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Old 16th September 2015, 10:41   #76
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Default re: Indian Aviation - HAL Ajeet, the Folland Gnat Mk II. EDIT: 1965 war IAF documentary on page 6

Bbc Hindi is airing about the 1965 indo-pak conflict since a more than a week , very through research with interviews of the officers involved from both sides, Its a must listen. Today they aired 15th episode explaining about the dog fights between Gnat, Sabre jet & star fighters.

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Old 17th September 2015, 20:43   #77
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Default re: Indian Aviation - HAL Ajeet, the Folland Gnat Mk II. EDIT: 1965 war IAF documentary on page 6

Originally Posted by zeemmee View Post
Bbc Hindi is airing about the 1965 indo-pak conflict since a more than a week , very through research with interviews of the officers involved from both sides, Its a must listen. Today they aired 15th episode explaining about the dog fights between Gnat, Sabre jet & star fighters.
Thank you for sharing this. Very interesting and informative. It is worthy of note that BBC choses to do this documentary while the bulk of our media ignores this major event in our history and stays mesmerized by Indrani. The media doesn't even have time for the drought in central India! On the weekend I think I will put together a post on all Gnat fighter victories in 1965 and 1971 with photos where available.
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Old 20th September 2015, 17:59   #78
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Default re: Indian Aviation - HAL Ajeet, the Folland Gnat Mk II. EDIT: 1965 war IAF documentary on page 6

Gnat Fighter Heroes of the IAF

This month 50 years ago India and Pakistan went to war due to Pakistan's attack in the hope of settling the Kashmir question. I won't discuss the war or its causes or outcome here. This post is on the fighter aces of the Indian Air Force (IAF) who flew the dimutive Folland Gnat fighter. Pilots on both sides performed feats of aerial excellence but I am covering only those who flew the Gnat. There are several other Indian fighter pilots who scored victories and performed brave acts in both 1971 and 1965 flying other aircraft but they will need a separate thread. In determining a victory the IAF followed scrupulous evaluation sometimes going over the top and denying scores where they were clearly merited. The narration below, I think, covers all Gnat aces who scored an aerial victory. My apologies in advance if I have missed someone. Data references at the end of this post.

Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon

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Sekhon was a pilot of a Gnat detachment based at Srinagar for the air defence of the valley against Pakistani air attacks. He is the first and thus far only IAF officer or airman to be awarded the Param Vir Chakra. He won his medal by single handedly taking on 6 Sabres knowing fully well that his chances of survival were slim. At that time it was genuinely believed that Sekhon shot down two of the Sabres. PAF records after the war indicated he had seriously damaged the two but both crash landed in Pakistani territory. Sekhon's courage and action has interestingly been best described by a Pakistani pilot and historian Kaiser Tufail. I quote below from his website kaiser-aeronaut. It's lengthy but well worth a read.

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"No 26 Squadron, based at Peshawar, had been assigned to take care of Srinagar airfield. Daily attacks by Sabres had been causing some damage, but the runway repair gangs were ensuring that the airfield was not out of permanent service[1]. The morning of 14th December saw yet another bombing raid led by the Squadron Commander, Wg Cdr Sharbat Ali Changazi. Accompanying him were Flt Lts H K Dotani, Amjad Andrabi and Maroof Mir, whose Sabres were armed with two 500 lbs bombs each. Escorting the 4-ship package were Flt Lts Salim Baig Mirza and Rahim Yusufzai. Altogether it was a formidable force and, given the familiarity with Srinagar, it seemed like it would be another milk run.

After a 25-minute flight through the picturesque hills and vales of western Kashmir, Changazi’s commanding voice broke the radio silence, “Leader pulling up, contact with the target.” The time was 0730 hrs (PST). Dotani, Andrabi and Mir followed at short intervals, none missing the easily visible airfield complex. Popping up to 5,000 ft above ground, they dived one by one to release their bombs on the runway. Baig and Yusufzai loosened into an orbit overhead the airfield, looking out for any interceptors through the relentless Anti-Aircraft Artillery barrage.

Flg Off Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon of No 18 Squadron was rolling for take-off as No 2 in a two-Gnat formation, just as the first bombs were falling on the runway. Said to have been delayed due to dust kicked up by the preceding Gnat, Sekhon lost no time in singling out the first Sabre pair, which was re-forming after the bombing run. Changazi was, however, quick to detect the attacker behind his wingman. “Gnat behind, all punch tanks,” yelled Changazi. No 3 (Andrabi), who was just pulling out of the attack, was horrified to see the Gnat no more than 1,000 ft and firing at Dotani. “Break left,” called Andrabi, as he himself manoeuvred to get behind the Gnat. Dotani, who had been turning frantically, found his low-powered Sabre tottering at the verge of stall[2]. Unable to hang around any longer with such a precarious energy state, he decided to make a getaway. No 4 (Mir) in the meantime had completed his bombing run and, having no visual contact with the rest, decided to head home as well. The Gnat Leader, Flt Lt Ghuman, had also lost visual with his wingman just after take-off. Said to have failed in re-establishing contact, Ghuman remained out of the fight leaving Sekhon to handle the muddle all by himself.

