Military Aviation: Bangladesh 71& Airmen in PAF by Syed Mohd. Saleh Uddin

ubject: Military aviation history and memoir.

Military Aviation: Bangladesh 71& Airmen in PAF

                     

                             Syed Mohd. Saleh Uddin, Assist. Prof. (retd)

      Ex-airman PAF and BAF, instructor Army Education Corps, SWO (retd)

 

The story of Military Aviation in this sub continent is as old as First World War. During this World War use of aircrafts were limited. Its main cause were few countries had Air force, fight worthy aircrafts were not that effective, landing strips were not constructed in all the warring countries etc. However, to control Waziri Pathan and others of Waziristan British Government built an airstrip where they employed few aircrafts of that time. Those went on operation against Kabaily (tribal) people of that area. Besides, no story of thrilling dog fights against enemy aircrafts in the air of this sub-continent i.e. in the sky of present Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri- Lanka, Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan.

 

Mil. Aviation during WW ii: During Second World War British Government was prepared for air war. A south Asia command was formed under Admiral Mountbatten in August 1943. It included the RAF Third Tactical Air Force (third TAF). It launched operation in December 1943 against the warring forces of emperor of Japan in Burma. The RIAF (the Royal Indian Air Force) the Indian Part of RAF the (the Royal Air Force) then used to provide tactical reconnaissance and extensive close support to Army when British Corps started advancing down the Arakan coast in January 1944. To strengthen air units no 6 squadron moved to Coxes Bazar in the November 1943 and later no 8squadron was also sent there. By the end of February 1944 the kites of no 6 squadron attacked over 1000 times over enemy positions. Sorties of brave pilots of the squadron were about 6 sorties per pilot a day. It was the record for the third TAF.

Towards the end of March 1944 no 4 squadron was sent to the war area to join the operation. It was sent first to the Feni Airfield. In the May 1944 no 9 squadron  came back from operational station to Comilla. It was operated in the war fields of Imphal and Kohima. In the June 1944 no 4 squadron replaced no 6 squadron in Comilla. No 4 and 9 squadrons bombed over Japanese positions for three days  in August 1944. By the end of December 1944 no 10 squadron was sent to the operational area at Ramu. In May 1945 Rangoon was fallen to the British warriors. So operation was limited to the mopping only in Burma. To assist mopping only 8 squadron was in the operational airfield but rest were withdrawn (for further pl. visitaviationbangladesh.wordpress.com).      

Then after the independence of Pakistan and India in 1947 this land was East Pakistan. So PAF stations were in Dhaka, Chittagong and Jessore. However few Radar stations were established also in other British built airports. In 1971 Bangladesh emerged. BAF was established in the name of Kilo Flight. About BAF many entries exist in Banglapedia, Wikipedia, navigationtalk.word press.cometc. Now Bangladesh Air Force is flying modern aircrafts like F-7/J7 Air guard, Mig-19 Farmer, Mig-29 Fulcrum, Q-5 Fantan etc Fighter/Attack aircrafts, Antonov AN-32 Cline, C-130 Hercules etc military transport aircrafts, L-39 Albatross, A-37 Dragonfly etc trainers and Bell-206 Jet Ranger, UH- 1 Huey, Mi- 8/17 Hip etc Helicopter. At present it is having its own various training centres.

Bangladesh Army Aviation and Naval Aviation are also proud organisation of the land. Present Bangladesh Army Aviation came to this stage after long evaluation step by step as follows:

1.       Raised as Bangladesh Army Aviation Flight on January 01, 1978.

2.       Upgraded to Bangladesh Army Aviation Regiment on September 07, 1979.

3.       Upgraded to Bangladesh Army Air Regiment on July 15, 1980.

4.       Upgraded to Bangladesh Army Aviation on November 27, 1995.

The Operational Flying Army Aviation group is the only Pilot Training Institute of Bangladesh Army. By 2014 from its establishment it has given training to 76 Army and Naval pilots. Till date Army Aviation flew Hiller UH-212 helicopter left by Pakistan Army, Bell Augusta 205 helicopter, Cessna- 152A trainer aircraft, Piper Cheyenne 31 TI aircraft, Bell 206 L-4 helicopter, Cessna Grand Caravan Aircraft, Euro copter 365 Dauphin and Euro copter AS 565 Panther helicopters.

Bangladesh Naval Aviation started its journey on 14 July 2011. Its initial aircraft was Augusta Westland AW 109 Power helicopter (UK & Italy origin), Dornier 228 NG aircraft (German origin) and Harbin Z-9 C maritime helicopter from China on order.

 

(Ref: Wave sites of Bangladesh Army Aviation, Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Navy, Wikipedia etc.)

