Role of Indian Air Force in 1971 War

The Liberation of Bangladesh is the most memorable war in the brief history of Bangladesh. The contribution of Indian Govt and the citizens of India is an important part of that history. Without mentioning the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) role in that war, the history of Bangladesh’s liberation is incomplete.

The Bangladesh Liberation War (1971) included many other battles in which hundreds of people lost their lives. The battle of Boyra, Operation Trident and Python and the battle of Longewala were a few IAF driven battles those helped a lot to achieve success.

The Pakistani Air Force first launched a pre-emptive strike on December 3, 1971– “Operation Chengiz Khan” on eleven airfields in north western India including Agra. The Taj Mahal was camouflaged in twigs and leaves as its marble glowed like a beacon in moonlight.

The then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi took help from the Indian Air Force and helped Bangobondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (aka Mujib) to achieve his ultimate goal. The IAF had initially deployed 10 squadrons in the East; four squadrons for air defence and six squadrons in strike role capacity.

From December 4 onwards airfield attacks were launched by Hunters and Sukhoi-7s with MiG-21s providing escorts. On 4th a total of 109 sorties were flown for counter-air. Indian intelligence reports and information passed on by the Mukti Bahini on Pakistan army movements. The Indians moved all aircraft at strategic bases to reinforced bunkers placing dummy aircraft in their stead. Indian Air Force responded with retaliatory air strikes on the same night. IAF conducted many missions like Troop Support, Air Combat, and Air Raids etc.

According to Major General JFR Jacob who was there during the 1971 war, “Due to fast moving battles and our by-passing tactics, we used air support mainly for interdiction, isolation of battlefield, and prevention of movement along the river bank of Dhaka. Close air support for ground targets was almost negligible. However, the interdiction effort was very credible…We were able to get maximum results by switching sorties from one sector to another.”

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