• By: Ibn-e-Taha
  • Khan_adnan040@yahoo.com

Veteran claimed he enjoys unique honor, who assisted in first aerial kill of PAF against Bharat on 10 April, 1959 and the last one on 17 Dec, 1971, till 19 Feb. 2019. Sharing his experiences in a non-stop monologue was like he is actually sitting on a radar screen on ground and controlling live actions in air.

The tales were enchanting, motivating and full of pride from old warrior. Serene and historic environment of coffee shop of a Defense officers’ club made it more impressive. Numerous old colleagues and smart mess attendants serving hot tea were adding ecstasy to the interview of Group Captain Rab Nawaz Choudhry (Retd).

Rab Nawaz has also authored three books sharing memories of his time. Born on 01 Aug, 1932, he proudly claims to be from a native Punjabi inheritance Tarlaee a suburb town of Islamabad.

The first aerial kill of PAF, he recalled was on Eid day 10 April, 1959 (exactly 65 years ago now). Then Pilot officer Rab Nawaz was duty controller at the Sector Operational Centre (SOC), being posted at PAF Base Sargodha (now Mushaf). Sargodha was not an operational base as yet and he was monitoring the aerial borders on Marconi radars situated at Wagowal (near Sargodha) and Lahore. The radar had a coverage range of 115 miles only. Suddenly the radar deployed at Wagowal picked up a blip on radar depicting a bogey (unidentified aircraft). Initially it appeared a fake blip, but was soon he got convinced it was an intruder aircraft as the route was established entering Pakistani air space from the Amritsar-Lahore border. The intruder was probably thinking PAF is asleep and busy in celebrating Eid ul Fitr.

Rab Nawaz immediately picked up the hotline telephone and contacted Air Defense Alert (ADA) pilots on duty in Peshawar. The pilots on ADA were Squadron Leader (Sqn Ldr) MNA Butt and Flight Lieutenant (Flt Lt) Younus. Younus who attended the phone was a course senior to Rab Nawaz used the nick name “Rabboo” (Rab Nawaz) and wanted an authentication before take-off. Rab Nawaz confirmed intruders and asked ADA pilots to immediately get air borne and get after this enemy aircraft.

The probable spying (ELINT) mission was flying over Rawalpindi area at an altitude of more than 50,000 feet. This height was beyond the operational ceiling of the Pakistani F-86 aircraft. Pakistani pilots also couldn’t figure out the intruder as it was far beyond their eye contact and range. Rab Nawaz, advised both the pilots to follow his communication for a successful kill. Rab

Nawaz recalled it was a difficult interception as the chasing pilots had to follow the trail of intruder and both the Pakistani falcons did not have trail of intruder, However Rab Nawaz constantly guided them towards the prey and they soon reached the Bharti Canberra. Now the hurdle was, Pakistani F-86 could reach to 45000 feet whereas intruder was flying at a height of more than 50,000 feet. With added fuel tanks and installed missiles, precision of bullet/missile loss existed affecting F-86 shooting. Pakistani team knew, Canberra aircraft has to return home and would definitely lose height during a turn making it probable to shoot clean. In that case they would find a chance to shoot this intruder within Pakistan aerial territory.

Rab Nawaz placed both the chasing aircraft in a position to hunt the Canberra against the sun, where the foe could be put in uncertainty and could not see them clearly. Meanwhile, Bharati pilots got the idea they have been detected and chased by Pakistani Shaheens. Surprised to see PAF awake and alive on Eid day, Bharti pilot and navigator ended up in a panic. Right over Pakistan’s territory they have no answer like Kulbhushan Yadev, what is their business in Pakistan’s territory? They still attempted to dodge this PAF duo by maneuvering two consecutive sharp turns considering F-86 will be outmaneuvered and they will manage to escape. Bharati champions forgot with every smart sharp turn they were losing height, making the Pakistani pilots’ job easy to shoot clean. Pakistani pilots were trying not to drop their fuel tanks and shoot the enemy from bottom without climbing high.

