Battle of Longewala: Pak's Plan was brilliant but IAF's ground attack halted Pak's thrust, says IAF chief

As India is celebrating the 50th anniversary year of the country's victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war while commenting on the infamous Battle of Longewala, IAF chief RKS Bhadauria said that Pakistan's plan of a deep armored thrust was brilliant, but it didn't factor India''s air power.

By Harkirpal Singh, Updated : Feb 18, 2021 14:11 IST
Battle of Longewala: Pak's Plan was brilliant but IAF's ground attack halted Pak's thrust, says IAF chief
IAF Chief RKS Bhadauria

As per reports, Recalling the decisive Battle of Longewala, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria on Thursday said the plan of armored thrust by the Pakistan army was "brilliant" and could have changed the course of the 1971 war, but the only thing it probably forgot to factor, was India''s air power.

The Pakistan army overlooked what half a squadron of Hunter aircraft deployed in Jaisalmer could do, and that was probably their "only mistake", he said. India is celebrating the 50th anniversary year of the country's victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) chief was speaking at the launch of a book ''The Epic Battle of Longewala'' authored by Air Marshal (retd) Bharat Kumar at the IAF Museum at Palam.

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The dais and chairs for the audience were placed centrally in an open courtyard flanked by two T-59 tanks of the Pakistan army damaged during the battle, and Hunter and Krishak and other aircraft, which played a critical role during the battle.

"A lot has been said about the Battle of Longewala. And, the plan of armored thrust by the Pakistan army itself was brilliant in terms of the area and axis chosen, the Longewala-Jaisalmer axis, and if it had succeeded, it would have changed the course of the war on the western front and the final result," Bhadauria said.

The IAF chief also said the Battle of Longewala brings to light a scenario where air power can bring "asymmetric results if time and place chose correctly". "On airpower, over the decades, we have learned our lessons well, and graduated to a stage where it has been incorporated deep into our plan, synergy, and interaction with the services," he said.

The Battle of Longewala (4–7 December 1971) was one of the first major engagements in the western sector during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, fought between assaulting Pakistani forces and Indian defenders at the Indian border post of Longewala, in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan state in India.

The battle was fought between 120 Indian soldiers accompanied by 4 Hunter fighter aircraft and 2000-3000 Pakistani soldiers accompanied by 30-40 tanks.

A (reinforced) Company of the Indian Army's 23rd Battalion, Punjab Regiment, commanded by Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri, was left with the choice of either attempting to hold out until reinforced, or fleeing on foot from a Pakistani mechanized infantry force.

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Choosing the former, Chandpuri ensured that all his assets were correctly deployed, and made the most use of his strong defensive position, as well as weaknesses created by errors in enemy tactics.

He was also fortunate in that an Indian Air Force forward air controller was able to secure and direct aircraft in support of the post's defense until reinforcements arrived six hours later and hence, Pakistan's thrust was successfully thwarted.

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