Untitled Document
[:: Navigation ::]
 
 
 
 
  Main | 1971 war and the Pakistan Air Force
Battle for Bangladesh: Indo-Pakistan War, 1971
 
 

Introductory Overview

Following the inconclusive 1965 Indo-Pakistan War, both countries agreed to withdraw troops from each other's territory and establish a cease-fire line patrolled by U.N. troops. In September 1966, Pakistani and Indian military leaders met and agreed to limit the concentrations of their troops near the border and to notify each other of exercises or military maneuvers.

While at peace, Pakistan and India continued to expand and modernize their military forces. The 1971 Indo-Pakistan War had its roots in 1970, when an election was held in both East and West Pakistan to end military rule and institute a representative government. Negotiations for a united central government broke down, and the East Pakistani government declared itself in March 1971 the independent State of Bangladesh. Then began a bloody civil war between West and East Pakistan.

The Indian government saw the opportunity to capitalize on the strife and seriously weaken its long-time foe by contributing arms, supplies, and training to aid the creation of Bangladesh. By the fall of 1971, Indian troops were attacking positions in West Pakistan.

Full-scale war broke out in December 1971 in fierce combat lasting two weeks. In the end, Bangladesh was formed and India captured a substantial area of Pakistani territory. Thousands of soldiers on both sides were injured or killed, and scores of aircraft destroyed. One intriguing aspect of the conflict was the wide variety of Soviet, American, French, British and Chinese tactical aircraft and weapons pitted against one another, and their resultant performance.

The Order of Battle - Pakistan Air Force

Following the 1965 war, Pakistan began negotiating with other countries to purchase combat aircraft to replace those lost and to increase its Air Force's overall strength. Early in 1966, Pakistan began to receive MiG-19s (known as F-6s) built in the People's Republic of China, and by mid-1967 had three squadrons. An assembly line to produce MiG-19s had been set up in China prior to the break in Sino-Soviet relations in 1961.

In 1966, Pakistan began to receive the first of 90 ex-Luftwaffe Sabre Mk.6, the Canadian-built version of the F-86. These aircraft were bought by a Swiss company from West Germany, refurbished, and supplied to Pakistan. In addition to the Canadian-built Sabre Mk.6s, Pakistan also had the F-86Fs purchased from the United States in service with one operational training unit and one fighter squadron.

In 1968, Pakistan purchased from France Mirage-IIIE fighter/bombers. The Mirages operated with No. 5 squadron at Sargodha.

The Pakistan Air Force also had a single squadron of B-57 bombers and RB-57 reconnaissance aircraft.

Seven F-104A fighters remaining from the 12 delivered in 1962 equipped one squadron for strike and interdiction missions.

In order to increase the survivability of its aircraft, Pakistan built a number of new airfields and constructed camouflaged revetments to shelter most aircraft. In addition, airfields were protected by large numbers of antiaircraft guns including U.S.-supplied quad-mounted, half-inch machine guns, and Chinese-built 14.5mm heavy machine guns and 37mm cannon.

Pakistan further improved its organization of ground observers, which had been so successful in warning of the approach of Indian aircraft during the 1965 conflict. Its radar coverage was expanded and the command-and-control system was upgraded by adding Soviet P-35 ground-controlled intercept radars, Plessey AR-1 low level radars, and Marconi Condor ground-controlled intercept stations.

The Pakistan Air Force's primary task in the event of war was to defend Pakistani territory and ground forces from air attack. Secondary missions included interdiction of enemy airfields, transportation centers, and military targets, and close air support of Pakistani troops.

At the beginning of the conflict in December 1971, the Pakistan Air Force comprised 13 combat squadrons manned by some 17,000 personnel. One squadron of Sabre Mk.6s was based at Dacca, East Pakistan. The 12 remaining squadrons were stationed in West Pakistan.

On the eve of the conflict, the Pakistan Air Force included the following aircraft: 40 F-86F Sabre fighter-bombers; 90 Sabre Mk.6 fighter-bombers; 70 F-6 (MiG-19) fighters; 20 Mirage-III E fighter-bombers; 7 F-104A/B Starfighter fighters; 16 B-57 light bombers; 4 T-33 jet trainer/ground-attack aircraft; 2 RB-57 reconnaissance planes.

