Chief of Air Staff pays tribute to war hero Group Captain (retd) Saif-ul-Azam

By: News Desk
Published: 11:54 AM, 15 Jun, 2020
Chief of Air Staff pays tribute to war hero Group Captain (retd) Saif-ul-Azam
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Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan Monday expressed deep sorrow and grief over the demise of the legendary war hero Group Captain (retd) Saif-ul-Azam.

A PAF spokesperson said Air Chief paid rich tributes to him for his proud achievements in the 1965 Pak-India war and the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. During the Pak-India war of 1965, Saif-ul-Azam was awarded the 'Star of Courage' for killing an Indian warplane, 24NewsHD TV Channel reported.

Pakistan Air Force spokesman said Saif-ul-Azam also had the honor of destroying three Israeli planes in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. According to Bangladesh media, he breathed his last at Combined Military Hospital in Dhaka around 1:00pm Sunday. The 80-year-old was undergoing treatment at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the hospital.

Saif was known to be the only pilot who had flown for three air forces -- Jordan, Iraq, and Pakistan -- at war. He also holds the record of shooting down more Israeli aircrafts than anyone else. The United States Air Force honoured him as one of the 22 "Living Eagles" of the world.

Azam was born in 1941 in Pabna, India, and, as a young boy, lived in Calcutta. In 1947, his family moved east to an area that became part of predominately Moslem East Pakistan. In 1955, he went to West Pakistan and attended high school until 1958, when he entered the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Cadet College. Graduating in 1960, he was commissioned as a pilot officer in the PAF. He trained in the Cessna T-37 and then travelled to Luke AFB, Arizona, for an advanced fighter course in the North American F-86 Sabre. He returned to East Pakistan and flew the Sabre until 1963.

He next flew the T-37 as an instructor at PAF Base Mauripur from 1963 to 1966. During the September 1965 war with India, Azam was flying Sabres in No. 17 Squadron from PAF Base Sargodha. After successfully executing a ground attack strike, his formation was bounced by Indian Air Force fighters. In the ensuing fight, Azam shot down one of the two attackers, a Folland Gnat, and earned his first victory. He was awarded the Sitara-I-Jurat, Pakistan's Distinguished Flying Cross.

In 1966, Azam commanded No. 2 Squadron and instructed again in the T-37. In late 1966, he became an advisor to the Royal Jordanian Air Force and flew the Hawker Hunter with No. 1 Squadron. During the 1967 Israeli-Arab War, he again distinguished himself in the air. During an Israeli Air Force strike on Jordan's main base at Mafraq, Azam scored one confirmed victory and sent another trailing smoke to the west. Two days later, on 7 June 1967, the Israelis struck H-3, an airbase in western Iraq. Azam, this time flying an Iraqi Hunter, scored two victories. For his actions, he received Jordan's Husame Isteqlal and Iraq's Medal of Bravery, the Noth-es-Shuja.

He returned to East Pakistan in 1969 and became a flight commander in a squadron flying the Shenyang F-6, a Chinese-built version of the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-19. Next, Azam became a flight commander at the PAF Fighter Leader's School. In 1971, when East Pakistan gained independence as Bangladesh, he became Director of Flight Safety, and, later, Director of Operations for the Bangladesh Air Force (BAF). In 1977, he became Wing Commander and Base Commander of the BAF base at Dhaka. After retiring as a group captain, in the 1980s, Azam twice served as Chairman, Civil Aviation Authority.

He was also Managing Director of the Film Development Corporation. He also remained a member of Bangladesh's Parliament from 1991 to 1996.