The fight had turned into a classic tail chase, with a Sabre followed by a Gnat, which in turn was followed by another Sabre. “I am getting behind one but the other is getting an edge on me,” is how Sekhon had described the situation to his controllers. With two more free fighters watching over, the lone Gnat was practically up against four Sabres. Andrabi had, by now, closed in behind the Gnat’s rear quarters and was firing steadily. He was sure that he would get the Gnat, he excitedly forecast on the radio. His Sabre was incessantly spewing out a stream of 0.5” bullets but, despite good aim and textbook range, remained off the mark. What should have been a quick kill dragged on clumsily, testing everyone’s patience and nerves.

The Sabre had enough firepower to riddle a whole formation with bullets, so everyone was dumb-founded when Andrabi’s voice crackled on the radio, “Three is Winchester!” It meant that he had exhausted 1,800 rounds and his guns had stopped firing. The Gnat was still turning circles and it seemed that unless help came fast, Andrabi would soon be at the receiving end.

Changazi was carefully monitoring the dogfight while looking out for the elusive Gnat Leader, whose fleeting glimpse he had caught a while ago[3]. On hearing that Andrabi was spent, Changazi called him to join up as his wingman. Dislodging himself from the Gnat’s tail, Andrabi dutifully moved towards his leader. As the two were forming up, Sekhon took advantage of the slack, straightened out and jettisoned the drop tanks. In the flurry of activity, Sekhon had overlooked a vitally important step and, it was just as well that he shed dead weight for the next round. Nimbler than before, the Gnat could be seen to turn ever more tight as it started to catch up onto Changazi and Andrabi’s pair. Perched on top, the escorts watched in astonishment as the Gnat snatched degrees at a dizzying rate. The situation was getting stickier by the minute and in a couple of turns the Gnat was in a menacing position.

Silver-tongued and gravel-voiced, Andrabi was a class unto himself when he took to the radio. A smattering of expletives ensured that his calls were never disregarded even in the toughest of air combat manoeuvres. Thus, when Andrabi shouted for help against the attacker whose lineage he had declared suspect, everyone took notice! The escorts instantly dived down to grapple with Sekhon, who had turned out to be a hard nut to crack. While Yusufzai covered up as wingman, Baig easily manoeuvred to get behind the Gnat, much to everyone’s relief.

Baig had the privilege of opening his Squadron’s account by shooting down a Hunter near Peshawar, ten days earlier[4]. Since then, he had been in the thick of action in almost every sortie that he went up for. This experience, coupled with his unflappable personality, came in handy as Baig calmly positioned his pipper on the canopy of the Gnat and opened fire. Less than three seconds later the Gnat started to spew thick black smoke. Baig knew it was all over so he stopped firing and watched for the next move.

Meanwhile, the Base Commander and some senior pilots who were in the Air Traffic Control tower to monitor the dogfight, heard Sekhon’s frantic call to his leader, “I think I have been hit. Ghuman, come and get them.” With the mission leader still nowhere to be seen, the baffled ground supervisors tried to help Sekhon with the emergency but to no avail. Baig, who was following behind, saw the Gnat level its wings and head for the airfield, as if to indicate that for him the fight was over. Suddenly, the Gnat went inverted as it dove down uncontrollably from very low height. In all likelihood, the aircraft’s flight control system had failed. Sekhon attempted a last minute ejection as his canopy was seen to fly off, but the height was too low for the ejection system to function fully. The wreckage of the Gnat was found in a gorge, a few miles from the Base."

Quote closes

Squadron Leader Trevor Keelor

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Trevor Keelor immediately after the dogfight

Trevor Keelor was credited by the IAF with its first jet versus jet air combat victory - in this case over a PAF Sabre. On September 3rd, 1965 Trevor was flying in a formation of 4 Gnats that were escorting Mystere's for a ground strike in the Chambb area. Keelor spotted a Sabre coming in at 5000' trying to latch onto a Gnat in the pair ahead of Keelor. When the combat was in progress, F-104 Starfighters of the Pakistani Air Force also joined in. Unmindful of the numerical superiority of the enemy Keelor chased a Sabre jet and pressed home his attack. Keelor maneuvered behind the turning Sabre but was flying too fast and risked overshooting. So he lowered his landing gear partially to increase drag and cut speed while slamming the throttle on full to turn tighter. In an instant the Sabre loomed closer and Trevor opened fire with his 30mm Aden cannons at 450 yards closing to 200 yards. In an instant the Sabre rolled over with its right wing appearing to disintegrate. The PAF claimed later that the Sabre got back to base. At the endof the 1965 conflict Trevor also shot down an Army Observation Post aircraft of the other side. The IAF records Trevor's victory as our first. Keelor passed away in 2002.

