1965 Indo-Pak War: Surrender of Two Fighter Planes to Paf
The 1965 War
The Indian Air Force has a checkered history since its formation in 1932. The credit for the creation of the IAF goes to the British who were the paramount ruler of India at that time. The IAF was set up at Drigh Road, close to Karachi ( Now in Pakistan). It was successfully used against the tribes of the NW frontier and later in the Burma campaign against Japan during World War II. After the departure of the English in 1947, it was operational against the tribals and the Pakistan army in the 1947-48 war in Kashmir.
The 1965 war.
This tale has its genesis in the India and Pakistan war of 1965. General Ayub Khan the Pakistan president thought the time had come to capture Kashmir. He launched "Operation Gibraltar." The war lasted three weeks. The Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 was a culmination of skirmishes that took place between April 1965 and September 1965 between Pakistan and India. The conflict began following Pakistan allowing large scale infiltration of tribal Mujahaddin "into Kashmir. The aim was to infiltrate forces/ tribal Mujahaddin into Jammu and Kashmir to precipitate an insurgency against Indian rule. The plan failed but Pakistan had its moment in the sun. Overall the IAF during this campaign performed creditably and despite the PAF having the vaunted F-104 fighter in its arsenal it failed to dominate the conflict and the Pak army got bogged down and failed to breach Indian defence lines. In the tank battle at Kasur the Pakistan army lost over 100 tanks. Though PAF had the vaunted F-104, the main workhorse for the PAF was the F-=86( Sabre Jet). The plane met its match in Folland Gnat( rechristened as the Ajeet) of the IAF and many F-86 were shot down by the Gnats. The Gnat earned the nickname of the "Sabre killer."
However, two incidents will rankle the IAF for long. This concerns the surrender of two warplanes almost intact to the PAF. Reading out these incidents now looks more like Ripley's "believe it or not." Maybe one can say that sometimes fact is stranger than fiction. The IAF has some serious explanations to give on the surrender of two of their aircraft to Pakistan during the 1965 war.
The Incident of the Surrender of the IAF Gnat
The 1965 war saw the PAF and the IAF ranged against each other. The IAF performed creditable and had the better of the PAF. However, one incident stands out.
Squadron Leader BS Sikand who was piloting a Gnat did the unthinkable and under curious circumstances landed his Gnat at an abandoned airfield at Pasrur close to Lahore. The Gnat was a versatile plane which in a shallow dive could reach 0.98 Mach. It was highly maneuverable and in combat with the PAF's F-86 generally had the upper edge and came to be known as the "Sabre killer."
Thus BS Sikands action defies explanation as the Folland Gnat could hold its own against the aircraft of the PAF. Yet, Squadron Leader Sikand landed his aircraft inside Pakistan at an unused airfield. A Court of Inquiry was held and Sikand was blamed for his lapse. There are conflicting accounts of what happened. Sikand claimed he was misled while the PAF chronicles claim he "chickened out".
Veteran pilots who have flown the plane just cannot fathom how Sikand could have landed in Pakistan. Sikand was captured and made a POW. This incident incensed the senior staff and Sikand was retired from service.
The Pakistan Air Force claims he surrendered to Flight Lt. Hakimullah
from the No. 9 Squadron who was flying in his F-104 Starfighter. They say he lost nerve and avoided a dog fight.However,
Sikand himself claimed that he had landed believing it to
be an Indian airfield. Whatever the truth, the act of Sikand deserved a
court-martial. But after the war wheels churned and Sikand was
reinstated and later awarded an AVSM. He rose to the rank of Air
Marshal. It was rumored that Sikand had political connections.
One of my relations served under Sikand when he was the AOC at Hindan and him
mentioned that it was galling for the men at Hindon to be commanded
by a man who had let the IAF and India down.
The fact remains in all the air battles over Germany the question of a
pilot surrendering during an operational mission and handing over his
aircraft as war trophy is unheard of in annals of air warfare. But Sikand did
exactly that and the plane a Gnat is now on show at the PAF museum at
Karachi. The plane was captured intact and flown by PAF pilots to Karachi and later put on a show as a war trophy at the AF Museum.
The Second Incident of Surrender
BS Sikand's surrender was not the only incident. A little before the start of actual hostilities another IAF Ouragan fighter was forced down inside Pakistan on 24 June 1965. The IAF Ouragan fighter was on an armed reconnaissance mission near Badin. The pilot was Flight Lieutenant Rana Lal Charsida of 51
Auxiliary Squadron, IAF Jamnagar. He remained a prisoner
until 14 August 1965. Rana was part of an exercise in the Kutch and it was during this exercise that he strayed into Pakistan. This itself shows poor navigation skill but his act of landing in Pakistan cannot be condoned. It appears he was accosted by two PAF Sabre jet fighters( F-86) and instead of giving battle decided to land the fighter in an empty field inside Pakistan. The Ouregan was a French manufactured fighter and not a pushover. It matched the F-86, hence it's a surprise that Rana instead of giving combat broke away and landed in an empty field. The plane was damaged and Rana escaped unhurt. He was captured.
Reports from Pakistan indicate that two F-86 Sabre Jets approached him and he decided to land than to give combat.
The aircraft is on display at the PAF museum at Peshawar, These two incidents do not show the IAF in a good light. Not much is known of F/L Rana, but thankfully he did not rise to become an Air Marshal. I presume he was dismissed and his whereabouts are not known.
Rana cut a sorry figure as after taking off from Bhuj, he ventured inside Pakistan and was forced to land at the village at Janshahi, after he was accosted by two F-86 of the PAF. He could have put up a fight, but he landed and surrendered.
Hard to explain
The official IAF historian will be hard put to explain these two surrenders. It is indeed sad that they took place and no amount of a cover-up can hide the hard truth that perhaps the IAF was found wanting on these two occasions.
Despite these mishaps, the IAF put up a credible fight against the PAF which had the F104 Starfighter gifted from the USA. As is well-known "Operation Gibraltar" failed.
The next installment of the Indo-Pak war was in 1971 when the Pakistan armed forces were decisively defeated and the state of Bangladesh was carved out of Pakistan.
The matter of display at the PAF museum has not ended. The PAF has released photos of a mannequin of Indian wing Commander A Abhinandan on display at the PAF museum at Karachi. Wg Cdr Abhinandan flying a MIG-21( BIS) pursued a F-16 of the PAF in early 2019 in a dog fight. Abhinandan has claimed that he shot down a F-16 but he was hit and he ejected out, landing in POK( Pakistan Occupied Kashmir). He was captured but was well treated and the PAF released photos of the Indian Wing Commander sipping tea and answering questions. He was released two days later.
Normally mannequins of captured pilots are not displayed but Pakistan has used this capture as a part of their propaganda. It will boost the confidence of the Pakistan people when they visit the museum and see the mannequin of the Indian pilot. The IAF claims he shot down a F-16 which is not acknowledged by the PAF. Anyway, the PAF has a new addition as a "war trophy."