Battle of Longewala | Pak's plan was brilliant, but didn't factor in India's air power: IAF chief

Recalling the decisive Battle of Longewala, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal R K S 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. 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. The Hunter aircraft had carried out the first sortie in the morning of December 5, 1971.