 

In BAF there are many sophisticated aircrafts. Their list is available in various wave sites. The list given in the Wikipedia is as follows:

Active Service [edit]

Combat Aircraft

Aircraft

Image

Origin

Role

Series

In service

Notes

MiG-29 Russia

Air superiority

S
UB

6
2

On April 25, 2013 Russian Aviaton published a news that RAC MiG is negotiating with Bangladesh government for upgrading the 8 Mig-29 into Mig-29SMT. [1]
F-7 China

Fighter / Interceptor

BG
BGI

16
16

12 F-7BG with 4 FT-7BG received in early 2006.
16 F-7BGI received in 2013 as stop-gap aircraft till the proposed 4.5 generation fighter procurement matures.
Nanchang A-5 China

Ground attack/Close air support

C

10[2]

12 Q-5C received in 1989-1990. 2 aircraft lost in accidents.
Aero L-39 Albatros Czechoslovakia

AJT/LA/AR

ZA

7

A total of 8 aircraft delivered. 1 aircraft crashed in 2012.
Shenyang FT-6 China

OCU

 

6

Used as the trainer aircraft of A-5C. Scheduled to be replaced soon. 36 F-6/FT-6 received from China from 1976-1983.

Trainer Aircraft

Nanchang PT-6 China

Primary Trainer

A

24

One of the aircraft crashed in 2012. 24 aircraft remain out of 40 delivered.
Bell 206 Long Ranger USA

Rotary Wing Trainer

L-2
L-4

2
2

 
Cessna T-37 Tweet USA

Jet Trainer

B

12[3]

Placed in reserve. Scheduled to be replaced with Advanced Turboprop Trainers along with PT-6. The possible replacement might be YAK-152/CJ-7.

Transport Aircraft

Lockheed C-130 Hercules USA

Special Ops

B

4

Former United States Air Force aircraft bought at cost of $15M each.
BAF is negotiating for 4 off the shelf C-130Es under Excess Defence Article (EDA). The package would also include 20 Rolls-Royce T56 engines to be provided plus training and other equipment and services associated with the upgrade.
 
Antonov An-32 Ukraine

Tactical Transport / Converted Bomber

C

3

Bangladesh Air Force received 3 aircraft in late ’80s.  

V.I.P. Transport Helicopter

 
Mil Mi-17V-5   Russia

V.I.P.Transport helicopter

V

2

   

Attack Helicopter

 
Mil Mi-171 Russia

Battlefield Close Air Support

Sh

On order

5 Mi-171sh were ordered in April 2014.[4]  

Helicopter

 
Mil Mi-17 Russia

Air Assault,MedEvac,Battlefield Close Air Support

H

18

   
Bell 212 USA

Air Assault,Special Ops, SAR,MedEvac

13

Bought from US stock.  

(Courtesy: This list is taken from the Wikipedia)

  

 Here I like to tell you the deserted officers, airmen of Pakistan Air force and few pilots of PIA were the initial members of new BAF i.e. Kilo flight established in an abandoned air Base of India at Dimapur in Nagaland. Its officers and airmen were absconded from various PAF Bases of Pakistan. Now I like to tell you how airmen were made captive and unarmed. Since at that time I had been posted in the PAF Base Sargodha I can tell you the story of Sargodha only. In August 1970 I joined there from the PAF training centre SOA (School of aeronautics) at Korangi Creek in Karachi.

For few months I worked in the rescue squadron (most probably no-3 or 103 or 503 squadron what I am forgotten) and had to do a local familiarization course on KAMAN H-43 B Helicopter. Then I was called by the Central trade training board (CTTB) of PAF Sargodha, for a familiarization course on F-6 (Mig-19) aircraft. On completion of that course I was posted to ASU (aircraft storage unit), F-6 aircraft.

With other senior airmen I had to discharge my routine inspection duty in the stored kites.

Actually other job was not there. We were happy with our job. Some time LAC Musa bhai charmed us by singing beautiful songs. He could sing Bengali, Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi songs. He was from Chittagong and dear to all. The NCO in charge of a unit (section) was Sgt. Sarder. He talked like a philosopher and guided us well. Most probably he was the only Bengali speaking Non Commissioned Officer in charge of the ASU.

It may be 23rd March 1971. We were issuing our tools from Sgt. Sarder to inspect our aircrafts. In the way he took back those because we had to go to the Hanger where a Marage-3 was in a rigorous inspection. We were needed there for lack of man power and also it was part of our on job training. Accordingly we marched to the Hanger. We found the aircraft was on the jack. Its engine was over the trolley. The process of dismantling its landing gears was going on. We were ready to extend our helping hands.

Suddenly an order came: All the Bengali airmen fall in. Accordingly we did. A voice said, “By the left quick march.” In front of the airmen mess the same voice said, “Holt”. Order to break up was given but before that we were instructed not to move from the barrack.

Practically we were captive. Our movement became limited to mess and mosque from the barrack. No parade, no PT, no fatigue etc nothing else.

