”India may buy 500 Rafales but cannot defeat our capabilities and resolve.”
This statement by Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (DG ISPR) on our air defense capability raised the confidence of the Pakistani nation. Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has always responded to the call of the nation in times of need, doing just that when our PAF jet shot down an intruding enemy aircraft on February 27, 2019.
Anti-Pakistan think tanks and strategists are convinced Pakistan and its air force are synonymous. Intrigues of injecting the virus of anti-Pakistan sentiments in PAF personnel have remained unsuccessful till date. PAF ingrains the country’s love in its personnel like a Pakistani mother shaping a patriot in her lap.
Muslims have left dominant marks in the flying history of the Sub-continent through understanding the training and grooming concepts. Among these names, Azad Bukhsh Awan was the first Muslim and second senior most Indian individual/officer commissioned on September 29, 1929, even before the creation of Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF) in 1932. He was also sent to Cranwell (UK) for training along with five other Indian cadets in 1930.
The first flying training Royal Pakistan Air Force (RPAF) station Risalpur was established on August 15, 1947. Wing Commander Asghar Khan took over as the Station Commander. In the same year, first flying training school was established on September 15, 1947 at Risalpur and the first flight from this school took off on September 22, 1947, with Flight Lieutenant Khyber Khan and the student pilot Akhtar on board. And on January 2, 1948 the first course passed out with four officer cadets.
PAF was known as Royal Pakistan Air Force (RPAF) until 1957, when it was renamed as Pakistan Air Force (PAF). RPAF inherited trustworthy instructor-trainee legacy. On September 8, 1947, a party was constituted to fly eight Tiger Moths from Jodhpur (India) to Risalpur (Pakistan). The route was a difficult terrain which had nine stopovers till Risalpur. RPAF trusted the training and flying abilities of its cadets and hence included six officer cadets along with three officers, despite these cadets having less than 100 hours’ flying experience.
Since day one, training and grooming has always remained a top priority at the PAF. In April 1948 Flight Lieutenant Muhammad Waseem Khan was sent to the UK for “All Purpose Instructors’ Course”. There he nearly won the coveted Clarkson Aerobatic Trophy. The next year, Flight Lieutenant Fawad Shahid Hussain won the first position in the “Pilot Attack Instructors’ Course” at Central Gunnery School at Leconfield. He also set a Commonwealth record in air-to-air shooting.
Since early days, India undertook malicious activities and Kashmir emerged as a crisis due to these actions. RPAF was restricted to supply drops only for the troops stranded there. The sound training of the ground and air crew helped them in successful supply drops without a loss.
For induction of cadets and trainees, selection criteria were strict and only men of integrity and honesty were selected through a systematic process. These young men were trained and groomed on the principles of loyalty and discipline. Anyone found below these standards is immediately shunted out.
For sound training and grooming, pioneers established two schools in 1953, a pre-apprentice school at Lower Topa and pre-cadet school at Sargodha. The school at Lower Topa was later merged into Sargodha school. UK’s Air Services Training Ltd., Hamble was contracted to provide the entire teaching staff. Pre-cadet training was started from 7th class and ended after five years with an Overseas Cambridge Board examination of Cambridge University. Mr. E. Sprawson, Mr. Hugh Catchpole was appointed as principal of Sargodha School in 1958, where he served till 1967, when it was raised to the level of a college. Sargodha College focused on education with a wide range of intellectual activities. It had commendable standards in the education field. The institution inculcated sense of self-reliance, patriotism, confidence and moral values to become a fighter and a leader. Attention was paid to extracurricular interests with classroom instructions, sports, debates and public speaking to shape the personality required by PAF. Students’ on-duty and off-duty activities are merged into one whole through suggestions and motivations. The qualities most aspired are honor, truth, honesty, courage, ambition and dynamism. Their tenure at the institution not only provides them with an education but also grooms them in every aspect. Games are aimed at learning the spirit of life i.e., body, brain and soul work together to form a personality.
Today, PAF training institutions work on planned training programs. PAF College Sargodha, PAF Academy Risalpur, College of Aeronautical Engineering (CAE), Primary Flying Training (PFT) phase, Basic Flying Training (BFT) phase, Fighter Conversion Unit (FCU), Flying Instructors’ School (FIS), Combat Commanders’ School (CCS), Operational Conversion Unit (OCU), Pre-Trade Training School (PTTS), Administrative Trade Training School (ATTS), School of Aeronautics (SOA), School of Logistics (SOL), Information Technology School, School of Audit and Accounts, School of Administration, Air Defense Systems School and School of Electronics (SOE) play a key role in the training and grooming of different tiers of PAF. Such is the quality of these training institutions that brethren countries send their personnel and officers for training in Pakistan. Proper airmen are made-to-born here, who can react in split-second to any situation. The trainee is always upright; when caught on the wrong foot, he would show the courage to own up to whatever the consequences are. Agility, willpower, wits, devotion and courage are the hallmark of these institutions.
PAF teachers play a vital role in reshaping the raw personalities of their trainees. They set personal example and pay individual attention to each student, inspiring them to unfold and nourish them to create potential of awareness in them. Special emphasis is paid to personality building and grooming. The bond of a teacher and student remains a solid relation in pursuance of Islamic traditions. It’s a culture in PAF that on reaching the higher ranks, teachers are invited at the residence to celebrate the occasion.
PAF has endeavored to be equipped with the best possible technology, machines, manpower and training methodologies. Training and grooming are a constant dynamic element with evaluation and review. Non-commissioned personnel with outstanding skills and personal traits are also promoted as commissioned officers. A unique feature of PAF is that individuals with good credentials and experience are still serving at the age of 60 years. Grooming is also dominated by constant standards of flight and ground safety at all tiers. Focus remains on adherence to correct and safe procedures. PAF personnel are also trained in different survival courses like desert, sea and mountain survival courses at special schools for this purpose. It may be a matter of pride for PAF that two recipients of Nishan-e-Haider Major Aziz Bhatti and Captain Sher Khan initially joined PAF training center and later converted to Pakistan Army.
