Wednesday, June 16, 2010

65 Air War Mysteries : The Hunter vs the Starfighter

Its almost five years since the "India-Pakistan Air War of 1965" was published - At that time we had done our best to research most of the facts and stories of the 65 War. We interviewed veterans, procured official records and reports and squeezed whatever information we could to the best of our abilities. We tried meticulously to compare accounts from either side, and to resolve differences in accounts.

However despite all our efforts, we still come across stories that fascinate us, or those tales that we have not been able to resolve. These are what I call 'Mysteries' of the 65 Air War.

Five years on , a couple of these gaps have been filled but most remain so. In a series of posts, I will list out the stories and mysteries that either still require solving or have been solved in these recent years.

The Hunter Vs the Starfighter:

A very fascinating story was narrated by Fricker in his book - about an aircombat between a Pakistani Starfighter and an Indian Hunter. The fight started on an unspecified date, when two F-104s scrambled and visually identified two Hunters ahead of them. Fricker continues the story:

..No.2 Flt Lt Arif Manzoor, picked up the two Hunters on his radar and took the lead. As he began overtaking the Hunters at Mach 0.85, both IAF aircraft broke left, possibly warned by Amritsar Radar.

One Hunter rolled over on its back and pulled through in a split-S manoeuvre, while the other turned so tightly during its break that Flt Lt Manzoor saw it stall and pitch up no fewer than three times. By then the F-104s had been seperated, but Flt Lt Manzoor stayed with the second Hunter, hoping to release a Sidewinder as soon as it became possible to relax the amount of g being pulled in the turn. In th emeantime, he also endeavoured to close the range of the Hunter so that he can use the Vulcan cannon. At about 5000 feet distance, he laid his computing gunsight ahead of the Hunter, but found the target sliding up his windscreen as the IAF aircraft tightened its turn still further.

As he racked the Stargihter round as tightly as possible, Flt Lt Manzoor opened up power to keep his speed above about Mach 0.9, He was therefore unworried about being intercepted in turn despite warnings from his No.1 of other enemy aircraft in the vicinity.

In all, the F-104 made four attempts to nail the determined adversary, but each time the Hunter was able to out-turn the Starfighter, although it stalled out twice more in the process. . Eventually Flt Lt Manzoor realised that the situation was a stalemate.... disengaged by zooming up in afterburner....

...This degree of flying skill was not often demonstrated by the pilots of the IAF....."

It is surprising that Fricker didnt pin a date on this aircombat, even though it is said to be one of the only eight aerial encounters of this type. All the other seven encounters get a date with the exception of this one.
Ofcourse, neither could we figure out the story from the Indian side. Certainly the Battle Axe History does not mention any such encounter. The only other possibility may be 27 Squadron, but no accounts or corraboration appeared from that side as well.

Identifying this Hunter pilot shouldnt be a difficult task. With only 2.5 Squadrons of Hunters taking part, there wouldnt be more than 45 - 50 Hunter pilots who may have taken part in offensive ops. How many of these actually reported encountering a PAF fighter in air combat? There must be some operational report somewhere!
The task would actually be easier if any interprid Pakistani Historian can nail the date of the encounter by referring to the logbook of Arif Manzoor. But apparently Arif Manzoor had passed away long ago. That shouldn't stop anyone from trying to find out more about this combat.