DEFENCE NOTES

 

PAKISTAN AIR FORCE

genlodi "A country without a strong Air Force is at the mercy of an aggressor. Pakistan must build up her Air Force as quickly as possible. It must be an efficient Air Force, second to none"

Quaid-e-Azam,
13 April 1948, during his visit
to the PAF Flying Training
School at Risalpur.

The founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam, Mohammad Ali Jinnah was well aware of the great importance of the Air Force for the defence of the country. He therefore wanted a strong Air Force to be built up, which was to be second to none. This was done against great odds and the pangs of partition of the sub-continent, which gave India a chance to deprive us of our share of aircraft and equipment. A strong Air Force that was built with the hard work and dedication of its officers and airmen, helped to defend the country in two major wars with India. Pakistan has a small Air Force yet it was able to dominate the much larger Air Force of our adversary.

Recently however there has been a weakening of our governments resolve to adequately strengthen the Pakistan Air Force, as the Quaid had directed. If the present policy continues it will place the country "at the mercy of an aggressor", as the Quaid had rightly said. In our case the aggressor is undoubtedly India with whom we have fought three wars and two border conflicts short of war. A shooting war goes on at present in Kashmir where the troops are deployed since the last 50 years on both sides of the cease fire line (now, line of control), and also in the Siachin Glacier area which is the Worlds highest and most destructive battle ground. 24 years after independence India split Pakistan asunder by force of arms, while the United Nations watched in silence. Can we afford to lower our guards under the circumstances, is the moot question. The answer is obviously a NO.

The Pakistan Air Force along with the Army and Navy came into existed when Pakistan became a sovereign independent nation on 14 August 1947. The growth of the Pakistan Air Force is the story of an unusual struggle and sacrifice made by the initial pioneers of the force and those who followed later in their footsteps. From a small, in fact tiny auxiliary force in 1947 with a small number of personnel, possessing equipment of no significance, it emerged in a brief period of 10 years as a powerful component of the country’s defence. It is indeed a story of courage, confidence in their ability, devotion to duty and dedication to a cause that made all the difference. It carries with it till today the spirit of defiance and audacity in its offensive role.

Headquarters of the RPAF was formed at Peshawar on 15th August 1947, with Air Vice Marshal A.L.A. Perry Keene, CB, OBE as the Air Commander of the Royal Pakistan Air Force, which consisted of 220 officers and 2112 airmen. There were only four Air Force stations; Peshawar, Kohat, Risalpur, Chaklala and Lahore. The Aircraft consisted of 16 Tempest fighters and two War Worn Dakotas in serviceable condition. 7 Tiger Moth aircrafts were ferried to Pakistan from Jodhpur in September 1947. India held up most of the equipment allotted to Pakistan in order to keep her off - balanced right from the start.

The table below gives an idea of the number of aircraft allotted to Pakistan and the number initially given:-

AIRCRAFT RIAF

TOTAL HOLDING

ALLOTED TO

INDIA

PAKISTAN
  ALLOTED DELIVERED
Dakota 78 46 32 4
Tempest 158 123 35 16
Harvard 118 89 29 -
Tiger Moth 78 62 16 7
Auster V/VI 28 18 10 -

  These aircraft were hurriedly organized into two squadrons (No. 5 and 9), an air O.P. flight for the Army and two communication flights. No. 6 squadron was in the process of being raised.

While the Air Force was being organized the armed struggle in Kashmir had started and there was an urgent need in December 1947 to air drop supplies for the civilian population of Gilgit and other areas. This was arranged on a priority basis by the two dakota aircraft, later another two were added. In 1948 two four-engine Halifax bombers were also acquired for air drops. During the 12 months of emergency air drop operations the PAF did not lose a single aircraft.

437 sorties had been flown and over a million lbs of supplies dropped at Bunji, Skardu, Gilgit and Chilas.

During the 1948 Kashmir war the strengths of Indian and Pakistan Air Forces was as under :-

Aircraft India Pakistan
1. Tempest 68 16
2. Spitfire 13 -
3. Vampire 6 -
4. Liberator 4 -
5. Dakota 30 8
6. Harvard 60 20
7. Tiger Moth 40 10
8. Halifax - 2

On February 19th, 1949 Air Vice-Marshal R.L.R. Atcherley took over Command of the PAF and his first message set the correct professional tone. He said, "The sole pre-occupation of every individual in this Air Force, no matter in what sphere of activity he finds himself, is to keep our aircraft flying, ready to fight, equipped and trained for war, down to the last detail".

The Air Force had already been working on a well conceived plan. The target for March 31, 1948 was for two fighter bomber squadrons of 16 aircraft, one transport squadron of five aircraft and one air observation post (AOP) flight of four aircraft. By the end of 1949 it was planned to have two fighter bomber squadrons of 32 aircraft, one transport squadron of 20 aircraft, one AOP flight of four aircraft and one Communication squadron of eight aircraft. By 1950 four fighter bomber squadrons with 64 aircraft were planned along with one transport squadron of 20 aircraft, one AOP flight of six aircraft and one Communication squadron of 10 aircraft.

The Air Force was progressing and expanding gradually in the air, and the facilities on the ground. It was turning itself into a force which would be capable of defending the aerial frontiers of the country. The first three jet fighter aircraft arrived in August 1951 and were quickly assimilated into No. 11 Squadron. With the induction of these aircraft, the young PAF only four years after it came into existence entered the jet age.

On 13th May 1952, a high level meeting was held in the Ministry of Defence, attended by the Defence Secretary, Defence Purchasing Officer, the Air Chief, the Deputy Air Chief and a few others. The meeting was called to discuss the requirements of the Air Force and evolve plans for its development. It showed the government’s concern about the efficient functioning of an important component of the Armed Forces. As a consequence of this meeting a four -year roll-on plan was made to cater for the period 1952 to 1956, with equipment coming from U.S. sources.

On 23rd February 1954, a committee was formed to conduct negotiations with the American Military Team on the amount of aid, its priorities and development of forces. The committee consisted of Army Chief (Chairman), Naval and Air Forces Chiefs and Defence Secretary. In case of difference of opinion, the decision of the Chairman was to prevail. The United States was prepared to give F-84 aircraft but not the F-86 that the Pakistan Air Force had recommended. Official history of the Air Force records, "To set things right, General Muhammad Ayub Khan went to the United States. He addressed on 13th October 1954 a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff there, and on 14th October, held talks with the Air Force representative at the Pentagon. It was only when he strongly objected to the American offer of F-84, and refused to have it, that the U.S. agreed to supply F-86 aircraft".

It does show the Pakistan Army’s concern and assistance in the development of the Pakistan Air Force on the right lines. With the arrival of American equipment the Air Force entered an important phase in its development. It is often not appreciated that reasonably modern equipment is essential for all the three components of the Armed Forces, but for the Air Force it is absolutely vital.

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