The Duels of The Himalayan Eagle: The First Indo-Pak Air War

The Indian Air Force (IAF) commissioned book, The Duels of the Himalayan Eagle: The first Indo-Pak Air War was released on 1 September 2015. The book was released by Vice President Mohammed Hamid Ansari at the inauguration of the Tri-Services Seminar to commemorate the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the India-Pakistan War of 1965 in New Delhi.The war's golden jubilee celebrations will last from 28 August to 22 September 2015.The author, who was a young fighter pilot during the 1965-war, has tried to club official records, squadron diaries and veteran accounts of the war in the book.

The book also takes a candid look at the abysmal lack of coordination between IAF and the Army, a controversy that lingers to this day, with the author admitting that “mistakes were made”, as they are made in all wars.

In all, IAF lost 59 out of its inventory of 460 aircraft, while PAF lost 43 of its 186 aircraft during the war. IAF grappled with first-generation subsonic fighters like Vampire and Dassault Toofani as well as second-generation transonic ones like Mystery, Hawker Hunter and Gnats, apart from the bomber-interdictor Canberra. It had just a handful of third-generation supersonic MiG-21s, which were then being acquired from Russia and would remain its mainstay for decades to come.

But Pakistan, which had cozied up to the US by the mid-1950s, was equipped with F-86 Sabre jets, F-104 Star fighters and B-57 Martin Canberra’s, along with much-better better weapons and radars. Moreover, 13 of IAF’s 28 squadrons had been deployed in the eastern and central sectors to tackle the Chinese threat.

Absence of joint IAF-Army planning and tardy intelligence as well as poor communication links and radar coverage, scarce resources and the wide theatre of operations, all led to the disjointed conduct of operations by India, which was still recovering from the 1962 debacle with China. But the lessons were learnt, as was witnessed during Pakistan’s crushing defeat in the 1971 war.