AVM (R) Aftab Hussain

During 1965 war, PAF came out almost unscathed from the seventeen-day encounter. The nation was rightly proud of its Air Force as it fought aggressively and courageously; the PAF exhibited supreme professional skills and provided an impregnable shield to the country's airspace. Air Marshal Nur Khan led the PAF outstandingly to achieve parity over the three times bigger Indian Air Force on the very first day. Air Marshal Nur Khan assumed the command of Pakistan Air Force in July 1965 at the age of 42 years. Air Marshal Noor Khan anticipated the impending flare up in time and very promptly decided to order a ‘Red Alert’ on 01 September, 1965. Consequently, this glorious victory of the PAF in the blue skies can be attributed to Air Marshal Nur Khan’s dynamic leadership. Let us briefly analyze his brilliant leadership that made him a very successful Air Force Commander. 

•    While Air Marshal Asghar Khan, the first Pakistani C-in-C, had built up the PAF as a technically efficient force with excellent and devoted professionals, Air Marshal Nur Khan employed PAF in such a way that it could concentrate and confront the IAF with superior numbers in particular sectors. He remained very selective in mission planning and utilized his assets very judicially so as to avoid frittering away the meager resources.

•    Air Marshal Nur Khan followed strategic plan of crippling IAF on ground through air strikes , while preparing , if required, to fight a secondary battle in the defence of own air bases. This diffusion facilitated the PAF to exploit its technical superiority of F-104 (Star fighter) and the Sidewinder armed F-86s in various sectors.

•     Air Marshal Nur Khan utilized the single squadron of F-104s magnificently and managed to attain and maintain air superiority throughout the conflict. The Star Fighters were employed as top cover for the F-86s representing a threat to the IAF fighter fleet. Resultantly, PAF Sabers inflicted more losses on the IAF Hunters, Gnats and Mysteres.

•    Besides the fighter squadrons, the employment of bomber fleet was very well planned and executed. The bombers made significant contributions by undertaking regular night bombing operations against a number of Indian airfields, damaging most of them.

•    Air Marshal Nur Khan also utilized its C-130 fleet for night bombing. The speed with which the idea was adopted and the necessary modifications incorporated reflected the PAF’s pilots and engineer’s genius for improvisation.

•    He set a personal example by flying several operational missions that kept the morale of his officers and men at an exceptionally higher level. They showed raw courage over the enemy targets and selfless concern for their comrades in the peril, made sacrifices and asked very little in return.

•     IAF Air Marshal Raghavendran, while commenting upon PAF Air Chief during 1965 war says:

 “I also knew of Nur Khan, the Pakistani air chief, by reputation. He had been a 'killer' boxer and devout Muslim while at school. He had a plethora of professional role models to base his conduct on, including Prem Bhagat, the first Indian Victoria Cross awardee in World War II. He had built up a tradition of professionalism and one couldn't possibly expect him to let the IAF get away with it.”n