When Indian Air Force Gave Uncle Sam The Finger

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Pic Courtesy- US Air Force and BharatRakshak

The year was 1971. Pakistan and India were engaged in the war that gave birth to Bangladesh , a profound irony. The war was at its full form. The feud showcased the dominance of Indian forces in air, land and sea. One of the major war after  World War-II.

Being aware of their inability to match the teeth of the Indian forces, they turned to USA. A cunning move as Pakistan thought this will help negate the upper hand India had by having Soviet Union by our side.

Americans were reluctant to enter into a battle with India, as the situation could escalate from bad to worse. They couldn’t turn down the cry for help also, as Pakistan was part of their military pact SEATO and CENTO.

US agreed to ferry supplies and provide military training assistance to Pakistani forces. The Military Assistance Advisory Group(MAAG) was stationed at Islamabad, offering training to Pakistani forces.

Chuck Yeager in the cockpit of an NF-104, December 4, 1963. (U.S. Air Force photo)

In 1971, as a surprise to many, Chuck Yeager was called to head the group during the early hours of the war. For the unknown, Chuck Yeager is a WWII pilot and the first man to break the sound barrier. His experience as a veteran fighter pilot, especially with the F-104 Starfighter, PAF’s frontline fighter at the time, was valuable.

Beechcraft Queen Air (A file photo)

Yeager enjoyed various perks for heading the MAAG. The most prized for him being a twin engine Beechcraft, a great gift for a guy caught in a full fledged war. It was supplied directly by the Pentagon. He was very fond of his Beechcraft and usually went on fishing expeditions with the US Ambassador to Pakistan.

The protagonist of our story is Admiral Arun Prakash (PVSM, AVSM, VrC, VSM, ADC). He was an Indian navy pilot on deputation to the IAF at the time. He flew the Hawker Hunter for the 20th Squadron Lightnings based at Pathankot air base during the war. The Indian Air force decided to attack a Pakistani air base housing fighter aircrafts. Prakash along with his wingman headed towards their target, Chaklala air base, south east of Islamabad.

Admiral Arun Prakash, PVSM, AVSM, VrC, VSM, ADC

In an article he wrote for a magazine, he describes the day vividly. They flew low to evade radar. Nearing the target, they climbed to 2000 feet to evade AA threat. Scanning for possible targets, they were disappointed to see only two small aircrafts. An offensive run with at least no enemy damage was unbearable.

Hunter F56a – A967 Source- BharatRakshak

They decided to target the two parked aircrafts. The 30mm cannons blazed, completely destroying them to smithereens. Of the two aircrafts destroyed, one was a Canadian UN plane while the other was the Beechcraft Chuck Yeager flew around. He received a Vir Chakra(VrC) for his acts throughout the war.

On hearing his plane being destroyed by IAF, he turned to a madman. He rushed to the US embassy in Islamabad and started yelling and cursing Indian (something he did often). He even sent out a priority telegram to Nixon, POTUS at the time, recommending immediate counter measures. Everyone knows what happened next. Later in his biography, he described the act as “Indian way of giving Uncle Sam the finger”.

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