The Order of Battle - Indian Air Force

The Indo-Pakistan Conflict of 1965 somewhat slowed the Indian Air Force's ambitious program to expand, but by late 1971 India's own manufacturing supplemented by British and Soviet imports gave the Indian Air Force a front-line strength of 33 combat squadrons. In April 1966, the Indian Air Force, which had begun as the air arm of the Army, became an independent service, organized into Central, Western and Eastern air commands; training and maintenance commands served all the air commands.

Operational only with a trial unit during the 1965 conflict, the MiG-21 force had expanded to seven squadrons by the end of 1971. Furthermore, Hindustan Aeronautics had established a production line for building the late-model MiG-21PF Fishbed D customized in India, known as the MiG-21FL. Fully 60 percent of the MiG-21FL was built in India itself, the remaining items being bought from the USSR because they could not be economically produced in India.

Unlike the Soviet Fishbed D, which had no cannon, the Indian MiG-21FL had a lead-computing gunsight and the capability to carry the GP-9 twin-barrel 23mm cannon. The GP-9 gunpack was carried in conjuction with the MiG-21FL's standard armament of two K-13A Atoll infrared-guided air-to-air missiles.

The most numerous fighter serving with the Indian Air Force on the eve of the 1971 conflict was the Gnat. Also produced by Hindustan Aeronautics, the Gnat's main task was to defend important airfields, military areas, and to fly combat air patrol.

Two fighter-bomber squadrons and a training unit were equipped with the HF-24 Marut, the first combat aircraft designed and built in India. The Marut was designed and produced with the assistance of Dr. Kurt Tank, the genius behind the FW-190 World War II German fighter. Built by Hindustan Aeronautics, the HF-24 Marut entered service in 1968 and served as a fighter-bomber.

Also in service by late 1971 were six squadrons of Soviet-supplied Su-7B fighter-bombers. Designed to make short-range, high-speed tactical nuclear attacks, the Su-7B was procured by the Indian Air Force for the conventional strike mission because it was the only aircraft then available.

Six squadrons of the venerable Hawker Hunter remained in service after the 1965 conflict. Released from air superiority duties when the MiG-21 and the Gnat were phased into service, Hawker Hunters were tasked with providing close air support for ground troops and interdiction missions.

The Mystere IV-A fighter-bomber, first supplied to the Indian Air Force in 1957, was still in active service 14 years later. Two squadrons flew primarily close support missions.

Long-range strike missions were the responsibility of the Canberra squadrons. Because of the bomber's slow speed, it usually flew its interdiction missions at night.

Learning from the 1965 War, the Indian Air Force considerably expanded its radar network, adding numerous Russian and Western units. Following the Pakistanis' lead, India established an extensive ground observer network linked to a command-and-control network by UHF radio.

About 20 batteries of SA-2 surface-to-air missiles protected key military and industrial areas.

The missiles' low altitude coverage was improved when the Fan Song E radar was introduced; it was capable of accurately guiding missiles at aircraft as low as about 1,000 feet.

India, like Pakistan, took steps to reduce the vulnerability of her forward airfields. Aircraft were well dispersed: many were stationed at rear fields out of range of Pakistan's Sabres and Mirages. Antiaircraft defenses were strengthened around the forward airfields and protective revetments were built to shelter most aircraft. Additional engineering personnel and equipment were stationed at forward airfields to ensure that damaged runways and buildings could be quickly repaired.

The Indian Air Force operated about 625 combat aircraft crewed by some 80,000 personnel. A majority of the aircraft were earmarked against West Pakistan. About 200 aircraft were stationed at airfields surrounding East Pakistan.

Seven squadrons MiG-21 Fishbed fighter/interceptors; seven squadrons Gnat fighters; six squadrons Hawker Hunter fighter-bombers; two squadrons Mystere IV-A fighter-bombers; three squadrons HF-24 Marut fighter-bombers; six squadrons Su-7B fighter-bombers; three squadrons Canberra bombers.

In addition to its Air Force, India had a small naval air arm that operated from its sole aircraft carrier, the I.N.S. Vikrant. This totaled 35 Sea Hawker fighters, 12 Alize anti-maritime, anti-submarine warfare aircraft, two Sea King helicopters, and 10 Alouette-III helicopters. The Vikrant carried the standard complement of the 18 Sea Hawk fighters, four Alize aircraft, and two Alouette helicopters.

