Final Salute to F-6
Air Commodore Qadeer Ahmad Hashmi, S Bt makes a personal final tribute to a great fighting machine.
After the US embargo, in the wake of 1965 Indo-Pak war, Pakistan’s defence planners made a strategic decision to develop defence links with China. Induction of F-6 fighter aircraft; an export designation of the Chinese built J-6, originally designed as MIG-19 in Soviet Union; was one of the major steps in that direction. The initial induction of 73 aircraft commenced on 30 December 1965. Subsequently ten combat squadrons of the PAF were equipped with 260 F-6 aircraft that proved to be a great boon for the sustenance of our combat fleet. The F-6 aircraft, despite serving PAF for over three and half decades, somehow remained little known to the public. Very few would be aware of the fact that during 1971 Indo-Pak war, the three F-6 Squadrons alone flew 846 combat missions. Not only that they played a pivotal role in providing close support to Pak Army but also seven Indian combat aircraft were shot down by F-6 pilots.
The advent of F-6 in 1965 necessitated a review of operational and engineering concepts of the PAF. While the pilots developed skills to harness this thrilling but demanding flying machine, the engineers and technicians took up the challenge with equal zeal to maintain the newly inducted Chinese weapon system. A number of modifications were required to make it an effective interceptor and a close support aircraft. The task was achieved with innovative approach and the F-6 underwent around 140 modifications. A time came when despite being the oldest weapon system, the F-6 achieved the best operational and safety record. F-6 Rebuild Factory at PAC Kamra made major contributions towards its remarkable maintenance records by repairing 133 and overhauling 223 F-6 aircraft. This not only gave the aircraft a new lease of life but also made it possible for the PAF to train over 1,000 fighter pilots and fly over 400,000 sorties on this aircraft.
The F-6 aircraft made its last flight on 27 March 2002 in the skies of Balochistan during a spectacular air display participated by all major combat aircraft of the PAF. The ceremony at PAF Base Samungli marked the formal retirement of F-6 aircraft and induction of F7PG aircraft into PAF. Governor Balochistan, Justice (Retd) Amir ul Mulk Mengal was the chief guest on the occasion. The ceremony was attended by Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir, Chief of Staff of the Chinese PLA Air Force, Lt. Gen. Zheng Shen Xia, President China Aviation Industry Corporation, Mr Liu Gaozhu, and number of high ranking military and civil officers. Air Marshal (Retd) Nur Khan (the C-in-C PAF at the time of induction of F-6 aircraft), AVM (Retd) Sadruddin (the first F-6 Sqn Cdr), members from the initial batch of F-6 pilots and the veterans of 1971 war were also present on the occasion. The presence of a large number of serving and retired F-6 pilots evoked many a nostalgic memory of cherished association with one of the most adored weapon systems which had the distinction of ably meeting our air defence requirements over a period spanning 36 years. AVM Abid Rao, AOC Southern Air Command, in his opening address, recollected the major achievements made by the F-6 aircraft and AVM (Retd) Sadruddin, shared some of the personal experiences in his speech. The leader of the high-powered Chinese delegation in his address congratulated the PAF on the induction of F7PG and said that people of China were proud of the long-standing friendship with the people of Pakistan.
China and Pakistan enjoy a long history of close friendly relations. F-6 aircraft formed a strong bridge of friendship between the two countries. The period of our history from 1966 onwards saw a large number of Chinese combat aircraft and weapons pouring into Pakistan Air Force. In fact, the two countries present before the world an enviable model of good neighbourly ties. The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir while acknowledging the fact in his speech said, “the time honoured Chinese friendship is a vibrant phenomenon in the very birth and development of several of our industrial and defence production projects. We cannot be oblivious of the remarkable, whole-hearted and instant support extended to us by China during the crucial periods of our history. The way the Chinese government strengthened our hands during these critical times furnishes a supreme example of our true friendship”. He further said, “with the ongoing development projects of Pasni and Gwadar port complex, Balochistan is destined to acquire in the not-too-distant a future unique strategic importance, thus necessitating a wider range of defence infrastructure, particularly a potent multi-role air defence capability.
Balochistan has had a very special relationship with F-6 aircraft. It was in the wake of Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1978 that PAF acutely felt the necessity of activating Samungli to a full operational role. PAF Base Samungli remained the home Base of F-6s ever since. Governor Balochistan while paying tribute to this formidable weapon system said, “with arrival of first F-6 Squadron in the provincial capital, there was a great sense of participation in the country’s defence amongst the public at large. PAF’s fighters over the skies of Balochistan and, in particular, Quetta, were reassuring for all. Old fighters, just as old soldiers, fade away, but the reassuring cycle of rejuvenation and replacement continues unabated. The induction of the F7PG is, therefore, a step in the right direction. For me, as the Governor of the province, it is a matter of pride that PAF’s newest acquisition is being housed here”.
Chinese combat aircraft form the bulk of PAF’s combat inventory. Induction of F7PGs has significantly boosted our fighting capability. F-7PG has been assessed to be a very potent and reliable system. Over 50 F-7PGs are planned to be inducted into PAF in the near future. After successful co-production of
K-8, China and Pakistan are engaged in joint
development programme of Super-7 aircraft, which has already entered the
prototype manufacturing stage. The maiden flight is scheduled in June
2003. The two countries are also looking forward to collaboration in
co-development of radars, airborne weapons and guidance and communication
systems. The ultimate goal is to establish, with Chinese assistance, an
aerospace design and development centre in Pakistan. This could open fresh
avenues for co-development of vitally needed equipment not only for own
needs but also for large-scale marketing.
KILLS ACHIEVED BY F-6 PILOTS
PAF Squadrons that have operated F-6s
Period of Operations
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Air Commodore Qadeer Ahmad Hashmi was commissioned in June, 1976. Apart from flying all major fighter and trainer aircraft, he has had the privilege to serve in four of the F-6 Squadrons of the PAF. During his career he has held various Command and Staff assignments. He is graduate of Iranian Command & Staff College and Armed Forces War Course at the National Defence College. He holds Master degree in War Studies. For his meritorious services he has been awarded Sitara-I-Basalat by the Government of Pakistan.