The Pakistanis were literally checkmated by the 106th Squadron of the Indian Air Force (IAF), which successfully managed to take aerial images of enemy installations and positions during the 1965 Indo-Pak war using “reverse route strategy”. This in turn helped the Indian Armed Forces to crush the enemy.
One of those brave IAF pilots involved in that mission was Air Commodore (Retd) Gopal Krishna Garud. As a young Flight Lieutenant, he entered deep inside Pakistani territory to take aerial images, without worrying about enemy fire.
His bravery won him the coveted Vir Chakra, India’s third highest war-time gallantry award.
Sharing his war experiences with Gomantak and Gomantak Times, Air Cdre Garud said, “I was posted in the 106 Squadron, which had Canberra aircraft fitted with special cameras for photo reconnaissance. It was stationed at Agra. Our job was to fly into enemy territory and film their installations for planning our attack.”
A passout of NDA 14th Course and currently residing in Pune, Garud said that just before his posting to the IAF base, espionage activities were reported to have been executed by Pakistan. They knew the IAF’s reconnaissance plans. It had shot down a few Canberras.
“We learnt our lessons and maintained absolute secrecy. We did not have such a robust communication system like today. During the war, we flew to Delhi early morning to take briefings directly from the IAF chief. There was no one in the middle. Also within an hour of his briefing, we would begin or sorties to photograph the planned locations. This prevented leaking of our plans,” he said.
But undertaking aerial reconnaissance was easier said than done.
The aircraft had to maintain a particular altitude, speed to take clear pictures without getting
detected by enemy radars.
“To counter this threat, IAF formed a different strategy. We took off at tree top height of around 150 ft and entered deep into Pakistan from an unmanned area and then came from behind the enemy lines taking a reverse route.
Pakistanis thought that these were their aircraft which flew past them to enter India’’.
‘‘By this way, we checkmated them and took crystal clear images of all their positions without getting detected,” the gallant veteran said.
The images would be processed and with its help the Indian Air Force would accurately bomb enemy positions. This helped in delivering crushing blows to the enemy.
“Moved by my bravery and contribution during the war, the Government of India awarded me Vir Chakra,” he said.
His war experience proved useful within six years during the 1971 Indo-Pak war. As a Wing Commander, he was posted in the Air Force headquarters in Delhi to plan IAF operations in East Pakistan.