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The PAF in the Afghan War
Shooting Down the First Soviet Aircraft - August 4, 1988
 

Pilot: Squadron Leader Athar Bokhari
Controller: Squadron Leader Taufeeq Raja
Date: August 4, 1988
Aircraft Shot: Su-25
Area: 10 NM West of Miranshah (Boya)

In those days, in addition to the scrambles that had then become routine, two or three pairs of F-16s would fly CAPs in the west on a regular basis. On this day, a scramble was ordered half an hour before sunset. As the No. 2 of the detailed formation was not yet fully night current, the leader decided to go alone. On the initial vector, he was at full throttle. As the violating aircraft had turned back, he was asked near Hangu to fly at normal speed and to set up a race course CAP pattern north of Bannu at 10,000 feet. The next fifty minutes were uneventful as he kept flying at 120/300 degrees. By this time, it was dark. Then came the opportunity for a kill, so narrated by the pilot:

I was vectored on a heading of 300 degrees, and the controller reported the target 30 degree left, 15 NM. I turned left and called contact. The GCI controller clearly told me to go ahead and shoot the target. I achieved a head-on IR lock on one aircraft at 7 NM flying high. He started to turn right at 6.5 NM, putting me on at 3.5 NM. I engaged burners and closed to less than 2.5 NM from the target before the desired launch zone (DLZ) started to flash. As all the parameters were met, I fired the missile and saw it go towards the target in the TD box on the HUD. I next saw a ball of fire in the TD box. I broke left to 120 degrees, descended to 5,000 feet, and dispensed chaff and flares. On looking back at the 8 o'clock position, I saw 4-5 flares at about 3-4 NM and mistook them initially for missiles. It all about stopped my heartbeat but my controller reassured me that there were no other aircraft in the vicinity. I then took a safe passage home.

The wreckage of the shot down aircraft was located, but not the pilot. The tribal people caught him the next evening and handed him over to the authorities. His name was Colonel Alexander Rutskoi who later became the Vice President of the Russian Federation. Both the pilots and the controller displayed calm professional competence in shooting down the first Soviet-piloted Su-25 aircraft at night. It was an excellent example of pilot-controller teamwork.

 
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