High Powered Radar at Badin gets destroyed
IAF Canberra medium bomber
“Jawaab dene aaunga, is jawan ki kasam, Hindustan Ki Kasam”…Rajkumar (Jaani) delivers this thundering dialogue in the starting scenes of the movie ‘Hindustan Ki kasam’. If you haven’t seen it already, do watch it if you are a military buff like me. The main thread of the story is about the Indian Air Force trying to locate and destroy a Pakistani radar station. Director Chetan Anand may have got his story idea from the actual IAF strike mission on Badin in the 1965 war.
Lets get some background first. Today, even though being low on squadron count, there is a significant disparity between IAF and PAF capabilities, with the IAF having a clear advantage in terms of numbers and capability of the available platforms. There are gaps in Air defense, which should get filled up soon with the purchase of the S-400 SAM systems. But, in the 60’s Pakistan had much better quality of aircraft and Radar systems than India, thanks to a rather benevolent United States of America which had been showering gifts on Pakistan since she became a member of CENTO. One such wonderful gift was highly powerful and advanced radar systems based at Sakesar and Badin…covering almost the whole of Western Front. The radars had a range of 350 Kilometers and could track attacking formations to the altitude of 70000 feet. This basically meant that the Pakistani knew of Indian strike formation coming in for attack, much sooner and could mount an effective interception.
Indian Air force decided to destroy the radar complex at Badin by a daring raid using the English Electric Canberra bombers of the 16th Squadron, based out of Agra. A photo-recce mission showed up the radar complex with two high eighty feet towers with easily identifiable white domes on top (similar to doppler radars) which housed the hardware. Now, Badin itself had a protecting airfield and was aso within a few minutes of PAF Mauripur station which was one of the biggest Pakistani air bases. Wg. Cdr Pete Wilson was the leader of a strike group of six Canberras which were supposed to attack in 2 aircraft formations, each formation having a different weapons load. Pete Wilson had even rejected the idea of top cover provided by Hunters as that might blow away the element of surprise.
Some details about the Canberra…it was a medium size jet bomber…a lumbering giant. To fly it at tree top height required amazing level of skill and lots of guts. IAF pilots seem to possess both the qualities as they started from Agra, flew at 20000 feet till Bikaner, then dropped down to tree-top height over the desert which sounds like a misnomer as there were no trees in the Thar desert which they had to cross to reach Badin (near Karachi).
First group was carrying bombs with air delay fuse, which would burst above the area and neutralize most of the anti-aircraft units around the radar station. That shall clear the way for next set of aircraft carrying rocket-pods and heavy bombs. Fortunately, the Indians achieved total surprise as they came in for their bombing run. It seems the leader Wilson missed the target in his first pass, so he came around and was less than 30 feet AGL (above ground level) with the white radar domes above him…one of his rocket pods failed to fire, but the other one obliged and all his rockets were seen smashing against the clean white dome of the eastern tower.
After the successful strike, the aircraft returned back. It was reported later that this strike had put the whole radar complex out of commission for rest of the war.
Another glorious example of a well planned and executed IAF mission during the 65 war.
– Jai Hind.
Ref. The Duels of the Himalayan Eagle by Air Marshal Bharat Kumar.