Hat Trick for Khalid

Pilots Sqd Ldr Ehtsham Zakaria (leader)
Flt Lt Khalid Mehmood (no.2)
Controller Sqd Ldr Saif-ur-Rahman
Date 3 November 1988
Aircraft shot 1 x Su-22
Area West of Thal

Squadron Leader Khalid's third and PAF's last confirmed victory came during a course of a CAP mission near Kohat. On this occasion, Khalid was flying as No. 2 in a two-ship formation of F-16s. The encounter opened with Khalid and his leader at 10,000 ft when they were informed by th GCI that six unidentified hostile aircraft were heading towards the border. A subsequent message confirmed that three of them had violated Pakistani airspace while the other three stayed right on the border line.

On a heading of 280 degrees, the two F-16s moved to engage; the lead quickly informed the GCI that he had radar contact. Khalid obtained a lock on the No. 2 aircraft, which was flying on a southern side of the formation. They continued to close the gap but at a distance of 8 NM, No. 2 and 3 of the enemy formation executed a 180 degree turn that very quickly allowed them to regain the security of the Afghanistan airspace. For some reason, the leading Afghan fighter kept coming in and at a range of 7 NM, the F-16 lead pilot obtained a visual contact, with Khalid following suit moments later. At this time, both F-16s were still around 10,000 ft while the bandit, an Su-22 was some 7,000 ft higher. Both F-16s then initiated a gradual climb as the Su-22 began turning to depart, the enemy pilot having been warned by his GCI of the presence of the two F-16s. His tardiness in heading for safety was to prove fateful. The leader elected to press home his attack, but the Su-22 pilot then showed good tactical sense by turning to face the threat. This prevented the first F-16 from launching a missile. Besides, the leader had experienced some difficulty with his Sidewinder, which may have prevented him from engaging the target. In choosing to evade the threat posed by the leading F-16, the Su-22 pilot placed himself at the risk of attack by Khalid, who wasted no time in making a hard right turn into the Su-22 and launched a AIM-9L from a range of 2.7 NM in a head-on pass. While all this was going on, the lead F-16 began manoeuvering into a position which would enable him to engage the Su-22 with gunfire from a 6 o'clock position. He still had some way to go when Khalid's Sidewinder struck home. Smoke and flying panels issued from the damaged fighter, which continued flying about 10 NM inside Pakistan.

Khalid realized very quickly that the Su-22 was damaged. He waited a few more seconds before launching another AIM-9L at an aspect angel of about 150-160 degrees. The missile had barely left the rail when the enemy pilot ejected. The missile scored a direct hit, causing the Su-22 to break in two and to head earthwards in flaming debris. The entire incident was observed from the ground by personnel of the Pakistan Army and by Phatan tribesmen. The wreckage of the Afghan Su-22 fell 10 NM from Thal on the bank of river Kurram. Pakistan's Militia forces in the area apprehended Captain Abdul Hashim, the pilot of the ill-fated fighter.

A tribal chief in the Kohat area contacted Air Headquaters and expressed the wishes of his people to present arms to the pilot who had shot down the Afghan aircraft. Following the directive of the CAS, the Base Commander Kohat arranged a special function to commemorate the occasion. Most of the civilian and military dignitaries of Kohat, some senior PAF officers from Air HQ and many tribal chiefs were invited. In the ceremony, Khalid was presented a pen pistol ( on which his name was engraved as Pilot Officer Ababeel ), a stiletto, two scabbards of Klashnikov rifle and some bullets for his pistol. Besides, a copy of Holy Quran, wrapped in the national flag, placed in traditional colored hand-woven 'Changairs', was also presented to Khalid. It was according to him, quite a touching moment.