Cecil Choudary and Imtiaz Bhatti received the SJ for their role in the combat.
THE INDIAN MILITARY PLANNING
The Objective of the Indian Military plans seems to be that of inflicting attrition on the enemy rather than any tangible aims like capture of territory. This could probably explain the apparent lack of interest in exploiting opportunities that came our way during the ground war.
Like the establishment of a bridgehead over the BRB Canal or the capture of Chawinda. Military planners were looking forward to a war lasting a few months, where the effect of greater number of forces can be bought to bear on the Pakistani forces. Certainly this was extended to the airforce.
In a candid explanation of his approach, Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh wrote almost after 30 years after the war, "The IAF was planning its operations on fighting a war lasting at least a few months. However, as we know, the cease-fire was accepted after about 21 days of fighting; that was too short to prove the full capability of the IAF."
Herein lied the fallacy and the mistakes on which the IAF’s war doctrine was based. To wage a war that would last a long time, in which its opponent would be worn down by sheer weight of numbers. No contingent plan was made to cater to a short and brief war.
Certainly the only major war that the IAF participated after independence was in Kashmir which went on for a year and three months. The remaining, whether the Hyderabad, Goa or Congo operations were similar to police actions. The China War was unique in the fact that neither side employed strike forces in the air. The 1965 War was a watershed in the IAF's doctrine of war. The entire concept of how to fight a war was changed after that.
Another aspect of Indian military planning is the lack of action in the eastern sector. The Government had ruled out any land offensive on the eastern wing of Pakistan. This was done apparently not to alienate the sentiments of the people of East Pakistan. The dissonance in the Bengalis was already well known, and any attempt to invade East Pakistan would have bought easy and spectacular results in the short run, but would have almost certainly pushed the Bengali East Pakistanis together with the Pakistanis in the West.
Whatever reasons that India had, whether it was the foresight of the Indian Government, or as some people contend, the threat of Chinese, it was a sound decision, which bought results in the liberation war. Here again the lack of coordination between air force and army elements is evident. The only day that Eastern Air Command got involved in the air war was on September 7th. Then again a pitifully low number of sorties (approximately 12) were planned and executed, with the avowed objective of knocking out the Sabres in East Pakistan.
ARMY-AIR FORCE CO-OPERATION
One of the major areas found lacking was Army-Air Force co-operation. Neither arm mentioned its plans to the other. Thus making it difficult in tasks like allocation of sorties for Army offensives. More often than not requests for air support took hours to materialise, if they materialised at all. The air force on its turn rightly pointed out the Army had kept it in the dark about its plans for offensive action and it was referred to only at the last moment, as in the first day at Chamb.
Providing close support to the Indian Army formations was an area that the IAF was found wanting. The communication system that is required for a close coordination between the forward troops and the air force just did not exist. The standard procedures that were laid down resulted in more confusion and chaos leading to frustration among the soldiers. On the other hand, the PAF had a very effective way of coordinating close support and was there on many occasions to effectively provide it.
PLANNING FOR THE RAIDS
One of the significant decisions taken by the Airforce was the one to go in for attacking the Pakistani Defence Complex at Sargodha. This was supposed to have been the initiative of Western Air Command. These raids involved low level attacks on Pakistani airfield complexes at the extreme range of the aircraft involved. In retrospect the raids appear to be piecemeal and too little to have a significant effect.
The losses suffered by the aircraft were not in commensurate with the results achieved. Air Chief Marshal Lal had this opinion on the strikes;
"Many fine men were lost on such sorties, most of which were mounted with insufficient information about targets and the results of which were often impossible to determine. But for the fact that they caused some trouble to the Pakistanis, their value did not, I fear, match the expenditure of life and effort that went into it."
The purported objective of grounding the PAF or of reducing its ability to fight was not achieved. Perhaps the worst aspect of the above observation is that Lal refers that there was no way of assessing the results of the raids. The IAF at the end of the day had only claims. This clearly points out the weaknesses present in photographic reconnaissance and other intelligence.
The lone PR squadron flying Canberras was no doubt an asset, but it was inadequate to cover the entire PR needs of the forces. This identified the need to enhance the tactical photo reconnaissance of the frontline units by fitting camera pods. Fighters generally carried gun cameras, and most of the claims for Sabres were supplemented by gun camera evidence.
A significant weakness that the IAF observed was in airfield protection. Two PAF raids on IAF airfields at Pathankot and Kalaikonda accounted for nearly 40% of all the Indian Air Force losses. Though it had little effect on the overall combat capability of the IAF, the losses were a definite signal in the poor dispersal and protection practices of the air force.
In the disastrous Kalaikonda raid, most of the Vampires were parked out on the runway apron. The Canberras were laid out in blast pen susceptible to rocket and strafing attacks. Little effort was made to camouflage openly parked aircraft. Since radar warning was either scarce of non-available, aircraft protection and dispersal requires paramount importance. This discovery led to the development of hard shelters, protected with concrete and earth works and which offered relative immunity from air attacks.