Background and Goals of War

India's goals in the 1971 war were to divide and conquer its longtime foe, to help liberate East Pakistan, and to forestall offensive moves by West Pakistan. The hope was that when India attained air superiority, then the Indian Air Force would interdict Pakistani supply lines and airfields and, most importantly, provide close support for Indian ground units. To provide for more effective support, the Indian Air Force assigned tactical air centers at division and corps levels, and forward air controllers down to the brigade level. Air crews were trained in low-level navigation, close air support tactics and communications.

The roots of this conflict dated back to 1947 when Great Britain created India and Pakistan by a division along religious lines. West Pakistan was separated from Eart Pakistan by more than 1,000 miles of Indian territory. Neither West nor East Pakistan had a common language, culture or heritage; the only communal tie was religion and fear of India. Semi-industrialized West Pakistan was the home of the aristocratic Punjabis, who held most of the powerful government and industry positions. The Bengalis of agricultural East Pakistan, who produced most of the crops used for food and foreign exchange, wanted a more equal distribution of government positions and resources.

In December 1970, an election was held in Pakistan to end military rule and to institute a representative government. In West Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his Pakistan People's Party emerged victorious; in East Pakistan the winner was the nationalist Awami League led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

In March 1971, Awami leader Rahman declared the establishment of the independent state of Bangladesh. His followers began a series of guerrilla raids against the military government of Pakistan. For the most part, East Pakistani police and military forces supported the separatist movement. Military President General Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan reacted swiftly to this challenge by sending three divisions of troops and armor to East Pakistan to suppress the revolt. West Pakistan military forces massacred hundreds of thousands of Bengali civilians.

The attacks failed to crush the rebellion and brought about a running guerrilla war between the Pakistani military forces (most of whom came from West Pakistan) and the Mukti Bahini (People's Liberation Army, East Pakistan nationals). About 10,000,000 refugees, mostly Hindis, crossed into India. India provided arms and training to the People's Liberation Army, now heavily involved in fighting against the 80,000 Pakistani troops in East Pakistan. In addition to supplying arms and military training, by the fall of 1971 Indian troops were attacking local Pakistani positions.

On November 22, 1971, an Indian infantry brigade supported by armored vehicles penetrated several miles into East Pakistan on a mission of "active defense". Early in the afternoon, four Pakistani Sabre Mk.6s attacked this Indian force with rockets and machine guns. Four Indian Gnat fighters challenged the Sabres. Pakistani sources claimed that two Gnats and two Sabres were downed in the dogfight with all four falling in Pakistani territory. India said that three Sabres were downed without loss, and added that two of the three pilots who bailed out were captured.

Conflict along the border continued, and on November 23, 1971, Pakistan declared a state of emergency. Local attacks escalated over the following week along the border of East Pakistan, and the fighting became all-out war on December 3.

The War

Day One: December 3

On the evening of December 3, Pakistani Sabres and B-57s bombed a number of Indian airfields, railway stations and military concentrations, continuing without remission throughout most of the night. Airfields attacked included Pathankot, Amritsar, Avantipur, Srinagar, Uttarlai, Agra and Ambala. Several hundred yards of runway at Amritsar were heavily cratered and a radar station was destroyed, but most of the other airfields suffered only minor damage. The Pakistan Air Force hoped to deal India a severe blow with its Israeli-style preemptive strike, but by attacking many targets with only a few aircraft each, the offensive had little effect. Indian aircraft were dispersed and protected in shelters and revetments, leaving runways and buildings as the only easy targets. Four Pakistani aircraft were allegedly shot down during the series of raids.

The Indian Air Force reacted swiftly to the initial attacks, striking back against Pakistani airfields and other targets in both East and West Pakistan. Canberra bombers, Su-7Bs, Hawker Hunters and other fighter-bombers bombed Pakistan Air Force bases at Peshawar, Sargodha, Shorkot, Mauripur and Tezgaon.

Day Two: December 4

Indian ground forces advanced into East Pakistan while MiG-21s, Hawker Hunters and Su-7Bs concentrated their attacks against the sole East Pakistan airfield at Tezgaon to try to eliminate Pakistani air cover. The 14 remaining Pakistani Sabre Mk.6s and antiaircraft guns put up a conccerted defense, claiming eight Indian aircraft. In the air, Pakistani Sabres reportedly downed five Indian aircraft with the loss of three.

