Smaller wars are often overlooked as was the case in the India-Pakistan War of 1971, especially the air war portion. This little-known air war placed two air force with a variety of different aircraft pitted against each other. The author has spent over three decades in the Pakistani Air Force. He has attempted to be objective in his analysis and for the most part I feel he has succeeded in presenting an balanced accounting of the air war.
This book is not my normal book I would read but this one had a difference to me. I am friends with a Pakistani family in our town. While attending a Mehndi party prior to her wedding she introduced me to her father and uncle. The father was Pakistani, and the uncle was Indian. Just a coincidence of where borders were established. She said we had a lot in common as we were all pilots. So pilots being who we are, we started to drink and chat. Her father proceeded to tell us about his time flying F-86s and how he had conducted a mission at the start of the war in 1971 where he flew low-level and bombed an airfield and blew up a bunch of Hunters on the ground. I noticed that the uncle was noticeably quiet and looked agitated. He then said that he was the airfield commander at that airfield and his brother had almost killed him. Well, that little bit of family history was not known until then. I’m sure it was all forgotten but I always wanted to learn more about the war and wanted to build both aircraft.
That is where this book comes in. This book goes into a little bit of back history of the war. This is helpful, especially for western readers who may be unfamiliar with the how and why of a particular war.
An order of battle with what aircraft were available is included along with some great photos. Both PAF and IAF inventories are addressed. Interestingly the aircraft ranged from Korean War vintage F-86s, Sea Hawks, Vampires to modern Mirage IIIs, MiG-21s, F-104s and B-57s. With a variety of aircraft available to both sides the scene is set.
The best part of the book is in the section called “Baring the Fangs and Stemming the Tide”. This follows the operations during the war. What sets this section apart is the personal stories that I like to hear. Did you know that a Saber shot down a MiG-21? I didn’t but it did. There are stories that describe the complete battles. I like the “There I was stories” that pepper these sections. Who knew that the Gnat shot down aircraft during its operational history? I sure didn’t. I know that is my limited knowledge of small wars but that puts that aircraft in a whole new light to me.
There are seven pages of colorful aircraft profiles covering all the types used, including mission loads. That will be especially helpful to the modeler.
Another part of this was interesting is that the naval air battle is covered as well. The operational use of the carrier INS Vikrant and it’s Alizes, Sea Hawks and Vampires.
Some other neat information is the first shoot down of an aircraft with air-to-air missiles when a Sidewinder from an F-86 shot down a Hunter. Not two aircraft you would normally associate with missile play.
This is a good overview of a little-known air war over the Indian/Pakistan border. The book is filled with a bunch of photos of aircraft in markings you don’t normally see. The information is well presented. The book is easily readable and informative. I’ll have to check out more of this series.
Thanks to Casemate Publishers and IPMS/USA for the review copy. You can obtain yours by contacting them at https://www.casematepublishers.com/ or at your local hobby shop or online retailer