Dragons Falcons And More…
On 23 March, 2022, the J-10C Dragon became a household name. The Pakistan Day parade in the federal capital this year saw the grandest fly past ever, when ACM Zaheer Ahmed Baber Sidhu, Chief of the Air Staff had two Vigorous Dragons flying on his wings. The vigorous Dragons, which flew over Islamabad, are the newest acquisitions from China. Running-in at 900 knots, the two single seat multi-role J-10C, crackled over Air Chief’s radio, riding the F-16, call sign Shahbaz 1, “Shahbaz 1, this is Shahbaz 2, it’s an honour to fly on your wings.” Although, the call sign SHAHBAZ, is dedicated only to the Air Chief, but for the first time the two J-10C pilots were assigned the call signs Shahbaz 2 and Shahbaz 3, a unique privilege for the pilots of the No 15 Sqn, which has been equipped with the J-10C fighter jets.
There were fewer nicer places to be this year on a sunny spring Parade Day. The trees always looked particularly fine early in the morning with the lush green grass and the parade ground speckled with spring flowers under the soundtrack of the F-16s and the thunder of the JF-17s. The Parade Day fly past this year was not just traditional, but historic as well. Opening the flypast was Air Chief Marshal Zaheer Ahmed Baber Sidhu, Chief of the Air Staff, Pakistan Air Force, in the F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 52. Flying on his wings, with great aplomb, were the two new J-10C fighter aircraft. The three jets split in a linear bomb burst manoeuvre and the CAS’s F-16 climbed vertically overhead the parade venue dispensing flares. It was an air to experience.
Then the guests, heads of State, ambassadors, military attaches’, and families of mostly armed forces personnel, threw their gazes towards the right, to the approaching three ship formation of the fast and the furious Mirages, from the No 25 Sqn. The Mirage jet is notorious for a deep strike attack role, delivering weapons with utmost accuracy. Turning their heads to the right again, guests caught sight of one of the enemy’s biggest nightmares. Approaching the venue, were the Griffins, in four state of the art F-16s of the No 9 Sqn. The nation’s pride, a formation of four JF-17 Thunder of the No 26 Sqn, known as the Black Spiders, winged their way across the Parade Venue. Next, running in towards the venue was the formation of the lethal and dependable Mirage aircraft from No 27 Sqn known as ‘Zarrars’. The Tigers from the No 17 Sqn chased the Mirages, close behind, flying in a diamond formation, in their ever-dependable F-7PG aircraft.
The most anticipated, the impatiently awaited, the formidable, the hunter, the Game Changer, the Vigorous Dragon, J-10C, dazzled the audiences next. The J-10Cs participation was gratefully received. With waving flags and continuous applause, a grateful Pakistani nation paid a tribute to the airmen who have done so much to clear the skies over their sovereign land. This was the first time the J-10Cs were seen in action. These Vigorous Dragons belonged to the No 15 Sqn, carrying on the tradition of the Cobras, the squadron that has a history of astounding the nation with heroism and daring in the conflicts in 1965, 1971 and then again in 2019, during Operation Swift Retort.
“The new jets flying on Parade Day celebrations were an amazing way to promote the modern Pakistan Air Force and to inspire future generations,” said a guest in the audience while talking to the team of Second to None.
“You do not have to be an aviation enthusiast to appreciate what we saw here today. The J-10s will make headlines in the world’s grandest displays,” another audience member said proudly.
After the fighter complement of the Pakistan Air Force, the force multipliers rolled in. Presenting the fly past first were the three AWACS, in a formation comprising one Karakoram Eagle – III of the No 4 Sqn and two SAAB-2000 of No 3 Sqn. These aircraft are well known to be the ‘Eyes and Ears’ of the PAF in air.
Appearing on the horizon was a pleasing sight, a formation of “Long range maritime patrol Aircraft, P3C Orion”, which belonged to No 28 Strike Squadron of Pakistan Naval Aviation.
The best was saved for the last. One of the most amazing stunts flying by the PAF pilots, who flew their aircraft closer to the edge.
A crowd’s favourite, the Sherdil team returned to the parade venue taking flight in their K-8 jets. Some of their manoeuvres were basic aerobatics, others were specialized steep turns and sudden pull ups that seemed like playing laser tag in the sky. For some in the audience, the experience of watching the Sherdil turn and roll was like watching a roller coaster without rails.
Flying in next was Pakistan’s indigenous, JF-17 Thunder jet. From adrenaline-rushing combat flight manoeuvres, over an awe-inspiring scenic and incredible landscape of the federal capital, the Thunder was a show stopper. The performance was hands-on high adrenaline flying experience for the Thunder pilot, but those sharp turns, rolls, and loops, made viewers sit on the edge of their seats.
“We have seen amazing flying before, but the PAF pilots make it seem unique and a once-in-a–lifetime experience every year,” said a university student after the performance.
The PAF prides itself on the experience and professionalism and as one of the world’s top flight safety and combat aerobatics military wing.
Members in the audience could feel the G force, the thrill and the rush of the fighter jet flight when the Fighting Falcon came in next, banking sharply right in front of the guests at 900 knots, and then pulling up and rolling over. “What a wild ride in one of these magnificent warbirds, the Fighting Falcon,” said another audience member. Prepared for some awesome views, audiences nonetheless, held on tight as the F-16 pilot experienced the G forces and a range of manoeuvres. The fighter pilot made everyone dream about how badly they all wanted to fly in a jet fighter and that it was something not yet firmly ticked off from their bucket lists.
The Pakistan Air Force ranks among the best not so much because it is large, but because it is so experienced and well equipped with modern gear. The PAF maintains a high level of readiness for any challenge. Many of its pilots being some of the best trained in the world, is one major reason for their amazing success against seemingly impossible odds. With this array of men and planes, and especially after the induction of the state-of-the-art J-10C fighter aircraft, the PAF will always be well respected for its abilities and its attitude. Against enormous odds, the can-do attitude remains the same in those who serve today.