According to Flying Officer Hag, a Pakistani pilot in his early twenties, on the morning of December 4:

"I was told to take off and engage a formation of enemy aircraft approaching Dacca. The moment I got airborne I got a call from the controller, 'Two bogies (enemy aircraft) two miles, 3 o'clock.' My No. 2 was delayed a bit and could not join up although he managed to get airborne in time. As soon as he gained height I told him to jettison tanks and break into the bogies. I had barely finished talking to him when I saw the Su-7s split and come one behind each of us.

"I broke, dropped my fuel tanks, and hit the deck as soon as I broke. I pulled up in order to get behind the Su-7. At that moment, I saw the other Su-7 fire two missiles at my No. 2, Shamshad, but the missiles missed the target and went past his F-86. Simultaneously, the bogie which was still somewhere behind me fired a missile at me. I sensed the danger immediately and broke in time.... Spurred as I was by the lucky escape, I maneuvered myself behind the Su-7 which was zooming past me, selected my guns, and started closing in on him. I opened fire at 1,800 feet but to no effect. So I continued the chase and kept firing till I was as close as 400 feet from the target..... The Su-7 pilot lit the afterburner and tried to out-distance me by sheer speed. His attempt proved futile as by then my burst had landed around his canopy. I saw his left wing and exhaust trailing smoke and the aircraft going into a spiral. A few seconds later, it hit the ground.

"The other Su-7 was still behind my No. 2; so I rolled in for it. The pilot of that aircraft lit his burner and disengaged from No. 2 before I could open fire.

"Control reported four Hunters behind us. I left the Su-7 and went for the Hunters. They were in pairs; so each of us took a pair and engaged in aerial combat. The pair I got behind split and one of them pulled away. I got behind the other Hunter, opened my guns at it from a range of 600 feet. The fire was accurate and hit the aircraft squarely. The Hunter started trailing smoke and after a couple of seconds its pilot bailed out. My No. 2 was still behind the other Hunter. He was firing at him. Meanwhile, I got a call from the controller that another Hunter was in sight.... My bullets had been expended and I had only one missile left. I still had a powerful weapon under the belly, so I decided to go after the Hunter which was exiting towards West Bengal. I continued the chase and went about nine to eleven miles inside the enemy territory. I was flying at about 400 feet and so was the Hunter. I went further low over tree-tops and got right behind the aircraft. As soon as I heard the missile tone confirming contact I fired the missile. I saw the missile initially but then in a flash of a second it went straight into the exhaust of the Hunter. The aircraft immediately turned into a ball of fire. I saw the pilot being thrown out at an angle of 45 degrees to the right. Then the parachute opened."

By day's end the Indian Air Force had so severely cratered the single runway at Tezgaon that the 11 remaining sheltered Sabres were unable to take off. India acknowledged losing five aircraft but claimed destroying seven Sabres, four on the ground and three in air combat.

At the conflict's outset, the Indian Navy's carrier Vikrant and several escort vessels were patrolling in the Bay of Bengal 100 miles off the coast of East Pakistan. The Vikrant's Sea Hawk fighter-bombers attacked and heavily damaged the airfield and port facilities at Chittagong.

Meanwhile, in the west, Pakistani forces pushed into Indian Kashmir. Mindful of the vulnerability of East Pakistan - defended by only four infantry divisions, one squadron of aircraft, and a single regiment of U.S.-built Chaffe light tanks - the Pakistanis hoped to take a major portion of Indian Kashmir. The hope was that the captured territory then could be used as a bargaining chip during peace negotiations.

The HF-24 Marut saw its first action on counter-air missions to bomb airfields in central West Pakistan. Maruts, Sabres and other fighter-bombers closely supported respective ground forces. On the western front, India claimed to have destroyed 19 Pakistani aircraft (nine Sabres, five B-57s, three Mirages and two F-104A Starfighters) for the loss of six Indian aircraft. Pakistani spokesmen said that 26 Indian aircraft had been downed while losing only two Sabre jets.

