AIR VICE-MARSHAL (AVM) ABDUL RAZZAQ
AVM Abdul Razzaq was born in Wan Bhachran. on 25 November 1952 and belonged to Mianwali He was selected to the PAF Cadet College Sargodha after passing his Class VII examination.
AVM Abdul Razzaq was a fighter pilot who served the airforce for more than 30 years. He had also served as the commander of Masroor PAF base in Karachi. In recognition to his meritorious services, he was awarded Sitara-i-Imtiaz, Sitara-i-Basalat and Tamgha-i-Jurat.
On the morning of 20 February 2003, a Pakistan Air Force Fokker F-27 of No. 12 VIP Squadron crashed over the Cherat Hills near the village of Taulanj Jadid, 27 km (17 miles) east of Kohat killing Air Chief Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir and 16 others. Among them were two of the PAF’s finest officers and fighter pilots – Air Vice Marshal Abdul Razzaq and Air Commodore Rizwanullah. Both were F-16 fighter pilots and former commanders of the PAF’s elite and internationally-acclaimed Combat Commanders School (CCS) at Sargodha. AVM Abdul Razzaq was one of the heroes of the PAF Afghan Air Operations during the 1980s. He was the elite of the elite – one of five fighter pilots of the PAF’s crack F-16 Squadrons who achieved officially recognized combat kills against Soviet/Afghan aircraft during the 10-year Soviet-Afghan War and wrote another glorious chapter in the history of the Pakistan Air Force.
Air Vice Marshal Abdul Razzaq was the epitome of a fighter pilot. Courageous and chivalrous. A soft-spoken gentleman on the ground, swift and deadly in the air. He was an archetypal fighter pilot, invigorated by the challenges of military service, the air force profession and fighter flying and possessed with an uncluttered sense of purpose to defend his country and his faith.
. He was commissioned in the General Duties (Pilot) branch of the PAF on 21 April 1973 in the 55th GD(P) course at the PAF Academy, Risalpur where he won the coveted Sword of Honour and the Trophy for Best Performance in Ground Subjects (the Best Pilot Trophy was suspended during the 40th-58th GD(P) courses, otherwise he may have bagged that as well).
Abdul Razzaq qualified at the Combat Commanders School, Sargodha, the PAF Staff College (now Air War College), Karachi and the National Defence College, Rawalpindi. During his 29-year career in the PAF, he held a number of key operational and staff appointments. In October 1985, he was appointed Officer Commanding (OC) of No. 9 Multi-Role Squadron – the “Griffins”. Between July 1988 and February 1989, Abdul Razzaq, then Wing Commander, served as OC, No. 14 Multi-Role Squadron – the “Tail Choppers”. Both squadrons, then equipped with F-16s, were the most coveted fighter squadrons in the PAF. From August 1992 to March 1994, Abdul Razzaq, then Group Captain, served as OC, Combat Commanders School – a post that testifies to the extraordinary fighter-flying skills of its occupier. He later served as Director Operations and Air Staff Officer in PAF’s Southern Air Command (SAC). In July 1988, Abdul Razzaq, then Air Commodore, was appointed Base Commander of PAF Masroor (Karachi). He also served as Personal Staff Officer to the Chief of the Air Staff. He was promoted to the rank of Air Vice Marshal on 30 November 2000.
Abdul Razzaq was one of the finest marksmen in the PAF. During one live firing exercise, he managed to put all his aircraft’s cannon rounds into the target’s bulls-eye. As often happens, some of his fellow aviators claimed that it was a mere fluke and challenged him to have another go. He silenced his critics by repeating the feat.
In December 1979, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. The principal strategic objective of this move, as perceived by Pakistan, was the Soviet Union’s desire to gain access to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean and to control the strategic oil lanes emanating from the Persian Gulf. Overnight, Pakistan was faced with two hostile forces on both its eastern and western flanks. The Armed Forces of Pakistan had to take defensive measures to prepare for the worst-case scenario – a war on two fronts. The PAF, already occupied in tackling the air threat from the Indian Air Force in the east, rose to the challenge when it was called upon to defend the aerial frontiers of Pakistan from a new threat emanating from the west – Soviet airpower.
The PAF was tasked with undertaking Defensive Counter Air Operations, which meant that pilots and aircraft had to remain on ground alert around-the-clock and conduct continuous Combat Air Patrol (CAP) missions. PAF airbases were kept at the highest level of operational readiness. For the PAF, therefore, the tactical environment was not much different from a full-fledged war, which it undertook throughout the 1979-1988 Soviet-Afghan War in general and during the 1986-88 period in particular.
Thus, for a decade, the PAF maintained a constant vigil on the western aerial frontiers of Pakistan. The battle-hardened No. 9 Squadron, then based at PAF Minhas (Kamra) was one of the squadrons detailed for this mission. It bore the bulk of PAF’s operations, particularly during the 1986-1988 period in which air activity over the Pak-Afghan border intensified. Despite being tasked with both operational and training commitments, No. 9 Squadron generated more effort than any other squadron in support of the operations in the western theatre. It flew 2,221 sorties totalling 3,702 hours, including numerous hot scrambles from PAF Sargodha. Consequently, the Squadron had the opportunity of making three enemy kills inside Pakistan: two Soviet Su-22 fighters and one Soviet Antonov An-26 Electronic Intelligence (ELINT)
During this period, No. 9 Squadron – comprising of 16 pilots and 6 section leaders – was ably commanded by Wing. Commander. Abdul Razzaq, Officer Commanding, who led from the front. The other five section leaders included Squadron. Leader. A. Hameed Qadri. The Squadron’s CAP activity drastically increased from February 1986, when the Soviets and their Afghan communist allies began bombing Mujahideen camps close to the Pakistan border and sometimes even inside Pakistan. The pilots of No. 9 Squadron continuously mounted CAPs in two-ship formations from dawn to dusk, in addition to providing air defence cover to Pakistan’s nuclear installations. Their mission was to shoot down any intruding aircraft – Afghan or Soviet – which intruded into Pakistani airspace.
