Monday, December 29, 2014

Low Level Death

By: Usman Shabbir & Yawar A Mazhar 

The first IAF air strikes on PAF bases took place on the morning of September 7, 1965. It was at 05:30 hrs that the first IAF strike on PAF’s Sargodha airbase was detected when the formation of 6 IAF Mysteres was already pulling-up to attack the airfield. An F-104A flown by Flt Lt Amjad Hussain Khan was vectored by ground control to intercept the raid. According to Flt Lt Amjad he got behind two Mysteres which were exiting on a heading of 120 degrees at about 100 ft AGL. He fired an AIM-9B at one of the Mysteres which hit the ground after leaving the launcher. Closing in he fired at the Mystere with his gun and saw hits on the aircraft. The second Mystere meanwhile broke into the Starfighter forcing Amjad to make a high speed yo-yo and attack again. The Mystere turned into him again forcing another yo-yo with afterburners engaged. The Starfighter climbed to 13-15,000 feet and then dived to make another attack on the Mystere. This time the Mystere pilot did not see the F-104, with the Starfighter diving and closing in at 540 knots and opening canon fire at a range of 3000 ft. The Mystere exploded when the range was 1000-1500 ft and before the Starfighter could pull up to clear the explosion, it flew through the resulting debris. The F-104’s controls froze and aircraft stopped responding, going into a left bank. At this point about 75-100 ft AGL (Above Ground Level) Flt Lt Amjad Hussain ejected from the aircraft and landed near a village receiving a hero’s welcome from the villagers and made back to Sargodha airbase by a bicycle, a horse and a helicopter!!!

The British writer John Fricker in his book “The Battle for Pakistan: The 1965 air war” assigned this loss to Devayya actually shooting down the F-104. However no evidence was offered to substantiate this claim and Fricker also failed to explain how Sqn Ldr Devayya himself was shot down and killed. Later research showed that the site of both aircraft crashing was nearby which supports the likelihood of a mid-air collision or debris of the Mystere striking the F-104 (see Kaiser Tufail’s Great Air Battles of the Pakistan Air Force). 
In the opinion of Air Vice Marshal Farooq Umar, a member of the same squadron at the time, it is quite possible that Amjad’s controls were damaged after going through the debris of the enemy Mystere. ‘Even if the Mystere was flying at nearly 500 knots Flt Amjad might have closed in with a very high rate of overtake of 150 to 200 knots. Firing his burst of bullets might have ended when he was too close to the Mystere, at say 1000 ft, and thus he may well have picked up debris in his engine. Also, if an F-104A overshot a Mystere at such a high overtake speed, even if the IAF pilot had opened up to full power he could not have caught up with the F-104A for a gun kill.’

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