Thursday, December 10, 2020

An Indian Pilot Who Destroyed Chuck Yaeger’s Aircraft

New Delhi: Chuck Yaeger is no longer in this materialistic world. The ace super pilot who broke the sound barrier on 14th October 1947, exactly two months after India got independence died at a ripe age of 97 years with several feathers up his cap. But he had an Indian Connection.

When in early 1971, then Brigadier General Chuck Yaeger of United States landed in Islamabad- Pakistan on a mission, he never thought that he would remember this tenure forever owing to an Indian Pilot who later became the Chief of Indian Naval Staff. Yes, none other than Admiral Arun Prakash, PVSM, AVSM, VirChakra.

In 1971, Pakistan Air Force was suffering from poor training standards of its pilots. Since most of the aircrafts were American, an American team was sent to supervise the training.  This US Military Advisors Group was headed byBrigadier General Check Yaeger, his wife Glennis Faye Dickhouse, Four Officers and about a dozen other enlisted soldiers. Chuck was so fascinated with his wife that henamed every aircraft he flew after his wife – Glamorous Glen I, II, III and so on.

He was given dual tasks. First was to supervise the distribution of American Military Aid in Pakistan and the second was to ensure that Pakistan Air Force Pilots have a high standard of training to survive the war.

Pakistanis are known for their hospitality. They can go to any extent for this. Recently their Prime Minister too was seen driving the cars of several foreign leaders. But in those times, it was a prized posting for any US diplomat to be posted in Pakistan. Joseph Farland was the US Ambassador in Pakistan, and he had a typical routine- Go to a hillside palatial resort in Muree, on every Thursday, stay there till Monday in a posh, luxurious palatial villa, enjoy bridge, drink fine wine and relax. Sometimes he used to go for hunting of birds or Fishing in far off lakes/rivers with the help of Pakistani Army Officials.  Since Chuck Yaeger was inducted to this culture as the new Military Advisor to Farland, he became addicted to this culture in no time.

Chuck Yaeger was allocated a small twin Engine Beechcraft for his transportation by the US government. Soon the aircraft became the official carrier of US Ambassador and was modified to carry wine, scotch, fishing gear, hunting gear & so on. Chuck and Farland started visiting places in Pakistan for hunting, fishing or staying in the mountain resorts. The aircraft was important for both and hence losing it was indeed a big shock.

Lieutenant (later Admiral) Arun Prakash was a pilot on deputation to Indian Air Force. When the hostilities broke out on 3rd Dec 1971, he was put in full readiness and tasked to go inside Pakistan for a bombing mission. He and his group of aircrafts were to go and bombard Islamabad on the night of 4th December 1971. While hovering over the Chaklala military airfield, Indian Pilots spotted two aircrafts- One C-130 Transport plane and second was a Beechcraft. Usually during war- Civilian airbases are not attacked but these two aircrafts were parked on the runway of an active Pakistani Airforce Base so Indian Pilots decided to target them. Soon both the aircrafts were destroyed using 30MM ADEN Canon of the Hawker-Hunter Aircrafts of Indian Air Force. The aircraft of then Lieutenant Arun Prakash made more than one pass over these aircrafts and ensured that they are not airworthy.

This was a big setback to Chuck Yaeger. He was furious and called a staff meeting of his colleagues and started calling names to Indian Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi. He immediately drafted a top priority cable to the US President in Washington DC terming this incident as a deliberate attempt to target American Nation. He asked for an immediate military retaliation, but President Richard Nixon was wise and hence Chuck never received any answer to that cable till his last breath.

10/12/20 Amit Bansal/

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