Strict Rules of Engagement (ROE), however, required PAF pilots to intercept only those intruders that remained within Pakistani airspace for one minute or ingressed into Pakistan up to 7 nautical miles (later reduced to 5 nm) and that too after acquiring permission from the ground controller, who himself had to seek clearance from up the chain of command – from the Sector Commander, Air Officer Commanding (Northern Air Command) to the Deputy Chief of the Air Staff (Operations). This sequence cost vital seconds and minutes allowing intruders to escape back into Afghan airspace. There was an added condition that the interception had to take place in such a manner that the wreckage of the intruding aircraft had to fall inside Pakistani territory – a result extremely difficult to ensure since the Soviets remained very close to the border whilst ingressing into Pakistani airspace. Hot pursuit across the border into Afghan airspace was not permitted – at least not officially – although on numerous occasions PAF F-16s did go in for hot pursuit. However, due to political reasons, the kills made inside Afghan airspace by the PAF (estimated to be between 20 and 30, were never officially recognized or disclosed. To date, PAF officially recognized only the eight kills made inside Pakistani airspace and one forced manoeuvre kill. Throughout the 10-year conflict, PAF pilots often found themselves in tactically advantageous positions with their radar auto-locking on the targets and on many occasions the pilots visually acquiring the targets in their Head-Up Displays (HUD). However, much to their frustration, our pilots could not convert these contacts into kills because permission was not granted due to the strict ROE. Had the ROE not been so stringent, the PAF would have, no doubt, achieved many more kills than it actually did.
On 30 March 1987, Wing Commander Abdul Razzaq and his wingman, Squadron Leader. Sikander Hayat, flying F-16As, were vectored towards two unidentified intruders by Squadron Leader Pervaiz Ali Khan, the ground-controller. These turned out to be Soviet aircraft – one of them being an Antonov An-26 ELINT aircraft – which had violated Pakistan’s airspace near Miranshah – and were heading towards a PAF radar position at Parachinar.
AVM Abdul Razzaq, in his own words, would later recall the encounter:
“ The vector given by the controllers started the flow of adrenaline. All the preparatory actions were over in less than 30 seconds. The bandits (two of them) were reported close to Parachinar; another 30-40 miles had to be covered. Soon the controller reported that now only one bandit was violating the border. The second had turned away. When I brought the target into the TD [Target Designator] box at 3-4 NM [nautical miles], I realized that it was a slow moving, larger aircraft. I asked for permission to shoot, which was quickly given. With an overtake rate of well over 200 knots and a low IR [Infra-Red] signature; the minimum range cue was lying close to 4,000 feet. Effectively, I had no more than 1.5 second firing window available. Everything worked as conceived and with the press of the button, the missile was on its way. As I was breaking off, I saw the missile impact the target. No. 2 also released his missile, which also impacted the target. The enemy aircraft crashed on the snow-clad mountains below.”
In this classic ground-controlled interception (GCI), Wing. Commander Razzaq used an AIM-9 Sidewinder infrared homing air-to-air missile to score the kill. According to Russian sources, all 39 Soviet and Afghan military personnel on board the An-26 were killed. Wing Commander. Abdul Razzaq did an outstanding job of remaining cool, focused and skilful during the GCI. He had no hesitation, in the prevalent wartime conditions, to shoot down the Soviet military aircraft, which was violating Pakistan’s airspace.
The PAF was the second air force in the world to put the F-16 into combat and Wg. Cdr. Abdul Razzaq became the second PAF pilot to score a combat kill with an F-16 – the first being one of his section leaders, Squadron Leader Hameed Qadri, who had earlier shot down two Soviet Su-22 fighters in a single sortie on 17 May 1986. Air Commodore A. Hameed Qadri was himself killed in the line of duty on 19 July 2002 when an F-7P fighter he was flying crashed soon after take off from Kamra. Thus, within a span of a year, the PAF has lost two of the five pilots who achieved officially recognized air-to-air combat kills against the Soviet/Afghan air forces during the Afghan air campaign. If we include Air Commodore Rizwanullah, who also died in the Kohat crash, the Combat Commanders School has lost three of its former commanding officers in the same period. All three were potential Air Chief material.
Air Vice Marshal Abdul Razzaq, SI(M), TI(M), SBt, was a Pakistani hero who walked in the tradition of the many heroes of the PAF before him. He and others like Air Chief Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir, Air Commodores Rizwanullah and A. Hameed Qadri renew our faith in Pakistan. We are indebted to these airmen who gave their life serving their country and for their loyal and honourable service.
At the time of his death, Air Vice Marshal Abdul Razzaq was serving as Deputy Chief of the Air Staff (Training) at Air Headquarters, Chaklala, which required him to commute between Islamabad and Kohat – a major PAF training establishment – on a regular basis. He was laid to rest in his ancestral village near Mianwali on 21 February 2003.