On Dec. 8, 1971, during the Indo-Pakistan war Tahir Alam, 23 Sqn Pakistan Air Force, Shenyang F-6 pilot had a combat encounter with Indian Airforce Su-7s over Narowal sector.
Here is the video interview of Tahir Alam sharing details of his F-6 vs SU-7 encounter
According to the book Flashpoints by ex-RAF Tornado and experienced author Michael Napier, Tahir Alam recalls:
‘As leader called to check switches armed and standby for pull up, from the corner of my eye I saw a flash … it was two jets turning away from us, about 5,000 feet. They obviously hadn’t seen us yet. I called out ‘two bogeys eleven o’clock high!’ I cut in my afterburners, jettisoned my fuel tanks, and broke away from my formation behind the two Indian Su-7s.
By now they had spotted me and broke into me with a hard high-G turn. I was not about to let this go to waste! I throttled back and was still closing in. A touch of speed brakes. My heart was beating like African bongo drums and my adrenaline was going through the roof! The Su-7s hit the deck and exited to the southeast.
My leader called out for my position, I replied I was chasing the two bogeys and would soon ‘Splash’ them both! The Sukhois were line astern and at tree top level and max speed, with me about 3,000 feet behind and closing in.
The Sukhoi leader was not giving his wingman any slack to be able to catch up and get into a low-level battle formation, where they could clear each other’s six o’clock. So here were two sitting ducks for me. I would get the wingman and then move my sight on the leader. We were at tree top level at max speed. I could see the blur of the tanks, trucks and trees whizzing by!
‘When I was about 2,000 feet behind the trailing jet, I pulled the trigger. The massive 30mm cannons opened up. The gunsight shuddered; the smell of cordite was sweet. I was certain that a short burst would do the trick.
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The total ammo in the F-6 is only 301 rounds, so I had to be economical! I was sure the bogey would burst into a massive fireball. The Sukhoi flew on with no visible damage. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t hit. It is a much larger target than my plane and in a straight and level flight should be a piece of cake. I raised my gunsight slightly and let go another 1-second burst.
Again nothing … Nada, zilch, zero! The Sukhoi still running like a scared rabbit and me chasing it like a starved hound! How could I be missing at such close range? Another two-second burst. Nope, no-hit. Lowering the gunsight pipper, another three-second burst.
No joy! The gun round counter was showing only 40 rounds left. I thought I would fire with my plane yawing with my rudders. Just one round of the massive gun would be enough. Desperate to get this kill, I pressed the trigger till my guns went silent – no more ammo! Oh, if only I was carrying air-to-air missiles instead of these ground-attack rockets.
‘In disbelief, I realized my terrible mistake! The gunsight had two modes: Caged and uncaged, depending on if we were attacking tanks, trucks, bridges, etc, or flying targets. As we were streaking in towards the tanks in battle, the leader had commanded the formation to arm our guns and check gunsights caged for strafing the tanks. In the excitement, I had forgotten to reach forward and with one click, uncage my gunsight for air-to-air firing.’
Having read Tahir Alam’s (my senior in the Air Force ) account, I too did something similar during the same war (1971) but different theatre. My leader ( late AM Dilawar ) and myself spotted two SU 7 on reciprocal heading, low, and we decided to take one each. I got the trailing wingman. Knowing the SU 7 to be faster than the old F 86, I decided to try my luck by starting to fire the Browing .5 inch 1800 round. Diving down with full throttle, I found my self closing in. . This initially made me to throttle back ( all the time the gun trigger remained pressed and soon exhausted all the ammunition ) , then pop the speed brakes out, eventually throttling back fully so as to avoid overshooting the target aircraft. Now here I was, flying about 500 ft behind an Su 7, with no ammo, and not knowing what to do? The only thought which came to my mind was to slide further back and return to base, and land safely.