Day Three: December 5

In East Pakistan, the Indian Air Force's unremitting heavy attacks against Tezgaon airfield near Dacca further damaged the runway and hangers, keeping the surviving Sabres on the ground. One Indian aircraft was downed by Pakistani antiaircraft fire. With no opposition from the air, however, Indian Air Force fighter-bombers concentrated most sorties to support advancing ground columns. Sea Hawk fighter-bombers from Vikrant continued to attack Pakistani targets.

In the west, Pakistan Air Force fighter-bombers struck Indian airfields and provided air support for their troops' drive into the Kashmir. Aircraft also flew sorties against Indian targets in the Kashmir and in the Sind Desert along the border near central West Pakistan. Since the beginning of fighting, Pakistan claimed that its forces had downed 61 aircraft.

The major missions of Indian Air Force units in the west were to attack and destroy airfields, radar sites and ground-control sites. However, Mystere IVs, Hawker Hunters, HF-24 Maruts and Su-7Bs also supported Indian troops on the ground, slowing the Pakistani offensive into the Kashmir and aiding the attacks in the Sind Desert. Canberras and Hunters attacked the Karachi fuel depot, igniting numerous fires. Indian spokesmen claimed to have destroyed 47 Pakistani aircraft since the beginning of the conflict, while losing 14 fighter-bombers and one helicopter.

Day Four: December 6

Sabre Mk.6s based at Tezgaon airfield in East Pakistan were able to take to the air despite extensive damage to the runway. Four attacked Indian Army units near Comilla. Four Indian Hawker Hunters interfered with the strike, and in a series of dogfights one Hunter was reportedly shot down. India claimed to have shot down one of the remaining Sabres. The Indian Air Force also flew several hundred ground-support sorties to cover advancing columns.

A Canadian C-130 cargo transport flying over Dacca was attacked and damaged by fighters. The transport, part of the UN force, was able to evade the fighters and landed safely in Bangkok, Thailand.

In the west, both air forces continued to bomb each other's airfields, the Pakistan Air Force attacking 10 Indian airbases while the Indian Air Force struck at five Pakistani bases. Indian aircraft again attacked oil and port facilities near Karachi, damaging them extensively. Su-7Bs, Hunters and Canberras also supported troop advances and attacked Pakistani rail lines and convoys.

Pakistan Air Force fighter-bombers supported units pressing deeper into Indian Kashmir and bombed an Indian Navy patrol boat in the Gulf of Kutch.

Day Five: December 7

In the east, Indian units captured Jessore and thus controlled half of East Pakistan. There being no opposition from the air, Indian Air Force fighter-bombers supported advancing columns. Vikrant Sea Hawk fighters and Alize anti-maritime aircraft bombed and strafed shipping, harbor facilities, and the airfields at Chittagong and Cox's Bazar.

Pakistani forces launched a major drive on the Kashmir front, advancing at least five miles deeper into Indian territory. Sabre and F-6 fighter-bombers supported the offensive, destroying tanks, guns and defensive positions. The Pakistan Air Force continued to harass Indian airfields, but admitted that the initial raids flown on December 3 and 4 had destroyed "very few Indian aircraft, possibly none at all" because the aircraft had been dispersed and housed in revetments.

Indian aircraft supported units retreating before the Kashmir offensive, and struck along the Pakistani border near Rajasthan. As fighters met near the front lines, they frequently battled. Pakistani fighters reportedly shot down two Su-7Bs and one Hawker Hunter. Two HF-24 Maruts tangled with four Sabres near Chor in central West Pakistan. In a head-on pass against a Sabre, one Marut shot down the F-86, scoring the type's first air combat victory. Pakistan reported that Indian air attacks killed 112 civilians and injured hundreds more. Indian spokesmen reported that since the outbreak of fighting, 52 Pakistani aircraft had been destroyed for the loss of only 22.

Day Six: December 8

Indian units continued to gain in the East. The Indian Air Force flew hundreds of close support sorties and joined Indian Navy aircraft from Vikrant in yet again attacking Pakistani airfields and shipping off the coast.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Air Force concentrated most of its sorties to support ground forces in Kashmir and in the Sind Desert. Counter-air missions continued, mostly at night: Sabres, B-57s and other aircraft bombed several Indian airfields and a number of military installations. Two defending Su-7Bs were allegedly shot down over Risalawala airbase.

The Indian Air Force flew dozens of strike missions in Kashmir's Chhamb area to help solidify defensive positions, attacking fuel dumps, supply convoys and four airfields.

