KARACHI: Flight Lieutenant Yousuf Ali Khan was on a routine patrol mission on a bright and sunny September morning along with his No 2 Flying Officer Khaliq in two-ship Sabre formation.
Circling at 25000 feet, they were safeguarding the aerial boundaries over Chamb sector where the two rival armies were fighting to gain control.
Suddenly No 2’s voice broke the radio silence and informed the leader about four bogies closing in from east.
Yousuf immediately looked towards east and picked up gaggle of dots diving towards him. As the dots grew bigger, Yousuf realised that they were four enemy Gnats.
He asked his No 2 to jettison his drop tanks (prerequisite to enter into a dogfight) and get ready for the fight. Yousuf also pressed the button and felt a mild jerk as the drop tanks went down hurling through the empty space below.
He banked sharply and pulled up to get behind the tail of the rear-most enemy aircraft. The moment he was about to go for a kill, Khaliq called out on radio that his drop tanks were not going.
His No 2 was now at a serious disadvantage, as he could not manoeuvre fast with drop tanks stuck with the aircraft.
Yousuf asked him to remain calm and just stick around with him. However, with less speed Khaliq was unable to keep up with the leader.
Yousuf was left all alone to fight against four enemy aircraft. He manoeuvred fast to get behind Gnat, which cut in sharply many a time to elude Yousuf and tried to get on his rear but the seasoned Pakistani pilot proved too much for him.
Yousuf remained on his tail and slowly the enemy aircraft started to grow bigger and bigger in his gun sight. It was at point blank range. He pressed the trigger spattering the enemy with bullets when suddenly his Sabre shuddered.
He heard thuds of landing bullets into his aircraft. He turned his head and saw two more enemy aircraft closing fast on him, with leader’s guns blazing away at him. He yanked back on control stick and broke hard into the enemy.
The turn was violent and he felt the G’s force slam him into the seat. The enemy Gnat overshot and Yousuf got behind his tail.
For a moment, he looked into the rear-view mirror and was horrified to see that his left elevator was completely shattered. He kept calm and decided to carry on with the fight.
Firing occasional bursts the enemy aircraft tried all tricks to corner the crippled Sabre but Yousuf the hardened fighter eluded them.
Soon enemy realised that they were dealing with one hell of a tough guy, they decided to breakup, abandoned the fight and flew east.
The determined Yousuf decided to give them a chase; pressed the throttle and dived after them but found to his chagrin, his aircraft vibrating and not responding to his controls. Reluctantly he abandoned the chase and headed home.
On his way, back his hydraulic pressure went to zero. He checked his brakes to test its effectiveness but it was useless. He tried to call home base about the emergency but soon realised that his radio had also packed up.
The crippled aircraft reached close to the home base and as he lowered his gears, he realised that left one was damaged. He tried the emergency method but failed.
Being low on fuel, he descended down slowly and came for the landing approach. The aircraft landed on the runway with a thud, rolled steadily and came to a stop at the barrier. The miracle had happened.
The ground crew and other pilots who saw the crippled aircraft were amazed. None could think of any reason why this aircraft had remained airborne. By all laws of aerodynamics, it should have gone down the moment its elevator was shot off.
It was true example of faith and determination on wings. Yousuf’s heroics had saved a valuable PAF aircraft. He did not stop there. He was in the middle of action once again on 13 Sept; that too in same Sabre, which was recovered in a day by the resilient ground crew.
In an offensive fighter sweep near Amritsar, Yousuf was leading a four-ship Sabre formation. Suddenly four Gnats appeared from east to intercept him. Immediately he jettisoned his drop tanks and got behind one of the lagging Gnats.
The enemy pilot twisted and turned violently to shake him off but failed to match the skills of veteran Pakistani. Yousuf closed in and gave a two second burst from his six lethal machine guns, which registered direct hit on the Gnat.
It exploded in air and went down vertically to the ground below to its doom. Yousuf has also the distinction of being one of the first fighter pilots of PAF to open his account against Indian armour advancing in Chamb-Jaurian sector when he led a strike mission in that area on the morning of 2nd Sept.
His formation carried out five attacks and destroyed 40 Indian tanks and scores of vehicles with rockets. Their lethal attack thus blunted the Indian armour from attacking Sialkot.