1971 was a momentous year in Indian history. In this year the Indian armed forces won a significant victory and cut Pakistan from one to 2 nations. With situation in the East in Bengal getting out of hand the Pakistan general staff decided on a strike in the west to ease the pressure on the East.
The Pakistan president and Chief martial law administrator General Yahiya Khan thus decided on a pre-emptive strike in the west. The operation codenamed Chengiz Khan involved a lightening strike on Indian Airfields in the Punjab and Kashmir. The plan if successful was expected
“Operation Chengiz Khan" was launched against the Indian forward bases on 3 December 1971. The PAF hit the Indian bases at Amritsar, Jodhpur, Halwara, Adampur, Sirsa, Pathankot and Agra.
Measures taken by the IAF
The Indian Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal PC Lal and the air staff was expecting an attack in the west. Thus he ordered defensive deployments in the western bases of the IAF. The Soviet Union which was the ally of India made available intelligence information through its spy satellite network.
As the Pakistan ground crew got the aircraft ready, information through satellite surveillance by the Soviet Union was transmitted to the IAF. The IAF was thus aware of the PAF attack and the Indian air force dispersed and camouflaged its aircraft.
The PAF Attacks
The PAF mounted the attacks with F104 (star fighter), Mirage, F-86 and other planes. The
But the raids were not a success as due to navigation and pilot errors minimal damage was afflicted to the IAF. No aircraft was lost. The IAF did not retaliate for 24 hours and the PAF and the Pakistan general staff thought they had decimated the IAF.
The Indian Attack
This was a grave mistake as after 24 hours the Indian reaction took place. It was a massive attack and the Indian bombed Karachi, Sargodha, Peshawar and Lahore. The PAF was caught napping and heavy attrition resulted. However the PAF got over its surprise and gave a good account in the Air Defence of Pakistan. But the army failed and its thrust with PAF support stalled in the Chamb.
At this critical juncture the Pakistan President appealed to Nixon the US president and China for help. But Indira Gandhi activated the defense pact with Russia and soviet submarines got on the tail of the US fleet. But the crucial war in the west was over once East Pakistan surrendered. A shell shocked Yahiya Khan accepted a cease fire in the west. The air war in the west was over. Results say that the PAF was good in Air Deface but lacked the will to execute offensive operations.