Air Commodore Farooq Haider (Retd) is a PAF officer who was part of the Air Defence team during 1965 war. Following are excerpts of his interview:

The Pakistan Air Force is comprised of different departments one of which is Air Defence  of which I was a part of during my service. I was a flying cadet in the PAF Academy, when I was selected for training in the US Air Force Academy. However during my medical I was told I had a heart murmur and I was declared unfit to fly. The commandant then took up a case to have me transferred to Air Defence.

Air Defence is the eyes and ears of the Air Force. During 1965 I was posted at a Radar Station near PAF Base Sargodha, this was the station from where the flights were controlled. During end of August 1965 the Operation Gibraltar was launched, and the PAF was standing by to support the ground operations. Our task was to take the PAF aircraft from bases in Pakistan to drop food and other supplies to the infiltrating force, which we did – this was usually done under conditions of radio silence and flying point to point to reach the drop zone and return to base safely.

In early September Operation Grand Slam was launched, the PAF started to fly Combat Air Patrol over the border area to ensure the Indian Air Force did not come across. The CAP was flown by two F 86, and one F 104 fighter aircraft from first light to last light. During this time, we were constantly awake and working round the clock for almost 70 hours.

The Radar where I was at was a high level Radar which scans the air space above 17-18,000 feet, and does not detect any aircraft below that altitude. Once Operation Grand slam was launched, the Indian Army called for Air support on September 1, and the IAF sent four Vampire Aircraft over Chamb, this was reported by the Mobile Observation Unit at Chamb. The time between reporting and action is one minute maximum; the report was received by me, and I told the CAP which was flown by Squadron Leader Sarfaraz Rafiqui and Flight Lieutenant Imtiaz Bhatti as his number two, the F 104 was flown by Flight Lieutenant Abbas Mirza, a young officer. I asked Rafiqui to take on the Indian planes, the Base Commander was also in the Control Room, and we watched Rafiqui go in for the attack. However, since the action took place below Radar Level we could not control the flight after guiding it to where the Vampire aircraft were reported from.

Soon after that we heard Rafqui calling in over the Radio saying, “I got two, my number two got two!” meaning that both of them had shot down two Indian Vampires each. This was the first PAF kill of September 1965.

On 6 Sep 1965, Rafiqui was tasked to strike IAF Air Base at with Flight Lieutenant Younus Hussain as number 2, Flight Lieutenant Cecil Chaudhry as number 3, and Flight Lieutenant Saleem as No 4. However, finally three aircraft took off for Halwara, where two Hunter Squadrons were stationed. The strike went in at 17:53 hrs, and took on IAF CAP flown by Flying Officer A. R. Gandhi and Flying Officer P.S. Pingale after scoring a hit on Pingale's Hunter, Rafiqui's guns jammed, and he asked Cecil Chaudhry to take the lead and attack while providing cover to Rafiqui’s tail. During this Rafiqui’s plane was hit by the IAF Flying Officer A. R. Gandhi (who was shot down by Cecil Chaudhry soon after), and Rafiqui lost his life in combat.

In the meanwhile Flt Lt Younas radioed that he was surrounded by IAF planes, I told the F 104 to make a pass in the area and save Younas, the IAF aircraft on seeing the F 104 turned tail and ran. One of these aircraft a Gnat, started to fly towards Amritsar, and suddenly he turned round and came back to land at Pasrur. The pilot was captured and later the aircraft was flown by a PAF pilot to Sargodha.

I remember a small incident that I controlled. My flying course mate, Ishaq was in a F 104, I asked him to fly over Amritsar and go Mach 1.2 which he did, the bang of the sound barrier breaking was enough for India to announce in the evening news bulletin the Amritsar had been bombed by PAF.

Another flight that I remember was on 7th September when Squadron Leader M M Alam flew a mission. He had a day earlier downed an Indian aircraft on 6th September.  On 7th September M M Alam shot down five IAF Hunter aircraft. Alam holds a record of shooting 9 enemy aircraft (confirmed kills 7) during the war of 1965.

The role of the Air Defence cannot be belittled by any means, and it continues to play a major role to position the fighter aircraft during combat missions.