Flight Lieutenant Virendra Singh Pathania

Indian Aviation - HAL Ajeet, the Folland Gnat Mk II. EDIT: 1965 war IAF documentary on page 6-1d-gnat-keelorpathania.jpg
Pathania & Keelor, September 1965

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Pathania Circa 1965

On September 4th, 1965 23 Squadron again flew an escort mission over the Chambb sector for Mystere fighter-bombers supporting the Army at the Akhnur bridge, Pakistan. There they found four Sabres attacking Indian Army positions and got after them. Four Gnats versus four Sabres. As one of the Sabres turned away Pathania gave chase and fired three gun bursts. The Sabre caught fire and crashed at Akhnur itself. The pilot N.M. Butt ejected and was rescued by his side soon thereafter. In the same fight Flight Lieutenant Murdeshwar had a Sabre dead in his sights but frustratingly his guns jammed - a common malady with Gnats in the earlier years.

Squadron Leader Denzil Keelor and Flight Lieutenant Viney Kapila

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Denzil Keelor, 1965

On 19th September 1965, Denzil Keelor led a flight (four aircraft) escorting Dassault Mystere fighter-bombers which were flying a ground attack mission in support of the Army in the Pasrur area inside Pakistan. They flew, along with the Mysteres at about 500' and were greeted by enemy anti-aircraft fire. Spotting a formation of 4 Sabres at 4000' above them they broke up into 2 sections (a pair of aircraft) to go after the enemy from separate directions. The Sabres were engaged by the Gnats while the Mysteres went for the ground targets. The Sabres put up a strong fight. Kapila engaged a Sabre flying at low level and fired 3 bursts at 500 yards and scored a direct hit. Credit to the Sabre pilot who kept maneuvering to shake off Kapila even after being hit. The Sabre rolled over and crashed. The pilot did not survive. Meanwhile Keelor was chasing the other pair of Sabres. One of them did not see Keelor, turned right and got fired at by Keelor. The aircraft streamed smoke and lost speed and altitude. Keelor broke away as at this point he was flying literally at 100'. Kapila got after the damaged Sabre but his guns jammed! The Sabre crashed but the pilot survived. Denzil and Trevor are brothers from Lucknow. In the 1960s the Keelor brothers were household names. Denzil Keelor went onto a distinguished career in the IAF retiring as an Air Marshal. He now contributes to not-for-profit organizations. Viney Kapila flew Mig-21s in 1971 and later went on to be an Air Vice Marshal.

Wing Commander Bharat Singh

Bharat Singh commanded Nos 2 Squadron in 1965. His squadron was acting as escorts to a formation of Canberra bombers that were on a strike mission against rail yards near Lahore. The IAF Canberras got jumped by PAF Sabres. Singh, who had a reputation of being a 'bindass guy' (to use a Mumbai term) promptly gave chase to one of the Sabres which twisted and turned with skill evading Singh's cannon shells. Though the Sabre suffered some hits it kept going. In the end they were both flying so low that in a split second of mis-judgement the Sabre literally made a controlled flight into the ground.

Squadron Leader Amar Jit Singh Sandhu

Sandhu was a maverick. He was shunted out of flying training for not possessing 'officer like qualities'. Later he performed the first dead stick landing of a Gnat when his engine flamed out. Over time his flying skills become the stuff legends are made off. On 18th September 1965 Sandhu was leading a flight of 4 Gnats on a mission over Lahore when they got engaged by 6 Sabres. Sandhu put his formation into a climbing turn and went after the lead Sabre at 20,000'. The Sabre pilot was no rookie. After an inconclusive dog fight in which they descended to 3000' the Sabre pilot did an evasive dive and hit the deck. At low altitudes and especially at speeds below 350 knots (~625 kmph) the Sabre was more maneuverable than the Gnat. Nevertheless Sandhu followed suit with a near vertical dive and as the Sabre pulled out of his dive near the deck Sandhu shot him down. Sandhu later lost his life in 1971 in a Gnat flying accident.

Flight Lieutenant AK Mazumdar

Mazumdar scored the last Gnat victory of 1965 on 20th September. He was involved in a dogfight over Lahore where 2 IAF Hawker Hunters and 2 IAF Gnats were engaged by 4 Sabres. The 2 Hunters were shot down by the PAF and Mazumdar shot down one Sabre. The pilot survived.