Bengali airmen were agitated. They wanted to know what was happening in the country. I requested my father to send letters addressed to N.U. Ahmed. Actually there was none by this name. I wanted to know the condition of liberation war in the country. Few of Bengali airmen were more conscious about politics of the land. Sometimes they talked about liberation war. In the news paper news of liberation war, about Maulana Bhasani, about Bagha Siddiquui, success of Pakistani soldiers came. Indian soldiers’ movement and the air crossing by Indian air force aircrafts were also among the news. Once Sgt. Siraj bhai in a occasion emotionally talked about many disparities.

New airmen like me were at that time at the verge of teen age or just cross it. So, they do not have much idea about politics of the country and that were going on in East Pakistan even before our joining the PAF. For military discipline all seniors used keep rank wise distance. Among Bengali Airmen Seniors NCOs’ and Warrant officers were the member of Sgt, Mess. Bengali officers’ abodes were Officer Mess. So, in that period we had cordial communication with airmen who were up to the rank of Corporal & who used to dine in the airmen mess. Corporal the young NCOs were not that political conscious. I cannot remember now how many Bengali speaking airmen were dining in the airmen mess.

However, PAF intelligence personnel of the air base in many excuse used to talk with us. After joining the posted base all the airmen felt they had identical distance. Especially between Punjabi and Bengali distance was not crossable. But with Pathan Bengali were friendlier. Here I like to cite an example. At that time I had been trainee in SOA, Korangi Creek in Karachi. My roommates were Sher Gul and Sher Afzol. They were Pathan. In the training centres I was named Judo. Its cause was before joining PAF I learnt few tactics’ of Judo unofficially but not from any Judo trainer. But in PAF Kohat, I choosed Judo & Boxing and thus I became the Boxer of RTS, PAF Kohat. For the courtesy of PTI CPL. Niazi or any other among the trainees I became Judo or Boxer.

In one occasion Sher Gul requested me to teach him a Judo tactics. It was about PT time. For the purpose of teaching I applied a technique. Sher Gul fallen down over one leg of most probably a two storied iron charpoy. So over his forehead he sustained a cut. So, there was bleeding. Teaching such thing in the barrack was not permitted. However, I took him to medical centre but to nobody he expressed that I was the cause of that wound. So I was saved from charge. Here though not relevant yet I like to say about a cultural norm of Pathan. According to them passing air in front of any body is an act of Begairot, means shameless. Someone said for such act one had to quite his tribal area when unknowingly he did such act what other listened. Such happened in our room in SOA. Sher Afzol became agitated.

Now let us come back to Sargodha life. I told about intelligence person. One of such Cpl once came to me and requested me to teach him Bengali as saying Bondhu bhai, please teach me Bengali. He was a Punjabi. It is worth mentioning here that in the camp Bandhu bhai was a code word to Punjabi what mentioned Bengali. To Bengali ‘Pya’ was a code word for Punjabi. It was long tradition of the PAF camps but none knew who named like that. However I told that Pya Cpl, well, I will teach you Bengali. It is natural for Punjabi that they cannot pronounce Bengali words properly as Bengali can pronounce any language well. So crookedness of my teen age inspired me to make fun with him. I told him: I will give you certain hard words what you will have to pronounce for the few days, which may help you to ease your tongue to pronounce hard Bengali words.

My first lesson to him was ‘Maha Sankot’(Bohot Muskil) to pronounce for few days and then second lesson was ‘Vom Sankot’(Muskil dur ho jao). Both the words were very tough to him. Once he came to me with a précis or book for learning Bengali, most probably supplied by the PAF authority. He told me, “Tomna jo sikhaya ea koi Bangla hai?” (What you had taught me is it any Bengali?). I told him those lessons were only to ease your tongue, so that you can pronounce the Bengali words what is very hard to you. Later he never came to me. He was a corporal and I was a LAC. So, in peace time he could frame charge against me. I am sorry for this fun.

Bengali airmen were frustrated. In barracks no layout of kits, so on charpoys there were groups of card players who knew it. Others sometimes were in the bed and sometimes walking in the room or outside and some were taking preparation of their Intermediate exam from Sargodha board who filled in forms for that. I was one among them. Mosque attendance was also increasing among Bengali airmen.
Cpl. Shrif bhai and SAC Tofazzol bhai regularly attended the mosque. Once in the Johr or Asar prayer I saw Tofazzol bhai was in the mosque alone when others left the mosque after prayer (if my memory does not fail to recollect). He had taken out an atlas map and a small compass. I cannot remember what he actually told. But the gist of his expressions till now I can remember. That is those would help him to run away.

