Spy Mission Over Pakistan that Collapsed in 1959
The Spy Flight over Pakistan
In 1958 an Indian Air Force Canberra Mark I took off from an Indian Air base. It was a Photo reconnaissance version of the Canberra and was fitted with long range cameras. The entire flight was planned in the holy month of Ramadan in the hope that the Pakistan Air Force would not intercept the Canberra. More important the flight was to take place for only 10 minutes and it was assumed that during those 10 minutes the Canberra would be able to photograph the Pakistan air bases at Sargodha and Lahore. It was a top secret mission known only to a few and had been cleared by the then Defense Minister VK Krishna Menon. This was the period when the Indian defense policy was Pakistan centered and China did not figure in the calculations.
The Indian mission went awry and a Pakistan F-85 (Sabre Jet) was already airborne and waiting for the Indian plane. The action took place at 45, 0000 ft and the Sabre jet fired a burst at the Canberra which caught fire. The captain of the plane Squadron Leader Sengupta waited for the Navigator Flight Lieutenant SN Rampal to bail out and held the plane steady for about 30 seconds, before he ejected. Both pilots survived though suffering multiple injuries.
Now 54 years have elapsed since this incident and many knowledgeable persons have wondered how the PAF plane was already airborne and waiting when the flight was only to take place for 10 minutes. The facts that have emerged are startling. The plane took off from Agra, but a senior Air Force officer leaked the information of the flight plan a day earlier. Now we know he was into a sexual relationship with a beautiful Pakistan woman and he divulged the plan to her. The lady promptly passed the information to her mentors in Pakistan and simultaneously escaped to Pakistan.
An investigation was ordered by the Defense Minister and it was not long before the investigators narrowed down on the concerned officer. The give away was the fact that the mission was known to very few persons and an investigation revealed the culprit. He was court martialed and dismissed from service, but it was small consolation to the IAF which had a bloodied nose in this affair and Krishna Menon had to cut a sorry figure.