Radar coverage of the airfields and vital areas was found to be extremely deficient. The solitary radar unit at Amritsar was too inadequate to provide coverage over the entire western sector. Deficiency of radar coverage was more telling in the eastern sector, when the Pakistani Sabres attacked undetected in almost all their raids.
The shortage of radar coverage was sought to be addressed before the 1971 war. However, not much improvement was achieved by that time. The air force had to employ MiG-21s, flying cabrank in the night, to guide returning aircraft. These aircraft were codenamed Sparrow and were so successful, they were mistaken for AWACS aircraft by the Pakistanis.
INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT TO THE PAF
One particular aspect that would have occurred has the war prolonged would have been the beefing up of PAF aircraft reserves with supplies from friendly countries. The Ex-PAF Chief, Air Marshal Asghar Khan had been appointed as aid mobiliser on behalf of Pakistan by Ayub. And Asghar Khan made visits to countries like China, Indonesia, Malayasia, Iran and Turkey requesting them to aid Pakistan through direct military aid.
Only Indonesia came forward with immediate help agreeing to supply up to four MiG-21s and a squadron of MiG-19s for the PAF's perusal. The utility of the small number of the MiG-21s is doubtful, especially as the PAF pilots would not have much training to fully exploit the MiG-21's capabilities. The MiG-17 and MiG-19s would have been an asset, but by the time they were to be shipped by sea to Pakistan, the war had ended.
RELATIONSHIP WITH THE IAF, CHAUDHARI AND ARJAN SINGH
It is very much evident that the Army Chief’s Stature and presence had a very overbearing effect on the other chiefs. General Chaudhuri had been in the public limelight many times. The first time he was much appreciated for his direction of the Hyderabad operations in which the Nizam's forces were overwhelmed in four days.
Chaudhuri's handling of the Goa Operations as the Southern Army Commander added further laurels to his record. Taking over a demoralised Army after 1962 and rebuilding its morale and strengths, he then had to keep himself in public light, both to have convenient access to the higher-ups in the government as well as the bureaucracy.
Age too played a part in the Chiefs of the other services accepting a meeker role before the Army Chief. Air Marshal Arjan Singh was hardly 45 when he took over as Air Chief. The Army Chief in contrast was 57 years old. Arjan Singh was in fact even younger than his deputy P.C. Lal. So was the Naval Chief, Vice-Admiral Soman. Certainly this disparity in age made the Army Chief look upon them as rather young and inexperienced.
Chaudhuri did not expect much from the other forces, nor did he plan for them. He obviously felt they were not required, but was forced to accept the role of the air force. General Chaudhuri claimed later that he had absolute freedom in chalking out plans with the MoD, but the IAF was pretty clear that neither they were ever invited nor were party to any of the plans drawn up by the Army. Air Chief Marshal Lal summed up the Army Chief's attitude as having the "Supremo Syndrome".
Possibly this communication gap explains the utter inaction by the IAF to plan for preemptive strikes on September 6th when Chaudhuris troops crossed the international border. The obvious move of the Air Force would have to be either to strike on a preemptive note against the Pakistani airfields or to provide ground support to the Indian Troops.
Surprisingly the air force did neither, instead flying CAPs over its own airfields. This lent credence to the theory that they were kept in the dark by the Army regarding the proposed move to attack Lahore. The IAF put its contingency plans into action, only after it was rudely awakened by the Pakistani strikes on the evening of September 6th.
One cannot judge the Chiefs in harsh light. Their role and leadership was the best keeping in view the turbulent time India had gone through the early 60s. Certainly they acted in the best interests of the services, with the hidden aim of preventing another Chinese like disaster. The best critique of both the Chiefs of Air and Army Staffs come from P.C. Lal, who was the VCAS at that time. He says;
"In all fairness to General Chaudhari and Air Marshal Singh and the forces that they commanded, it has to be said that while there were failures on points of detail, Taking the war as a whole they succeeded in foiling Pakistan’s designs on Kashmir. They also restored in good measure to India’s Armed Forces the morale & fighting spirit that had been so severely battered in the 1962 Chinese war."
The overall comfort of fighting the war cannot be tempered by the losses we suffered, but increased by the fact that none of the Pakistani objectives from Operation GRANDSLAM or Operation GIBRALTER were achieved. India was still a closely integrated nation. In spite of strange ignorance and abdication of responsibility, the Pakistanis show towards the grand plans to take Kashmir in the events that preceded the September 6th crossing of the international border, the fact remained Pakistan's objective of annexing Kashmir through a proxy war had been shattered.
On a distant note, the War prepared the Indian forces for further conflicts ahead, and helped in develop and refine its strengths and weed out the weaknesses involved. This showed results in the later conflict of 1971. People have claimed that the 1965 War was to the IAF what the 1971 war was to the PAF. Air Commodore Wilson disagrees;
"The 1965 War was a watershed for the Indian Air Force," he said, "But the 1971 War was bad news to the Pakistani Air Force."
There in lied the difference between defeat and victory.