Air Vice Marshal Aftab Hussain - During 1965 war, it was vital for the security of Pakistan that Pakistan Air Force remains viable enough throughout the war to influence all the envisaged major operations of the war. It was a gigantic task against an adversary having with quantitative and qualitative superiority. To achieve this, PAF adopted an aggressive and courageous approach, which ultimately provided an impregnable shield to the country's airspace.

This accomplishment was primarily attributable the visionary leadership of previous Chief of the Air Staff Air Marshal Asghar Khan and dynamic and aggressive leadership of Air Marshal Nur Khan. He while addressing a press conference on 4th September stated that, “Superiority in numbers does not decide air battles; better training ,morale, and above all fighting spirit in fact are the deciding factors.” The few days that followed did prove him right.

7th September marks the day when 1965 war was two days old, yet events had already taken a turn that was not only immediately significant, but was, in time, to prove decisive. What many don’t know is that it was the PAF who played a major role in denying General Chaudhry of Indian Army his cocktail party at Gymkhana Lahore. PAF air support at this crucial juncture turned the tables on the enemy. The diary of Pakistan Army's No. 10 Div. records that: 

“At this crucial juncture, appeared 06 PAF Sabres led by Squadron Leader Sajjad “Nosey” Haider and wrought havoc with the enemy armor and infantry trying to cross the BRB Canal". On 6 September, air support for 10 Division continued throughout the day as 18 more F-86 Sabres kept pounding guns, tanks, APCs which were trying to advance towards Lahore, Jassar and Kasur. PAF was instrumental in saving Lahore. “

Similarly, M M Alam rewrote the history of Air Warfare on 7th September by setting new records while defending Pakistan’s Airspace against the aggressors shot down five Indian aircraft in less than sixty seconds. He can genuinely be branded as a “hunter of the hunters”.  Now that the ultimate Hunter has taken him to his eternal abode, he will live forever in history, and the hearts of hundreds of millions of people who will evaluate his feat with fondness and cherish his memories. Govt of Pakistan has also paid him a befitting tribute by naming one of the prominent roads in Gulberg, Lahore after his legendary name.

During 6/7th September, for the loss of only 06 aircraft (including accidents), PAF had destroyed 50 enemy aircraft on ground and in the air, and damaged 08, not counting the undermined losses inflicted by PAF’s night bombing. This marvelous performance of PAF was substantiated by a letter sent by President of Pakistan to Air Marshal Nur Khan, complimenting the PAF on its first two days of full-scale operations. Subsequently, PAF remained in virtual control in vital battle areas as the IAF after 7th September, showed growing reluctance to engage an aerial combat. This record-breaking performance of PAF is primarily attributable to following salient aspects of leadership and brevity: 

•    Air Marshal Asghar Khan was instrumental in transforming the PAF personnel into excellent and devoted professionals. His visionary approach had prepared the PAF well to undertake the adversary with great degree of assured success.

•    Air Marshal Nur Khan’s farsightedness played a significant role in anticipating  the impending flare up in time and very promptly deciding  to order a ‘Red Alert’ on 01 September. This action greatly facilitated in preparing the PAF for imminent war. As the war broke, PAF adopted a very offensive strategic plan of crippling IAF on ground through air strikes , while preparing , if required, to fight a secondary battle in the defense of own air bases. Air Marshal Nur Khan led PAF outstandingly to achieve parity over the three times bigger Indian air force on the very first day of the 1965 war.

•    The employment of assets was accomplished in a very innovative and professional manner. Single squadron of PAF F-104s 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, brilliantly flown PAF Sabers inflicted more losses on the IAF Hunters, Gnats and Mysteres.

•    The employment of the Bomber fleet was also very well panned by the PAF top leadership. Besides the fighters, the bombers also made significant contributions by undertaking regular night bombing operations against a number of Indian airfields, damaging most of them.

•    PAF leadership also exhibited a classic example of unconventional mans utilizing 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.

PAF stopped its operations on 23 September, 1965; a whimpering and prostrate IAF got a new lease of life. The 1965 war saw the best of the PAF’s war-fighting abilities. The PAF made history by shooting down 13 aircraft in one day. PAF emerged as glorious because of a very high standard of leadership throughout its echelons; a determination springing from the realization that nothing less than national survival was at stake, and a sound background of training and experience. n