Pak's plan was brilliant, but didn't factor in India's air power: IAF chief on Battle of Longewala
New Delhi, Feb 18: Recalling the decisive Battle of Longewala, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria on Thursday said the plan of armoured thrust by the Pakistan Army was "brilliant" and could have changed the course of the 1971 war, but the only thing it probably forgot to factor in was India's air power. The Pakistan Army forgot what half-a-squadron of the Hunter aircraft sitting in Jaisalmer could do and that was probably its "only mistake", he said.
India is celebrating the 50th anniversary year of its victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war. The Indian Air Force (IAF) chief was speaking at the launch of a book titled "The Epic Battle of Longewala", authored by Air Marshal (retired) Bharat Kumar, a veteran of the 1965 and 1971 wars, at the IAF Museum at Palam here.
The dais and chairs for the audience were placed centrally in an open courtyard, flanked by two T-59 tanks of the Pakistan Army that were damaged during the battle, and Hunter, Krishak and other aircraft, which played a critical role during the battle.
The IAF has demonstrated its air prowess since its inception, from conflicts in Kashmir, the 1965 and 1971 wars and the Kargil war in 1999, Bhadauria asserted.
"A lot has been said about the Battle of Longewala. And the plan of armoured thrust by the Pakistan Army itself was brilliant in terms of the area and the axis chosen, the Longewala-Jaisalmer axis, and if it had succeeded, it would have changed the course of the war on the western front and the final result.
"The only thing the Pakistan Army probably forgot to factor in was India's air power. And they thought what could half-a-squadron of Hunter aircraft sitting in Jaisalmer do. And that was probably their only mistake," he said.
The IAF chief also said the Battle of Longewala brought to light a scenario where air power could bring "asymmetric results, if the time and place, chosen correctly". The battle also highlights the importance of air power in any ground manoeuvre and in an overall scenario, he added.
"Over the decades, we have learnt our lessons well and graduated to a stage where it has been incorporated deep into our plan, synergy and interaction with the services," Bhadauria said.
He said it is important that stories of valour, various battles are documented in books and passed on to the next generations. Later, the IAF chief inaugurated a "Longewala Lounge" on the premises of the museum. He praised the author and said the book will be an important study material to learn about the battle, the challenges and the lessons learnt from it.
"Apart from tactical lessons, the passion and professionalism exhibited by the people who made the difference in such a situation, whether they were fighters, those giving FAC support or ground warriors, should also be imbibed," Bhadauria said.
And the results achieved were absolutely asymmetric to what the basic capabilities were, he added. The Battle of Longewala was "our pride always, pride today and we will continue to appreciate it tomorrow", the IAF chief said. Air Marshal (retired) Kumar, who has previously commanded the Gwalior airbase, equipped with the Mirage-2000 fleet, said, "Mirage was the game-changer in Kargil and the Hunter aircraft was the game-changer in the Battle of Longewala."
"The Battle of Longewala is a pre-eminent landmark in the history of the IAF and stands out as perhaps its most decisive contribution to the 1971 Indo-Pak war on the western front, particulary in the Rajasthan sector," the book says.
Kumar said though the 1997 Bollywood film "Border", starring Sunny Deol, used the real names of places and characters, the portrayal was "highly dramatised, in departure from actual happenings during the Battle of Longewala". Former IAF chief Air Chief Marshal (retired) A Y Tipnis also shared the learning from the decisive battle, which tested the mettle of the Indian armed forces. The book is divided into 10 chapters with a foreward by Bhadauria. The Hunter aircraft had carried out the first sortie in the morning of December 5, 1971, Kumar said.