Day Seven: December 9

Indian aircraft flew more than 100 sorties to support army columns closing a ring around Dacca. With Su-7Bs, Hunters, MiG-21s and even Gnat fighters, it bombed and sank many river craft the Pakistanis used to transport supplies and retreating troops.

Pakistani forces fought a number of battles in an attempt to drive deeper into Indian Kashmir. In mid-day, Mirages struck Pathankot airfield and at night B-57s bombed a number of bases.

Indian air and naval units coordinated an attack on the port of Karachi, sinking a number of ships. Moreover, HF-24 Maruts and Hawker Hunters knocked out many tanks of the Pakistani 27th Cavalry Regiment in the Longewala area. Other fighter-bombers attacked the battle areas in the Kashmir and in the Sind Desert. As of the end of the first week of fighting, India listed Pakistani aircraft destroyed at a total 73 against losses of 31, while Pakistani spokesmen claimed to have destroyed 102.

Day Eight: December 10

Pakistani military command admitted that its troops in the East were outnumbered by six to one and "overstressed on the ground." It also disclosed that the Indian Air Force was providing "overwhelming air support." The Indian Air Force continued to support ground forces, and helicopters transported Indian troops across the Meshna River north of Dacca to outflank retreating Pakistanis.

In the west, Pakistan began a drive towards Chhamb, supporting it by bombing convoys and trains in the Sind Desert area and in Indian Kashmir and by bombing Indian airfields day and night. The Pakistan Air Force claimed to have destroyed six Indian fighter-bombers in air battles, one a Navy Alize shot down by an F-104 off the coast near Karachi.

Indian aircraft continued to raid Pakistani airfields, although none in the west was put out of action. According to several reports, Indian bombing runs over airfields and the successive raids against Karachi were largely unchallenged. Pakistani aircraft seemed to be concentrating on bombing Indian targets in the Kashmir and Sind Desert areas. The Indian Air Force was active on all fronts supporting ground fighting, and flying air cover missions.

Day Nine: December 11

Pakistani army representatives in Rawalpindi said that the outlook in the east was "grim", but added that an Indian helicopter-borne attack in the Khulna area south of Dacca had been repulsed. A battalion of Indian paratroopers was dropped behind Pakistani lines to capture an important bridgehead, supported by heavy sorties of fighter-bombers.

Indian units counterattacked Pakistani forces in the Chhamb sector of Kashmir, but made little progress. In air combat, a Gnat allegedly downed a Pakistan Air Force Mirage. B-57s continued their nocturnal bombing of several airfields while Sabres, Mirages and F-104s attacked Indian Air Force bases three times during the day.

Day Ten: December 12

The ring was further tightened around Dacca, with only a few towns remaining in Pakistani hands. Hawker Hunters, MiG-21s and Sea Hawks from the Vikrant repeatedly attacked Pakistani troop positions. Hawker Hunters of the Indian Air Force's No. 14 Squadron began flying from the airfield at Jessore, which had been captured on December 7.

The long-awaited first air combat between the MiG-21 and the F-104 was fought December 12. Two MiG-21FLs were scrambled from Jamnagar airfield when forward observation posts detected several intruders approaching at low altitude. One of the F-104 Starfighters strafed the airfield, but broke off at high speed when he saw the top cover of MiG-21s. The F-104 pilot attempted to outmaneuver the pursuing Fishbeds by making a tight 360-degree turn and breaking away at low altitude. Flight Lieutenant Soni, in a MiG-21, maneuvered to close range and raked the F-104 with his GP-9 gun. The F-104 plunged into the ocean, the pilot ejecting just before the plane hit.

The Indian Air Force concentrated nearly 100 sorties to support ground fighting against Pakistani positions near Chhamb, and flew numerous air combat patrol and attack missions in the Sind Desert near Naya Chor. The Pakistan Air Force retaliated by bombing several Indian airfields and flying close support near Chhamb and Rajasthan.

Day Eleven: December 13

Indian Air Force fighter-bombers and Navy Sea Hawks pounded retreating Pakistani forces and defense positions around Dacca and the remnant of East Pakistan still uncaptured.

Meanwhile, in the west the Pakistan Air Force harassed six Indian airfields from the air.

During a strike against Pathankot airfield, two Su-7Bs were reportedly downed in a dogfight. Sorties were flown to support ground units engaged in the Kashmir and the Sind Desert.

