The Indian Air Force ranked 4th is one of the largest in the world both in quantity of aircraft and personal. After Independence in 1947, it had been in confrontation with much smaller Pakistan Air Force , which is said to be one third the size of the IAF. But despite enjoying an overwhelming advantage, the IAF has a very poor and even depressing record against the PAF. Historians and defence analyst acknowledge that the IAF has never been able to deliver in it’s history except perhaps during the Kargil conflict when it conducted operations within it’s own side of LOC over a well demarcated area and obviously no air opposition.
Let’s analyze the IAF’s performance during its conflict and skirmishes against the PAF.
1: On 4 November 1948, two IAF Hawker Tempest fighter aircraft attacked a PAF Dakota transport aircraft on supply missions, they repeatedly attacked the slow aircraft for 25 minutes but failed to shoot it down due to superior handling by the PAF pilot.
2: 10th April 1959 was a Red letter day in the history of PAF as an IAF Canberra reconnaissance aircraft intruded into Pakistan air space on Eid Day, thinking the PAF along with rest of Pakistan will be in festive mood and relaxing, however it was intercepted by a PAF F-86 Sabre who put around 1200 bullets into the Indian aircraft sending it spiraling out of control with it’s crew later being captured.
3: 24 June 1965, an Ouragan Fighter/Bomber called Toofani by the IAF, strays into Pakistan and is intercepted and forced down by PAF fighters. Later the IAF aircraft is found to be fully armed.
On September 1, 1965, the IAF launched its first strikes against a Pakistani invasion at Chhamb, near Jammu. 12 Vampires and 14 Mystere fighter-bombers were thrown in, which began shooting up Indian tanks from 20 Lancers, which was opposing the Pakistani advance. Twenty Lancers officers recount their relief when the PAF Sabres swooped down on the IAF, shooting down four Vampires. A shocked IAF grounded its Vampire and Toofani squadrons, reducing its strength by one-third. 3rd September, Perhaps first time in aerial warfare history, an IAF pilot air surrenders his Gnat fighter jet when confronted by a PAF F-104, and lands his aircraft in Pakistan, today the Gnat is preserved and displayed in PAF Museum.
PAF’s air strike on 6th September, 1965 on the Indian Air Force base of Pathankot has been rated by historians and defence analysts of both Indian and Pakistan as one of the most successful air raids of contemporary history. Over a dozen IAF aircraft including several MiG-21s were destroyed on the ground.
September 7 saw a debacle in the eastern theatre, where the PAF had only a single squadron of Sabres. Early morning IAF raids on Chittagong and Jessore achieved nothing. However, a retaliatory PAF raid devastated the IAF’s Kalaikunda base, in West Bengal, destroying 14 aircraft on the ground mostly Canberra bombers thus PAF squadron earning nick name of ”Tail Choppers”.
Also on 7th September the IAF tried to strike back on PAF bases and in due course PAF saw its first Ace when one of its pilot shot down five IAF Hunters in a single sortie.
1971 Air War
During this war, the PAF had one single squadron of F-86 Sabres, stationed in East Pakistan. This single PAF unit faced Ten IAF squadrons, three of which were equipped with the latest MiG-21s while others had SU-7, Hunters, Gnats as well as bombers on strength. The single PAF squadron was grounded within few days of war due to its single runway being damaged. Before being grounded, No 14 squadron PAF in aerial engagements, shot down 11 IAF aircraft for the loss of five of its own. However what is astonishing is that in subsequent two weeks of nonstop raids on the PAF airfield, , the IAF failed to destroy even a single grounded Sabre but in process lost 17 more aircraft to Pakistani ground fire.
Last Air Battle of 1971 War
The last air battle of 1971 war between PAF and IAF took place on 17th December. The encounter involved a humble PAF F-86 Sabre against a Supersonic MIG-21 of the IAF. Flt Lt. Maqsood Amir emerged the victorious pilot when he shot down the MIG-21, No C 116 through a missile attack. The Indian pilot was captured after ejecting from his stricken aircraft.
The Kargil war was fought between India and Pakistan from May 3 to July 26 1999 – at one of the highest battlefields in the world. It was a relative ground affair with limited involvement of airpower. Both air forces remained confined to within own airspace, the IAF once or twice transgressed into Pakistan airspace and paid the price.
The one before Abhinandan, Flight Lieutenant Nachiiketa was taken POW
27th May : One IAF MiG-21 and one MiG-27 aircraft are shot down by Anza surface-to-air missiles of the Pakistan Army’s Air Defence Corps. Flight Lieutenant Kambampati Nachiketa (pilot of the MiG-27) was captured by a Pakistani patrol and given POW status . He was released on 3 June 1999. The other pilot of MiG-21 was killed.
28th May: One IAF Mi-17 was shot down by Pakistani forces; four crew members are killed.
19th February 2002. A lot of dust was kicked up when an IAF AN-32 Transport aircraft carrying Air Marshal VK Bhatia CIC Western Air Command strayed into Pakistan airspace and was hit by a Pakistani missile knocking out one of it’s engine. The aircraft had to make an emergency landing.
June 07, 2002 , PAF makes history by shooting down IAF’s Searcher-II Israeli made spy drone during middle of the night.
And on February 27, 2019, Shaheen Hassan Siddiqui and Noman Ali Khan, the heroic men of the Pakistan Air Force, once again proved to the world the professionalism and greatness of the Pakistan Air Force and the incompetence of the Indian Air Force. History endorses again and again that it was , it is and it will be impossible to defeat Pakistan Air Force and its top pilots