Indian Air Force Trivia Page

A Spitfire loss in 1947 Kashmir War.
Recently I came across the loss of a  Spitfire during the 1947 War. actually, it was not due to direct enemy action , but rather a case of "Straying" across.

It was in Nov 47, during the critical days of the   tribal invasion of Kashmir, Three Spitfires were directed to fly from Ambala to Srinagar. leading the formation was Fg Off Dilbagh Singh (Later CAS). All the three spits took off and flew towards Kashmir and encounter severe rain and bad visibility. Dilbagh Singh on landing observed that his Wingman Fg Off P V S Ram did not turn up, and it was believed he crashed on the way.

Fg. Off Ram had infact lost his way and strayed into Pakistan. where once darkness fell he decided to forceland. However his cut out forcing him to bail out near the pakistani town of Muree. Luckily he was found by members of the Pakistan Army and as an official state of war did not exist, Ram was repatriated back within a couple of Days to India.

Another "Stray"  Incident at the other end of the country.
The only ocassion when the crew of an IAF plane had the oppurtunity to enjoy a foreign country's hospitality during the fiftees was in 1958. Fg Off U K Paul on a supply dropping mission in the north-east lost his way after his navigator gave him wrong bearings. When the Dakota ran out of fuel he did a forcelanding in a river bed, which turned out to be the river Irrawady in Burma. The Burmese Air Force took charge of the "guests" and they were repatriated with full fanfare after a month. the Burmese even gave the aircrew allowances with which one of them bought a supply of sunglasses which was promplty seized by the custom officials at Calcutta.
No Problem my Navvie will fly it.
One day in 1951, a solitary Dakota flown by Fg Off R D Sahni was circling over the Srinagar area waiting for permission to land. Sahni infact wanted to take a breather and instructed his navigator to take the controls and "fly" it while he went back and came. The navigator took over the controls with disastrous consequences. on hitting an air pocked, the navigator couldnot regain the control and the Dakota struck the stillwaters of the Wular lake at a shallow angle. Luckily the crew survived the "Ditching", and the Dakota was recovered too, however it never flew again and was struck off for parts.
Indian Ace
Generally, the term "Ace" is reserved to refer to pilots who got more than Five Air to Air Combat kills. Using this benchmark, the only   Indian who qualifies for the appelation "Ace" is Capt Inder Lal Roy, a World War I pilot who served with the Royal Flying Corps. He flew against the Germans in Europe and has Nine air to air combat kills. Roy failed to return from a combat over London on July 22, 1918.

Awarded the DFC while alive, the tattered ribbon and medal can be viewed at the Indian Air Force Museum at Palam, New Delhi.

Other pilots who got air to air kills include Lt Harjit Singh Malik and Lt Wellingkar who was awarded the Military Cross.

World War 2 Fliers
Next comes the question of who were the fliers in World War 2 who got combat kills. Flt Lt J C Verma serving with No.6 Hurricanes, shot down a Nakajima Oscar fighter on 5 Feb 1944 for which he recieved the DFC. Recent accounts indicate Flt Lt M S Pujji DFC is credited with downing three German aircraft when he was serving with Fighter Command. These include the claims for Two Bf 109s. However this needs confirmation from more sources. One particular memoir by a Hurricane pilot indicated a Flt lt Reddy ? shot down a Zero Fighter over Burma but himself in turn was shot down and killed by the Zero's Wingman.
The Tuskers visit Kalaikonda Air Force Base.
So Whats the big deal you might ask? that the IAF No.5 Tusker Squadron visited Kalaikonda. Well We mean tuskers as in elephants! in 1997 Some Wild Elephants broke through the Airfield perimeter in Kalaikonda Air Force Base at Midnapore, West Bengal and made their way to the aircraft dispersal where some MiG-27s were parked. The Airfield security could just watch aghast as the Elephants playfully nudged the MiGs and assorted ground equipment around.

The Elephants had to await the arrival of the forest gaurds equipped with tranquilizer guns in the evening before they could be moved out. Fortunately None of the MiGs were damaged despite their "handling"

The Mil Mi-8 Kill that wasn't..
A look at the PAF Air Kills claim   of the 1971 War, will show a "luckless Mi 8 Helicopter Shot down near Munabao" on Dec 11, by Starfighters. Looking into the circumstances, One would find the IAF or the Army had not even inducted Mi-8 Helicopters in 1971!

The reason behind the claim arises when you look into the actual circumstances. Air Chief Marshal P C Lal recounts how Fg Off S C Sharma was taking off in a Mi-4 Helicopter at Uttarlai when the starfighters attacked. Sharma saved the helicopter and himself by hovering over a Sand dune and running the rotor at full blast. and the Starfighters lost him in the resultant  dust storm. Probably the pak pilots mistook him to have been downed and claimed a Mi-8 Helicopter as shot down. However, both Sharma as well as the Mi-4 Chopper survived to fly another day!

Naval Sea Hawks to Meet threat from the Himalayas
Few people know that during the critical days of the 1962 conflict with China,  The government even moved the Sea Hawk squadron from the INS Vikrant to the Foothills of the Himalayas just in case the war escalated to the air. Thankfully, the need to test these vintage aircraft against the chinese never arose.

Sea Hawks were also supposed to attack the Pakistani Radar station at Badin in 1965, but were pulled out for the defence of the Bombay High at the last moment.

Friendly Fire!
An Occasion on which an incident of Friendly fire had been orchested by the Enemy is illustrated here. During the 1965 War, a battery of the  65th Med Regiment intercepted a wireless transmission from the pakistanis requesting for Air Support over a particular area which will be marked by Red Smoke Shells that will be launched when the PAF aircraft were ahead.

As soon as the PAF aircraft came over, the Indians stole a march and fired the Red Smoke Shells onto Pakistani positions in a village, which the PAF aircraft promptly attacked immediately thereafter. No wonder "marking" the target in this way was soon given up!

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