The Glorious IAF Tempests..

Discussion in 'Indian Air Force' started by Kunal Biswas, Sep 3, 2011.

  1. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    THE TEMPERAMENTAL TEMPEST
    “And from the earth, the sky, the winds, he felt the powers flowing anew. It had begun. The Tempest”
    “The Tempest”, William Shakespeare




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    It has been exactly a half century since the Tempest howled through Indian skies. The last Tempests stood down in Sep 1955, when the Target Towing Flight under the Armament Training Wing (ATW) at Jamnagar handed in their four aircraft in exchange for Toofanis (MD 450 Ouragons). The Tempest formed the backbone of the IAF's fighter fleet and almost single handedly dominated the critical ground support role during the1947- 48 conflict in Jammu and Kashmir. In its later career the Tempest II also played an important part in introducing young fighter pilots to fighter flying in what was certainly the' biggest beast of a fighter aircraft' at the time. Hastily developed for a very specialized ground attack role towards the end of WW II, the Tempest II had outlived its enabling technologies and was rapidly overtaken by the Meteor and Vampire jets by the end of 1948. With a manufacturer unwilling and then unable to support the aircraft's great proclivity for frequent spares supply, the Tempest II became increasingly difficult to maintain. Severe and fundamental problems with the revolutionary Centaurus engine's sleeve valve bearings led to a high engine - related accident rate in the IAF. In fact, during the Kashmir conflict the number of engine related non combat loses were of a much greater concern than actual combat related ones. This, coupled with a generally higher than average level of skill required to operate the aircraft, caused the Tempest II to be finally withdrawn from service in less than nine years. In fact the Tempest II was replaced in 7 Squadron by the earlier Spitfire XVIIIs and then by a slew of jet aircraft like the Vampire and Toofani (MD 450 Ouragon).




    The Tempest Comes to India.


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    The first of 180 Tempest IIs were shipped out to Karachi, Drigh Rd's 320 MU in Dec 45. The first aircraft went to 5 and 30 squadrons RAF at Bhopal in Mar 46 followed by 20 Squadron RAF at Agra and 152 Squadron RAF at Risalpur. As more Tempests were assembled it was the turn of the RIAF squadrons to convert. As was the case at the time, all RAF aircraft were 'loaned' to the RIAF and retained their original RAF serials (PR--- or MW---).



    However, all Tempests operated by the RAF in India were 'officially' handed over to the RIAF on 25 Sep 47 and received serials in the 'HA---"series by early 1948. These numbered 159, including three, PR 548, 804 & 836 transferred in 'written-off' condition. 35 of these were handed over to the PAF along with No 1 and 9 Squadrons IAF on 25 Sep 1947. The RIAF received a further 89 Tempests refurbished by Hawker from RAF stocks of 113 held at 20 MU in May 1948 (the remaining 24 were sold to Pakistan). Once the Tempest II was withdrawn from RAF service, India was able to procure 20 more aircraft from RAF MUs which were delivered in two batches from 09 Jul 1951 (12) and 29 Aug 1951 (08) PR 834 becoming the last of 233 Tempest IIs delivered to India of a total 452 produced.




    A total of eight IAF squadrons converted to the type. No 3 Squadron was the first to start conversion at Kolar with No 5 Squadron RAF in Sep 1946, when it received a single Tempest II. Flt Lt MPO 'Mickey' Blake becoming the first Indian to fly the Tempest II at Poona on 27 Sep 46.



    No 8 Squadron followed in Oct 46, No 10 in May 1947, No 7 and 9 in Jun 47 and finally No 1 and 4 squadrons in Jul 47. Tempests also served in the fighter lead-in role alongside Spitfire VIIIs and XIVs with the Conversion and Training Unit (CTU) at Ambala and Hakimpet, and four Tempests served with a Target Towing Flight under the Armament Training Wing (ATW) at Jamnagar until their final retirement in Jul 1955.


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    The Tempest's Finest Hour, The Race to save Kashmir.