The mosque was at the northern end of the airmen barracks. At its western side were Malta, Keno( orange), Mosambee ( a type of sweet lemon) etc orchids. Adjacent to it was barbed wire fencing. Then a pasture where Dumbas(lamb), goats, cows and buffaloes used to graze. Then there was the PAF Public College Sargodha. From this College many East Pakistani fighter pilots came out. Bir Shresto Flt. Lt. Matiur Rahman was one of the students of this college. Most probably Sqdn.Ldr. Alam the hero of the 1965 war who was also an Air Ace for his valour was the student of this school.

When we were passing idle time a student named Mahmood came to see me from that college in our Airmen Mess. His resident was behind the agricultural laboratory now adjacent to Krishibid Institution, Farm gate, Dhaka. At that time another student was there named Moin. He was my classmate in Tejgaon Poly Technique High School when we were students of class six. But I do not know their military position because I saw none of them in BAF or in Bangladesh Army. There was other such college was PAF Public College Lower Toppa, Mari. I know Group. Capt Alfaj. He was one of the students of this college.

However, let us come back to SAC Tofazzol bhai. I do not know whether he could collect topographical map of big scale with good relief and representation. His small scale Atlas map was not good enough for his purpose. Even every prominent feature in such maps was absent. Here I like to say about Sargodha district. It is in Punjab. It is far away from the border. Its people at that time were very illiterate. They understood only ‘Thol’ (local) Punjabi dialect. Urdu even Punjabi of the town were as if Greek to them. It was vast area. Its land was cultivated extensively. Its main crops were wheat, sugarcane, maize, cotton etc. Hither and thither there were Malta and Orange gardens. Near Sargodha there was Jafarabad where land had Malta and Orange plantation miles after miles. Big old mango garden were also seen. In peace time once I was given chance to fly in KAMAN H- 43 B helicopter when it was in a cross country training flight. I saw its complex land what in Atlas map is never given. So, if he would try to flee by that map he would certainly be unsuccessful. By this time a group of Bengali airmen including G.M. Anwar were instructed to take preparation to go to another camp. So, all the airmen were alarmed that they were going to leave this operational base. However, Tofazzol bhai tried to run but from stranded camp of Bannu cantonment what will be discuss in other story.

Rumours were increasing that very soon airmen are going to some other camp or camps. Airmen from all the PAF bases will be kept in certain camps where they will be isolated from Pakistani airmen. Its main cause was avoiding sabotage but other important cause was there were causalities of Pakistani soldiers in the liberation war operation of both the sides. Some day there may be riots among the airmen. So, logically isolation was better though till that time nowhere in West Pakistan such occurrence occurred. But prevention is always better than cure. Nearby PAF station was a RADAR station PAF station Kirana hill, in Punjab PAF Chaklala, Lahore, Islamabad, Mari etc places there were PAF units and many observation detachments were in Karakorum hills including Radar stations, in Sind PAF Sakasar, in Karachi PAF Masroor (Mauripur), PAF Drigh Road, PAF Korangi Creek, PAF detachment in Malir Cantt and in the North West Frontier Province PAF Kohat, PAF Peshawar, PAF Risalpur, Radar detachments and observation posts in mountainous region, PAF Commando training establishment PAF Chirat , even in USAF abandoned Air base in Badaber, Peshawar there were probably more or less Bengali airmen. It was demand of the time for their safety and also safeties of the Pakistani interests’ isolated camps were required for Bengali speaking airmen.

 

  • Anwar Ali

    In 1971 I was in PAF Base, Mauripur, Karachi. We the Bengali members of PAF irrespective of our ranks, status and workload almost faced the same situation all over in Pakistan. But in Karachi, the case was somewhat different, more disruptive and vulnerable for Bengalis as maximum numbers of defense personnel of our community lived in this cosmopolitan city. Fugitive airmen, ground soldiers and naval sailors took refuge here and whenever got the chance tried to escape to join Mukti Bahini.
    As we all know many of them were caught, court martialed then prisoned. Situation became worse after the famous hijack incident by Bir Shresto Matiur Rahman occured in Mauripur. The Bengalies those who were earlier cleared for sensitive & strategic areas were withdrawn from the duties. Wing.Commander Beg ( Bengali) came to our Base and addressed us. He said whoever not willing to serve in PAF due to political reasons, should apply for volunteer retirement. We few though fearing reprisal applied and got discharged. We did not wait for govt. expense for return journey. I myself reached Dhaka on the last week of November 1971 with lot of risks on head. Rest is history, which I hope to narrate in future. Last but least, I should say one thing. After that historic hijack episode, one of my Punjabi colleague told me jokingly that what harm Matiur Rahman could do by hijacking a mere non-combat trainee air craft.(T33). I remained silence. But he got his reply within three months. Minus about 30% Bengali technicians and handful fighter pilots off from duties, PAF could not face immense onslaught from Indian Air Force. And within ten days this fighting wing fell apart and collapsed.