Battle of Boyra

This aerial combat began on 22 November, 1971, several days before the formal start of hostilities. The first encounter was so dramatic and happened in full view of so many ordinary people on the ground that it would endure in public memory as one of the most vivid moments of the war.The scene of action was in the eastern sector, a few minutes flying time away from Calcutta, the largest Indian metropolis in the east. The provocation was the repeated intrusion by groups of PAF F-86 Sabres into a salient inside Indian territory. This salient called Boyra was being used by Bangladeshi Mukti Bahini guerrillas to launch attacks inside East Pakistan. The Pakistani Army in the east had reacted angrily by launching a full scale attack in that sector but had had to beat a retreat after losing 13 tanks and many men. The job of softening & disrupting the Mukti Bahini was given to the PAF Sabres which began repeatedly to cross into Indian territory, strafing the area and slipping back into Pakistani air space. The IAF had to get them while they were in Indian air space. The window was small - barely a couple of minutes wide, and the PAF fighters had to be intercepted over a 3 km wide corridor surrounded on three sides by Pakistani territory.

Four IAF Gnats were ordered to scramble in the afternoon of 22nd November 1971 to take on four Sabres strafing the Indian territory. The Gnats got three Sabres. The IAF formation leader, Flight Lieutenant R. Massey; Flight Lieutenant M. A. Ganapathy and Flying Officer Donald Lazarus each got one Sabre. One Sabre crashed into a pond in Chaugacha on the East Pakistani side of the border, while the other two went down over Indian territory. Flight Lt. Parvez Mehdi Qureshi and Flying Officer Khalil Ahmed, the two PAF pilots who ejected over India were captured and produced before a crowded press conference the next day. The action was splashed in newspaper front pages all over the country and the three pilots who scored hits became national heroes overnight. This encounter set the tone of the air battles that were to follow. News of the incident and the famous gun camera shots were splashed across newspaper headlines the world over and the tiny Gnat reaffirmed its reputation of being the Sabre killer. After the war it was discovered that the Sabre Massey shot, though severely damaged managed to get back to a PAF air base in East Pakistan and crash land. The pilot lived though the aircraft crashed and was a write off. All three were awarded the Vir Chakra. Credit and a Vayu Sena medal also went to Flying Officer KB Bagchi, the air traffic controller who vectored the Gnats to the targets and guided them through radar interception. Massey and Ganapathy are no longer with us. Lazarus later commanded Squadron 102 flying the redoubtable Mig-25 Foxbat Mach 3.0 fighter (you can read about it on Later he answered the call of God and took up a leading role in a Christian charity mission. Qureshi who was shot down and taken prisoner later rose to head the PAF.

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Massey, Ganapathy, Lazarus

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Massey, Baghchi, Ganapathy, Soarez, Lazarus (Soarez was the 4th pilot in the flight)

The India Pakistan Air War of 1965 by PVS Jagan Mohan & Samir Chopra,2005, Manohar Publications
Eagles over Bangladesh by PVS Jagan Mohan & Samir Chopra,2013, Publisher Harper Collins
My Years with the IAF by Air Chief Marshal PC Lal, 1986, Lancer Publishers
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Old 24th April 2016, 14:09   #79
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Default re: Indian Aviation - HAL Ajeet, the Folland Gnat Mk II. EDIT: 1965 war IAF documentary on page 6

Lest we forget....for the serious enthusiast.

An authentic well made documentary of the air war of 1965. This documentary is in Hindi and is about 45 minutes in length. It contains the facts, footage from that time and interviews with many of the pilots who flew then. Presents facts with grace, with respect for the other side and without the bombast we sometimes find in military YouTube links. Flying Officer Neb interviewed here was only 21 when he shot down his first Sabre. How young is that. He repeated the trick in 1971.

We owe it to ourselves to remember and honour our living history. Jai Hind.
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Old 30th October 2017, 15:25   #80
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Default Re: Indian Aviation - HAL Ajeet, the Folland Gnat Mk II. EDIT: 1965 war IAF documentary on page 6

For those interested in Indian military reading I would highly recommend the best book I have ever read on post 1947 history of the Indian Armed Forces.

"India's Wars, A Military History 1947‎-1971" by Arjun Subramaniam. Publishes by the Naval Institute Press.

The author is a retired Air Vice Marshall and a PhD in military studies.

In terms of accuracy of facts, balanced portrayal, lucid flowing narration, interesting readability this is the best I have read so far by an Indian author on recent Indian military. ‎It covers the 3 armed forces, the wars of '48, '62, '65 and '71 and the story of what worked and what didn't. All this sans jingoism.
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Old 18th March 2019, 09:58   #81
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Default Re: Indian Aviation - HAL Ajeet, the Folland Gnat Mk II. EDIT: 1965 war IAF documentary on page 6

Historic Photo of the very first Folland Gnat built for the Indian Air Force

IE1059 is the first Gnat that entered service with the IAF. It was built in the UK for the IAF and first flew on 11th January 1958. It was then air transported to India in the hold of a Fairchild Packet C-119G.

Photo: Courtesy Bharat
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