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Battle Lines of the PAF

PAF Base Mianwali History: 1948-1988

During the 1965 war it was realized that Sargodha needed an alternate recovery airfield deeper inside Pakistani territory, and Mianwali was selected as the site for this new air base, partly because a WW II airstrip already existed there already. In addition to serving as a deeper airfield looking east, it would act as a front line base against a threat from the west. Initially it was conceived as a satellite airfield only. During the 1971 war, Mianwali played a very active role and contributed substantially to the war effort of the PAF. It was activated in October 1971 with Group Captain S M Dutta as its commander. Detachments of several types of aircraft operated from this' airfield during the war. The Indians found this airfield an attractive target and made regular raids on it for the first three days of war. However, after suffering heavy losses without causing any damage, the IAF discontinued its raids on Mianwali.

Mianwali's battle initiation occurred on the second day of the war. As a pair of F-6s was lining up for take off, 2 enemy Hunters pulled up for attack, having sneaked in undetected. The Hunters aimed at the lined up fighters but poor shooting left both F-6s untouched. As the Hunters pulled out of their attack and started exiting east at low level, one of the F-6 pilots Flight Lieutenant Javed Qazi took off in hot pursuit. Making up for lost time in full afterburner, Qazi never took his eyes off his targets and shot one of them down near Sakesar, about 40 miles from his home base. For his cool courage in precarious circumstances, he was awarded the Sitara-e-Juraat. During that war, another 4 Indian aircraft were destroyed and one damaged by the pilots and gunners, of this base.

In August 1974, Mianwali was upgraded from a satellite to a full-fledged operational base. Wing Commander Sultan Muhammad took over as the first base commander. It took about three more years to complete the remaining framework of a permanent operational base with facilities such as residential camps, messes, and technical complexes.

In November 1975, No. 1 Fighter Conversion Unit was shifted from PAF Base Masroor to Mianwali on a permanent basis and equipped with the Chinese FT-5 (Mig-17T) aircraft. The FCU was to undertake fighter conversion training of the PAF Academy graduates. Since then this unit has successfully carried out this task, and has trained over 500 fighter, pilots who form the backbone of the PAF combat force today.

The next unit to arrive at Mianwali was No. 14 Squadron in November 1976. The squadron was assigned the task of carrying out operational conversion of the graduates from No I FCU on their first single-seat fighter. No. 14 Squadron continued to perform this task till August 1986 when it was selected for re-equipment with F-16s and moved out of Mianwali. The F-6 OCU task is now in the hands of No. 25 Squadron. Several additional operational units and facilities have been added to the base during the 1980's.

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