Pakistani Control & Reporting System during India-Pakistan War 1971

During the 1965 war, one of the advantages Pakistan Air Force had over Indian Air Force was its well-integrated Control & Reporting (C&R)  and radar system which was far better and efficient than what India had at that time. Paksitan had installed the first AD radar in mid-1950’s. The main surveillance radar in the North was at Sakesar. Located on the outer fringes of (Pakistani) Punjab’s Soan valley, Sakesar is a 4,992 ft peak which used to be the summer headquarters of three districts – Campbellpur (now Attock), Mianwali and Sargodha. In view of Sakesar’s ideal location and height, it was selected by PAF in the late-50s as the site for a high-powered radar which would provide air defence cover for the northeastern part of the western wing. In 1960, a radar installation was commissioned at Sakesar for its role as a master ground controlled interception (GCI) station. The base comprised a sector operations centre (SOC) commanded by Group Captain Rehmat Khan, and a GCI element.  The radar at Sakeasr was the Bendix AN/FPS-20, a L-Band surveillance radar that had an effective range of 300 kilometers.

AN-FPS-20 Radar

A cold war era radar, FPS-20 used to the backbone of US early warning network and underwent a number of upgrades since in entering service in 1950. The radar being a 2D radar however did not have the height finding capability and was used with AN/FPS-6, a height finder radar manufactured by General Electric.

The medium level cover was provided by four Condor radars sited at Chuhr Kana, Muridke and Tatepur near Multan. In addition, the four AR-1 radars located at Rafiqui, Cherat, Kallar Kahar and Kirana provided low level coverage.  The radars at latter three locations were able to extend their range by as much as fifty percent due to their siting on elevated ground(s) but their siting in depth rather than along the international border meant that the air bases had only three minutes of warning  in case of a low level ingress. Also, major towns remained outside the low level radar cover as the PAF believed that the low level radars were better utilised for providing cover to its bases. In the end, they served no useful purpose. The three minutes warning was insufficient to vector in the nearby CAPs for the defence of the air bases and the major town remained outside their coverage.

Radar P-35

The Sector Operations Centre (South) under Group Captain Anwar Shamim operated from its war-time location at Korangi and was dependant on the FPS-20 radar at Badin for high level radar surveillance which had been commissioned in 1962. Located close to the Indian border, the radar was capable of keeping a watch on Indian airfields in Rajasthan and track all aircraft movement towards lower Sind region between Sukkur and Karachi. Augmenting the FPS-20 was a P-35 at Malir which had been moved from Dacca just before the start of hostilities. Malir had another P-35 radar but it was moved to Jacobabad mid-way in the war. It however did not become operational at its new location before the end of hostilities. A Type 21 radar was located at Khanpur but it was not reliable due to its vintage. Due to the paucity of Air Force low level radars in south Pakistan, a Civil Aviation ASR-4 approach radar at Karachi Airport and an AR-1 radar at Pir Patho had been integrated in the PAF radar network but even so, teh low level radar coverage remained woefully inadequate with the low level early warning in the southern sector resting on the reports by Mobile Observer Units (MOUs).

Radar AR-1

The radar coverage in East Pakistan was provided by a single AR-1 low level radar at Mirpur, about 15 kilometers north-west of Dacca. The P-35 high level radar that was available at Dacca, as mentioned earlier,  had been moved to Malir near Karachi in October 1971. Making the situation more difficult for PAF was the withdrawal of MOUs by PAF in March due to local actions against them by the Mukti Bahini. This meant that the sole source of warning was the AR-1 radar at Mirpur.

The PAF Control & Reporting System and the radar network may have proved to be adequate during the previous war of September 1965 but faced with a far better equipped and trained IAF in 1971, it was not up to the challenge and was to fail with serious consequences.