Srinagar has always been and is closer than the jugular of the Pakistani people.
The air above the city and nearby Awantipora Air Force Station has seen more than its fair share of air combat. Whether it’s the recent most incident of 27th February 2019 of Noman’s WVR (Within Visual Range) heater shot of Abhinandan or Hassan’s BVR (Beyond Visual Range) volley of the Su-30 MKI, both were not the first for skies of Kashmir.
We have the likes of Wing Commander Salim Baig Mirza and his formation, back from the 71 Indo-Pak war reign supreme over the skies of Srinagar on 14 December 1971. The day started like any other but ended with a success story that is cherished by Pakistanis in and out of country, alike.
This account is a return to the aerial encounter from the wee hours of the morning. When a formation of six F-86s from No. 26 Squadron ‘Black Spiders’ attacked Srinagar airfield with four in air to ground weapon-delivery configuration with pair of 500 lb bombs and Mirza with his wingman in Escort (savior of strike package) role with Air to Air guns and range-extending fuel tanks.
On the dot 0730 hrs, TOT (Time over Target) attained by leader with his four raiding aircraft formation, called out on radio “Leader pulling up! Contact with the target!” went in for the bombing run. Mirza climbed to four thousand feet above ground level with his number two, watching out for any ‘bad buys’ messing up the party. The battle was raging down below among the barrage of Anti-aircraft Artillery fire.
In the whole bargain of things, there was one enemy fighter, a Gnat, who immediately after take-off from the airfield engaged the raiding Sabres. At a point in time, there was a Sabre behind a Gnat behind a Sabre. Amazing at it may seem, Sabre-Gnat-Sable ‘train’ was flying up a dust storm very near the ground in Kashmir Valley. Trailing Sabre announced machine-gun bullets finished. The pilot in the sabre being tagged by the Gnat used vernaculars at everyone ensuring that his calls were heard and actioned upon. Baig, as cool as cucumber, slid into position behind the Gnat and put his gun-sight on the canopy of the enemy till he was a mere five hundred feet then shot the enemy down using a short burst of his guns. Following worsof another military aviator about half a century back, Major Thomas B. ‘Tommy” McGuire from USAAF…
Go in close, and when you think you are too close, go in closer!
This was not the first for Mirza! He had been there-done that on the 4th, shooting down an IAF Hunter near Peshawar. So, metaphorically speaking he literally had ‘ice running in his veins’ just like Noman and Hassan of today.
Major take-away from the Kashmir Air Combat files of the past and present…ALWAYS FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT! Things will always fall into perspective at home side and disarray on the enemies, in mystical ways beyond our imaginations. And in retrospect we have seen at more than one occasions, the intricacies of Air Power Employment and Doctrine implicitly click into synergy at Kashmir airspace many times over. And with a slight tweak in the Foreign Policy on the Valley, we will prevail. It’s not a matter what or who, only a matter of WHEN!
We still have the likes of Middlecoat, Cecil, Rafiqui, Younis amongst us in the form of Nomans, Hassans, Salmans, Tahirs to FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT!
Tally Ho and Check Six!