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The PAF in the Afghan War
The First Near-Engagement (F-16s versus Afghan Su-25s) - April 12, 1986

Pilots: Group Captain Shahid Kamal (Leader), Squadron Leader Rahat Mujeeb (No. 2), Squadron Leader Khalid Chaudhry (No. 3)
Controller: Squadron Leader Saif ur Rehman
Date: April 12, 1986
Area: Near Parachinar

The formation took off early in the morning and proceeded towards Parachinar as briefed. The controller was vigilant and reported enemy aircraft close to the border. The formation checked fuel and switches on a call from the leader and cooled the AIM-9L's. At about 20 NM short of Parachinar, the formation noticed two blips close to each other heading into Pakistan territory. The leader locked the enemy fighter and announced that he was engaged (i.e. committed into attack). The formation raced on at combat speeds on a westerly heading. The enemy fighters were sampled and before long, the leader fired his first missile on the enemy aircraft. The formation turned about with the leader still in front; the mutual cover more effective, but no missile impact was seen.

The controller again turned the formation around and reported enemy fighters still in our territory, apparently unhurt and unaware of the PAF pilot's intentions. The leader again locked the Afghan aircraft while No. 2 and 3 maintained formation and mutual support 3-4 miles behind. On closing in, the leader again found the target within missile range and fired another missile and missed the target again. After this, the leader handed over the lead to Khalid Chaudhry and fell back in battle formation with No. 2. After a couple of turns, the new leader spotted two Su-25's flying in simple wingman formation. He got a quick lock-on and after meeting all the parameters, fired the missile, which headed for the enemy and thereafter turned right into the sun. The formation then turned towards easterly heading.

Group Captain Shahid's film revealed that he had valid locks on both the occasions. However, he had fired both the missiles at the outer DLZ missile range against receding targets that were powered by engines without reheat (the Su-25's do not have afterburners). Since these aircraft were flying at cruising speeds, they radiated very little IR energy at the outer limits of AIM-9L DLZ. Khalid's failure to hit the target could not be analysed because his aircraft was equipped with a history recorder instead of an Airborne video tape recorder (AVTR).

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