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Afghan Air Battles

Background
During the Afghan War, nine PAF squadrons took part in providing defence of Pakistan's airspace. The PAF logged 10939 sorties entailing 13275:40 hours of flying. A total of 2476 enemy air violations were recorded comprising 7,589 enemy aircraft. Eight of these planes were shot down by six different pilots of the PAF, all belonging to the F-16 squadrons. A large number of Afghan planes also defected or were forced to land in Pakistan during that time.

Being the only air superiority squadron in the north at that time, 15 Air Superiority Squadrin was tasked for Air Defence Alert (ADA) duties. As many as 6+2 and 8+2 F-6 aircraft were put on ADA at one time. From 1980 onwards, 23 Squadron from Samungli began supporting the 15 Squadron as well. On March 1, 1980, a Russian Il-26 violated Pakistan airspace and came as far as Risalpur. Two F-6s were scrambled from 11 Squadron at Chaklala in response. They intercepted the intruder and fired a warning burst. The Il-26 turned back towards the border and its pilot transmitted calls for help. At that time, six Mig-23 entered the airspace from three different directions. Two more F-6s were scrambled but were ordered not to take any offensive action; therefore no engagement took place. This was certainly an indication of the things to come.

During 1985, there were occasional intrussions by Afghan aircraft but the situation was not serious. During that time, the Army got Stinger missiles and deployed them at on different border areas. Corp Commander of Peshawar, Lt Gen Aslam Beg claimed that the army would be the first one to shoot down an enemy aircraft. During May of 1986 however, the violations increased and on 17 May, 483 CRC vectored a pair of F-16s on a dawn CAP towards the two intruding enemy planes. Both planes were shot down after a brief engagement and the army was contacted to locate the wreckage.

Soon after, the Afghans were violating Pakistani airspace from Arandu in north to Wana in the south. The government directive was to thrawt the enemy without cross-border manoeuvres. The Rules of Engagement (ROE) were reviewed and the concept of 'Slashing Attack' was formulated. The aim was to make a single high speed pass to shoot an enemy aircraft and then to extricate quickly so that minimum time was spent in the combat area.

In an incident during 1987, four Afghan aircraft intruded as deep as Shabqabad. Two F-6s on ADA from Peshawar were scrambled. However, one aircraft had to abort and thus abiding by the ROEs, the other fighter was not committed. Thus, an oppertunity to score a kill was missed.

Newer technology and tactics were continually entering the arena. The introduction of Elnit type aircraft by the Soviets had posed a problem, and the squadrons quickly inroduced new counter-tactics and safegaurds. In the meantime came the dramatic news that a true BVR missile was soon to be introduced by the Soviets in the warzone with some Russian Mig-29s. Although the pilots were never to engage this type of aircraft in combat, following an immediate operator-level research initiative, the PAF's first ever anti-BVR tactics were introduced. The efficacy of these tactics was soon recognized by the Combat Commanders School (CCS), and it adapted them for its F-16 courses and subsequently for use in most other fighter squadrons.

Successful Encounters
Some of the successful encounters during the war are of importance since they constitute the PAF only live combat experience sine 1971 war, to date. They provided an oppertunity to all combat elements such as pilots, the air defence controllers, and the maintenance crew to test their endurance, assets and skill.

Near Engagements/ Missed Oppertunities