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The PAF in the Afghan War
Hat Trick for Khalid - November 3, 1988
 

Pilots: Squadron Leader Ehtsham Zakaria (Leader), Flight Lieutenant Khalid Mehmood (No. 2)
Controller: Squadron Leader Saif ur Rahman
Date: November 3, 1988
Aircraft Shot: Su-22
Area: West of Thal

Squadron Leader Khalid's third and PAF's last confirmed victory came during the course of a CAP mission near Kohat. On this occasion, Khalid was flying as No. 2 in a two ship formation of F-16's. The encounter opened with Khalid and his leader at 10,000 feet when they were informed by GCI that six unidentified hostile aircraft (bogeys) were heading towards the border. A subsequent message confirmed that three of them had violated Pakistani airspace while the other three stayed right on the border line.

On a heading of 280 degrees, the two F-16's moved to engage; the lead quickly informed GCI that he had radar contact. Khalid obtained a lock on the No. 2 aircraft, which was flying on the southern side of the formation. They continued to close the gap but at a distance of 8 NM, Nos. 2 and 3 of the enemy formation executed a 180 degree turn that very quickly allowed them to regain the security of the Afghanistan airspace. For some reason, the leading Afghan fighter kept coming in and at a range of 7 NM, the F-16 lead pilot obtained a visual contact, with Khalid following suit moments later. At this time both F-16's were still at 10,000 feet while the bandit, an Su-22, was some 7,000 feet higher. Both F-16's then initiated a gradual climb as the Su-22 began turning to depart, the enemy pilot having been warned by his GCI of the presence of the two F-16's. His tardiness in heading for safety was to prove fateful. The leader elected to press home his attack, but the Su-22 pilot then showed good tactical sene by turning to face the threat. This prevented the first F-16 from launching a missile. Besides, the leader had experienced some difficulty with his Sidewinder, which may have prevented him from engaging the target. In choosing to evade the threat posed by the leading F-16, the Su-22 pilot placed himself at the risk of attack by Khalid, who wasted no time in making a hard right turn into the Su-22 and launched an AIM-9L from a range of 2.7NM in a head-on pass. While all this was going on, the lead F-16 began manoeuvring into a position which would enable him to engage the Su-22 with gunfire from a 6 o'clock position. He still had some way to go when Khalid's Sidewinder struck home. Smoke and flying panels issued from the damaged fighter, which continued flying about 10 NM inside Pakistan.

Khalid realized very quickly that the Su-22 was damaged. He waited a few more seconds before launching another AIM-9L at an aspect angle of about 150-160 degrees. The missile had barely left the rail when the enemy pilot ejected. This missile also scored a direct hit, causing the Su-22 to break in two and to head earthwards in flaming debris. The entire incident was observed from the ground by personnel of the Pakistan Army and by Pathan tribesmen. The wreckage of the Afghan Su-22 fell 10 NM from Thal on the bank of river Kurram.

Pakistan's Militia forces in the area apprehended Captain Abdul Hashim, the pilot of the ill-fated fighter.

A tribal chief in the Kohat area contacted Air Headquarters (Air HQ) and expressed the wishes of his people to present arms to the pilot who had shot down the Afghan aircraft. Following the directive of the CAS, the Base Commander Kohat arranged a special function, to commemorate the occasion. Most of the civilian and military dignitaries of Kohat, some senior PAF officers from Air HQ and many tribal chiefs were invited. In the ceremony, Khalid was presented a pen-pistol (on which his name was engraved as Pilot Officer Ababeel), a stiletto, two scabbards of Klashnikov rifle and some bullets for the pistol. Besides, a copy of the Holy Quran, wrapped in the national flag, placed in traditional coloured hand-woven 'Changairs', was also presented to Khalid. It was according to him, quite a touching moment.

For the PAF, that was just about it, although Khalid was to enjoy a further moment of excitement when flying solo during a hot, night scramble mission in an F-16B on January 31, 1989. On that occasion, he was directed to investigate a border violation near Bannu and he headed towards the area at 10,000 feet under GCI control. Repeated attempts at obtaining an IR lock on the enemy contact (which was down at 2,000 feet and which was suspected to be a bombing raid) failed to meet with success. As Khalid moved closer under GCI control, the aircraft put its light on and was revealed to be an An-24. Displaying outstanding airmanship. Khalid let it go. He pulled up and began flying above it, advising GCI that the An-24 was probably planning to defect. Ultimately, the transport aircraft made a landing approach over the River Kuram (a dried-up riverbed), apparently because the pilot believed it to be a paved runway. Moments after touching down, the An-24 struck a palm tree and cartwheeled before being engulfed in a massive explosion, followed by numerous secondary detonations of the ammunition it was carrying.

 
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