Pakistan Air Force (PAF) is the Aviation branch of the Pakistan Armed Forces and is responsible for defending Pakistani air-space from intrusions. It also provides air support for ground troops. Every year the 7th of September, as day after the annual celebration of the Pakistan Defense Day, the day is celebrated as the Air Force day in Pakistan. That day Air shows and other programs mark the PAF’s role in defending the nation.
The PAF’s insignia resembles the low-visibility roundel used by the Royal Air Force. The tail marking is the Flag of Pakistan.
The primary mission statement of the PAF was given by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistani during his address to the passing out cadets of the Pakistan Air Force Academy Risalpur on 13 April 1948. His following statement has been taken as an article of faith by all coming generations of PAF personnel
But the present scenario has required and enabled the Force to come up with an improved and up-to-date Mission Statement
The Royal Pakistan Air Force (RPAF) was formed in 1947 following the Partition of India. The RPAF began with 2,332 personnel, a fleet of 24 Tempest II fighter-bombers, 16 Hawker Typhoon fighters (also called Tempest I), two H. P. 57 Halifax bombers, 2 Auster aircraft, twelve T – 6G Havard trainers and ten Tiger Moth Biplanes. It also got eight C – 47 Dakota cargo planes which it used to transport supplies to soldiers fighting in the 1947 War in Kashmir against India. However, it allegedly never received all the planes it was alloted at the time of partition of sub-continent. It started with 7 operational airbases scattered all over the provinces. The prefix Royal was removed when Pakistan gained the status of Republic on 23rd March 1956. It has since been called Pakistan Air Force (PAF).
Operating these inherited aircraft was far from ideal in Pakistan’s diverse terrains, deserts and mountains; frequent attrition and injuries did not make the situation any better. However, by 1948 the air force acquired better aircraft such as the Hawker Sea Fury fighter-bomber and the Bristol Freighter. These new aircraft gave a much-needed boost to the morale and combat capability of the Pakistan Air Force; 93 Hawker Fury and roughly 50-70 Bristol Freighter aircraft were inducted into the PAF by 1950.
Although the Pakistan Air Force had little funds to use and markets to choose from, it entered the Jet age quite early. Initially it had planned to acquire US-built F – 94Cs, F – 86s, or F – 84s and produce its order in Pakistan. However, lack of funds and strong British pressure persuaded the PAF to acquire the British Supermarine Attacker. The first squadron equipped with these aircraft was the Number-11 “Arrow”. The Supermarine Attacker had a rather unsatisfactory service in the Pakistan Air Force with frequent attrition and maintenance problems. In 1957 the Pakistan Air Force received 100 American-built F-86 Sabres under the U.S. aid program. Squadron after squadron in the PAF retired its Hawker Furys and Supermarine Attackers, and replaced them with F-86 jet fighters. In 1957 thirty-six year old Air Marshal Asghar Khan became the Pakistan Air Force’s first commander-in-chief; his tenure saw a change of PAF discipline, professionalism and quality which even today leaves its positive mark on the PAF. During his eight-year command the PAF saw modernization and re-equipment programs, as well as stricter and better training.
Indo-Pakistan War of 1965
On September 6, 1965 war broke out between India and Pakistan. The first PAF F – 104 kill of an Indian Air Force Mystere IV with one of its Sidewinders came on the afternoon of September 7, making it the first combat kill with a Mach 2-capable aircraft. Pakistan attacked India using F-104, F-86, B-57 and RT – 33A. On September 7, 1965 the PAF claimed a heavy toll on the IAF with Sqn Ldr Muhammad Mahmood Alam in his F-86 Sabre claiming as many as four IAF Hunters.
In addition to brunting the Indian army’s attacks in several sectors, and inflicting severe damages to some IAF bases, PAF had destroyed 104 IAF aircraft for a loss of 19 aircraft.
During the war 16 PAF pilots volunteered to go to the Middle East in order to support Eqypt and Syria but by the time they arrived, Egypt had already been pushed into a ceasefire. Syria remained in a state of war against Israel. Eight (8) PAF pilots started flying out of Syrian Airbases; they formed the A-flight of 67 Squadron at Dumayr Airbase. The Pakistani pilots flew Syrian Mig – 21 aircraft conducting CAP missions for the Syrians. Flt. Lt. A. Sattar Alvi became the first Pakistani pilot, during the Yom Kippur War, to shoot down an Israeli Mirage in air combat. He was honored by the Syrian government. Other aerial encounters involved Israeli F4 Phantoms; Pakistan Air Force did not lose a single pilot or aircraft during this war. The Pakistani pilots stayed on in Syria until 1976, training Syrian pilots in the art of air warfare.The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 in support of the pro-Soviet government in Kabul, which was being hard-pressed by Mujahadeen rebel forces, marked the start of a decade-long occupation. Mujahadeen rebels continued to harass the occupying Soviet military force as well as the forces of the Afghan regime that it was supporting. The war soon spilled over into neighbouring Pakistan, with a horde of refugees fleeing to camps across the border in an attempt to escape the conflict. In addition, many of the rebels used Pakistan as a sanctuary from which to carry out forays into Afghanistan, and a steady flow of US-supplied arms was carried into Afghanistan from staging areas in Pakistan near the border. This inevitably resulted in border violations by Soviet and Afghan aircraft attempting to interdict these operations.
Between May 1986 and January 1989, PAF F-16s shot down at least ten intruders from Afghanistan. Four of the kills were Afghan Su-22s bombers, three were Afghan transports (two An-26s and one An-24), and one was a Soviet Su-25 bomber. Most of these kills were achieved using the AIM-9 Sidewinder, but a Su-22 was destroyed by cannon fire and the one An-24 crash landed after being forced to land upon interception.