The Indian Force bombed and strafed Pakistani trains and convoys in northern Pakistan to interdict supply lines, and flew counter-air missions against several airfields. Hawker Hunters extensively damaged a petrochemical factory at Khairpur with rockets and cannon fire. Pakistani positions in the Sind Desert near Naya Chor were bombed and strafed.

Day Twelve: December 14

Indian troops entered the suburbs of Dacca and continued to push forward, their advance supported from the air with MiG-21FLs striking a number of key targets in Dacca; the most notable was a rocket attack on the East Pakistan governor's house. During the raid, the governor was said to have written his resignation on a scrap of paper while taking cover in a ditch.

Simultaneously, in the west India began a drive against Shakargarh, a salient of Pakistani territory near Lahore that juts into India, and launched a similar effort against Naya Chor in the Sind Desert. The Indian Air Force bombed rail lines, trains and marshalling yards in northern and central Pakistan to lessen the flow of supplies to forward units; the Indian Air Force also bombed Pakistani airfields and radar sites. One MiG-21 was downed by Pakistani antiaircraft while attacking the Badin radar station.

The Pakistan Air Force bombed airfields at Pathankot, Amritsar and Srinagar. Sabres engaged Gnat fighters in a dogfight over Srinagar, with both sides losing planes.

Meanwhile, the Pakistanis flew large numbers of close support sorties in the Shakargarh, Sialkot and Zafarwal areas, destroying eighteen tanks, many guns and armored personnel carriers. A number of dogfights took their toll during the strikes. A Pakistani F-6 pilot shot down an Indian MiG-21, Sabres destroyed an Indian observation aircraft, and other Pakistani planes damaged a number of Indian fighter-bombers.

Day Thirteen: December 15

Lieutenant General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi, commander of East Pakistan forces, contacted Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, Indian commander, regarding a cease-fire, and the two agreed on terms. The Indian Air Force continued close support from the air, however, right up until the cease-fire.

India maintained pressure against the Shakargarh salient and the Sind Desert, fighting to capture as much territory as possible before the cease-fire; a Sabre and an F-6 were claimed in air combat. Indian Air Force fighter-bombers repeatedly bombed Pakistan rail lines, trains and convoys.

Pakistan Air Force fighter-bombers supported ground units in the Shakargarh salient and in the Sind Desert near Naya Chor. In an air battle near Naya Chor, a Pakistani Sabre reportedly shot down an Indian Hunter. Pakistani interdiction missions against rail lines near Kukenen destroyed an ammunition train, and B-57 bombers blasted three Indian air bases in the north.

Day Fourteen: December 16

The largest armored battle of the war continued in the Shakargarh salient, both sides feeding in aircraft to defend their ground units from air attack. Indian Su-7Bs bombed Pakistani positions while MiG-21s flew protective cover. Pakistani Mirages and Sabres also attacked ground targets, and Sabres engaged MiG-21s in air combat; no losses were claimed.

Indian units succeeded in penetrating Pakistani territory near Naya Chor, the advance aided by air sorties. They continued to bomb the Pakistani railway but patrolling Pakistan Air Force fighters contested many of the strikes. Indian Canberra bombers again raided Karachi harbor at night. Pakistan claimed to have downed one by antiaircraft fire.

Pakistani Mirages damaged the Bhatinda railway station, while F-86 Sabres attacked Srinagar and Avantipur airfields during the day.

Cease-Fire: December 17

Having captured East Pakistan, India announced a unilateral cease-fire for 8PM on December 17. In the Shakargarh and Naya Chor areas, heavy fighting continued right up to the cease-fire. Pakistani and Indian fighter-bombers flew many support sorties in both battle areas.

Sabres and MiG-21s battled over Shakargarh and Pakistan claimed one MiG-21. Pakistani F-104s flying cover for Sabres near Naya Chor engaged more MiG-21s, and two of the Starfighters were allegedly shot down.

Pakistan Air Force Sabres, Mirages and Starfighters raided several Indian airfields. One of two F-104s attacking Uttarlai airfield was downed by a CAP MiG-21. At 8:00PM the fighting ceased.

 
Bibliography
1. Air Warfare in the Missile Age by Lon O. Nordeen, Jr.
 
 
[ Back ]