For commissioned officers, all cadres also qualify service courses leading to their career progression. Talking of pilots, after passing out from Risalpur, their training continues at Mianwali for about another year as fighter conversion. After Mianwali, they are posted to different flying squadrons where they have to qualify for flying after clearing flying tests inclusive of their knowledge of own as well as compatible aircraft in the world. They get their “currency” on the weapon system of the squadron before being given an independent aircraft to fly. Even after currency they have to pass stages of pair leader and then section leader. As a pilot progresses in service, he may be selected for conversion to F-16 or JF-17 purely based on his personal scores. The selection criteria is further toughened as it can cost life of the pilot which is important both to his family and PAF. Resultantly, the best out of the best pilots are selected for further growth in service. They also have to serve as flight commander training and then flight commander operations for further progression. No pilot is cleared to take over the command of a squadron till the time he qualifies Flight Instructor’s Course and Combat Commanders’ Course. He also has to qualify Senior Command and Management Course. By virtue of service, he also participates in exercises like inter squadron competitions (based on different strategies), air-to-air missile fires, air defense excellence competition, Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT), surveillance targeting and analysis, flat out, Safron Bandit, Hi-Mark, Yalghaar, and inter-services exercises before proceeding to National Defense University (NDU).
Sound teamwork requires extensive training and repetition of procedures till perfect harmony is reached between different formation members. These exercises serve as healthy grooming for PAF personnel developing the public’s confidence in their air force. These air displays also attract young lads (male and female) to join PAF.
A flight, squadron, wing, unit, lodger units, base, regional command and Air Headquarters (AHQ) detachments’ performance is monitored constantly by the principal staff officers at the AHQ. Even suspension of a cadet or removal of an apprentice during training is personally monitored by senior staff officers at the AHQ. Likewise, all aircraft and ground occurrence reports are discussed in the “Air Staff Presentation” meetings where all the base and field commanders are present. Lengthy and at times heated debates are also generated to conclude any point. Here, the individual’s errors are discussed based upon his initial training grades, experience, service courses, to determine whether he is qualified to work on a specific post or not. PAF has posted an Air Marshal rank officer as “Deputy Chief of Air Staff (Training)” to monitor all the training and grooming of its personnel at all tiers. This Air Marshal obviously qualifies all the milestones from selection in PAF till this Air Marshal rank (at least 30 years) and understands every aspect of training and grooming at every tier. A special directorate of religious affairs also grooms PAF personnel on religion and day to day affairs.
PAF understands that the numerical superiority can be balanced by superior airmanship, serviceability and improved maintenance. To ensure excellence in flying and maintenance, air displays, aerobatics and fire-power demonstrations are conducted regularly. These exercises demand complete harmony of mental and physical faculties of an individual. They also regulate different activities at a flight, squadron, wing, base, regional air command and their peers at the AHQ. Mastery of a fit and error free flying machine, with error free maintenance, logistics and support elements is the aim. Likewise, during fire-powers, war preparedness is tested based upon right weapons for the right mission. A team’s skills depend upon superior airmanship, self-control and deep knowledge of flying operations by capable technicians. PAF pays special attention to air superiority, air awareness, and offensive, counter air offensive, interdiction, and close support, reconnaissance, SIGINT/ELINT and tri-services’ missions. There are examples that a superior aircraft has been subdued during these exercises by a low capability aircraft due to superior strategy and tactics. This has convinced PAF personnel that proper training and self-confidence can neutralize the aggressors. PAF is fortunate for having gained experiences that has made it battle-hardened.
Manpower is an important requirement for operational preparedness. Right man for the right job, on job training in addition to constant training and grooming ensures success of a fighting arm. PAF constantly updates its combat training syllabus. It has established a new set up of Information Technology (IT) with 100% education of its personnel on computers. The organization has progressed to paperless environment. Online communication is being promoted and a senior officer at the AHQ may directly address the remotest PAF unit online. Registration and selection tests are also conducted online at all the PAF selection centers.
PAF also has a comprehensive training system for the technicians and engineers. It has different maintenance, munitions and engineering depots where specialized personnel are deployed for effective maintenance, repair and overhaul of the equipment in use. Induction of F-16 weapon system in 1983 has modified the maintenance concepts in PAF. The British-inherited maintenance guidebook AFM 67-1 has been revised with new concepts.
PAF personnel are also sent on educational, management and grooming courses both within the country and abroad. They get opportunities to do MS and PhD in their respective specialties. Based upon the expertise of PAF personnel, self-reliance has been achieved in so many fields and PAF is not dependent on only one weapon system in times of need today.
PAF also pays attention to the grooming of lady wives through Pakistan Air Force Women Association (PAFWA). Wife of Chief of the Air Staff is appointed as the Chairperson for this club, subsequently headed by wives of the base commanders at the base level. This forum is open to all the lady wives where the senior officers’ wives teach and groom the young womenfolk the traditions, norms and culture of PAF. PAFWA also coordinates a school of special children and daycare centers (for working lady wives) established at PAF bases. Likewise, the Fazaia schools and colleges also play a dominant role in imparting education and grooming to the civil society of Pakistan. You will find a kid of PAF well-groomed, well-behaved and disciplined.
During training, PAF also sends its cadets for guard mounting of the mausoleum of Quaid-i-Azam cementing the respect and love for the Father of the Nation. They perform this duty with pride as the Father of the Nation had asked them to be “Second to None”.
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