During nerve breaking short time Canberra suddenly lost height while executing a turn and Yunis fired a burst from his F-86 machine guns which struck down the Canberra at an altitude of 47,500 feet. Both crew members of the IAF Canberra Sqn Ldr J.C. Sengupta, and Flt Lt S.N. Rampal ejected over Rawat area and were captured by local villagers at Gorukh pur at the Adiala road Rawalpindi. Debris of the aircraft fell near Basali village Bangial, near Rawat. The people of Basali village still call the place as “Jahaz wali Lurri”. The natives used a metallic part of the debris of aircraft as a school bell in a local school. Each time it rings it announces mourning of Bharati Air Force. PAF may also erect a monument in memory of this first aerial victory at this place.

The post shooting down actions included informing concerned people. With a glare in eyes retired Group Captain shared these actions. The first thing I did was calling Base Commander Chaklala (now Noor Khan). Wing Commander (Wg Cdr) Rollo an Englishman who also happened to be Rab Nawaz’s base commander at Sargodha was relaxing at his place. Begum Rollo knew Rab Nawaz personally and was surprised to receive a call on Eid day. She asked Rab Nawaz to share the emergency, but he politely declined. Wg Cdr Rollo was obviously perturbed on being called on a holiday and inquired “Rab Nawaz what is your problem?” On hearing the news of shooting down an intruder he assured the local coordination for which Chaklala base had to do the needful.

The next call he made to Group Captain Raheem Khan, who was the Senior Air Staff Officer (SASO) group No 1 at AHQ. Group No 1 was then responsible for the operations of PAF. The news was greeted by the Group Captain by stating “Well done boys, keep it up”. A series of telephone calls started pouring in to Rab Nawaz from all over Pakistan Air Force. Majority of the callers cheered the news, one odd individual felt apprehended by figuring an all-out war between Bharat and Pakistan. Pilot officer Rab Nawaz Chaudhry did not deter and replied “That is not my problem sir; I have done what I was supposed to do”. The retired officer continued that he was later called by Wg Cdr Rollo and was appreciated again. “I have kept one of the parachutes of the bailed out Bharati intruders as a souvenir for you. You may collect it whenever you visit Chaklala next time.

Recalling his duty in destroying the last Bharati aircraft by Flt Lt Maqsood Aamir, he narrated he was the duty controller at Sargodha on 17 Dec, 1971. Flt Lt Maqsood Amir and Flt Lt Taloot Mirza were in air for a routine patrol mission. Rab Nawaz monitored two Mig-21s scrambled from Amritsar base. Both of them headed towards Pasrur presumably in support of Bharati Sina engaged with Pak Army. PAF radar did not have coverage for these intruders, but Rab Nawaz managed to detect them with their VHF communication using their call sign “Rats”. He guided Maqsood and Taloot towards the intruders. Soon Pakistani and Bharati pilots came against each other in a one-on-one encounter for a dogfight. Leader of Mig 21 formation immediately fired on Maqsood Amir, who managed to escape and in return fired at the Mig-21 in range. Flt Lt Tejwant Singh had no option but to eject and was taken POW by Pak Army troops deployed in Pasrur area.

Though not Eid day, but story was repeated on 27 Feb, 2019 when Pakistan Air Forces shot down a SU-30 pilot, Wing Commander Abhi Nandin Vardaman. Bhartis in line with Chanakya’s preachings propagated Abhi Nandu had shot down a Pakistani F-16 before being shot. Indian media claimed, according to an agreement between the US and Pakistan, Pakistan is only allowed to use the F-16 against terrorists. Independent sources’ counting confirmed total No of F-16s were in-tact and none was lost. Finding no escape for being an aggressor, Abhi Nandin was decorated with gallantry award of Vir Chakkar by India.

Some questions remain un-answered like if Abhi Nandin was a war hero and recipient of a war medal, why couldn’t his acumen and professionalism have benefitted within IAF? Why couldn’t he rise till higher ranks and retired as a Group Captain (equivalent to Colonel rank in army)? Why did IAF grounded all the Mig-21 fleet after this humiliating destruction by PAF?

one may proudly say


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