Monday, December 29, 2014

F-104 in Photo Reccee Role

In the environment of the India-Pakistan War, the low-speed RT-33 photo reconnaissance fleet of the PAF was rendered obsolete, for missions deep into enemy territory, and over heavily defended targets. 

There was an urgent requirement to survey the enemy concentration at the forward airfields and to observer the effectiveness of PAF's B-57 night bombing raids. To fulfil this need, one of 9 Squadron's two unarmed two-seat F-104B Starfighter trainers was pressed into service, using a hand-held camera in the rear cockpit for oblique photography. Piloting the F-104 was Flight Lieutenant Aftab Alam, with Squadron Leader Middlecoat as cameraman. Flying at high speed (around 600 knots) at about 3,000 ft, the F-104 evaded both ack ack fire as well as fighter interception, the only problem being that g forces resulting from the turn over the target made the heavy camera, which normally formed part of a fixed aircraft installation, almost impossible to lift. But the F-104 also managed to get some photographs of Adampur airfield in the same sortie, before returning safely to Sargodha.

The mission was so successful that it was later repeated several times.

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