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    Pending the accession decision of the Maharaja HH Hari Singhji of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), Pakistan and India had entered into a 'standstill agreement' to give the princely state some breathing time to decide. However pre empting the decision by the Maharaja and violating the standstill agreement, Pakistani irregular forces invaded the state on 22 Oct 47 in a bid to capture the Kingdom for itself. The local J&K state forces were overwhelmed within a few days and the invading Mujahideen and Lashkar forces stood a days march from the capital Srinagar. At this point the Maharaja of J&K acceded to India on 26 Oct 47 thus allowing India to step in and recover what it could of the shambles. The RIAF began an airlift into the besieged and continuously shelled airstrip at Srinagar with RIAF and Civil Dakotas in an air effort that was to surpass the Berlin airlift several fold in terms of combat air support in the face of constant enemy fire. Even as 200 men of 1st Bn, the Sikh Regt and 161 Brigade counter attacked and pushed the approximately 4000 invaders to a perimeter just out side Srinagar. Most of the IAF's fighter fleet had converted to the Tempest IIs by then except for No 2 Squadron and most were under strength and understaffed after the partition with some holding only five Tempests with a smattering of Harvards distributed singly amongst the squadrons for continuity training. However, two RIAF Spitfires and a lone Harvard were flown in from the No 1 Services Flying Training School (SFTS) at Ambala, the closest airfield at the time, to provide support to the defenders. Scrounging fuel in jerry cans from the Dakotas landing troops (no fuel was available at Srinagar) the Spitfires flew round the clock strafing the enemy at the gates of Srinagar.




    Tempests in the Valley.



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    On 28 Oct, No 10 Squadron moved four aircraft from Agra to Ambala and a single Tempest staged via Amritsar to carry out recconnaisance west of Srinagar along the road to Kohala. The next day four Tempests attacked enemy forces all along the Srinagar perimeter and around Pattan As these aircraft forward deployed to what was to become No I Advance Landing ground (ALG) at Amritsar, No 7 Squadron under Sqn Ldr SB Noronha moved five Tempests to Ambala on 30 Oct 47. Few days later the two Spitfires based in Srinagar were reinforced by two Tempests of No 10 Sqn. Tempests flew continuous tac/R sorties locating and attacking enemy positions along narrow defiles, deep gorges and thickly wooded hills. On 3 Nov the enemy attacked at Badgam, only few kilometers south of the Srinagar airfield. The onslaught was stopped in the last moment with support of the Spitfires and Tempests of 7 and 10 sqn. The raider's main position had been identified at Shelatang a village along the road to Baramulla west of Srinagar and on 07 Nov the Indian Army and Air force launched a joint operation that routed the enemy with the main force escaping across the Jhelum at Domel. Although, Baramulla and Uri were re captured, the Indian advance was forced to wait for the precarious supply situation to catch up. The RIAF provided continuous close support and recce effort from Srinagar and Amritsar. Tempests struck at Uri, Rawalkot and Kotli areas and attacked the key bridges at Muzzafrabad and Domel. Flt Lt Ulrich Anthony D' Cruz was shot down by ground fire and taken POW whilst flying a 7 Squadron Harvard II in this action. He was later awarded the Ashok Chakra class II (later the Kirti Chakra) for his gallantry.


    Unable to bypass and infiltrate Uri, the invaders opened a second front to the south and captured and held Rawalkot, Bagh, and Rajauri, putting most of Jammu under their control, and by Dec 47 laying siege to Poonch which was to last over a year. In the North West the invaders took the Gilgit agency in Oct 47 and moved south unchecked to capture Gurais and then further south taking Traqbal, 35 miles from Srinagar overlooking the picturesque Wullar Lake. Lacking an airfield close enough to provide close support in the Jammu area, the Army prepared a grass strip at Jammu by Dec 47 allowing 10 Squadron to move in and take part in operations in the Akhnoor-Chammb-Naushera area. No 10s rocketing and strafing Tempests The coming of the extreme winter forced a break in operations for both sides that lasted almost three months. This brought to an end to what was to be later called the "first phase" of the war.



    The Second Phase.



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    No 8 Squadron was moved to Jammu on 16 Jan 48 under Sqn Ldr Padam Singh Gill bringing the total fighter bomber strength in the valley to three squadrons with a floating population of an average 20 Tempests and four Harvards. In this second phase of the war both sides (the invaders now being openly supported by regular Pakistan army combatants) dug-in and began to build up for what both sides knew would be the decisive phase for J&K. All through the winter Dakotas, initially 'air dropping' and then by landing under howitzer fire at a primitive strip at Poonch, supported Brig Pritam Singh's besieged garrison. Tempests of 10 Squadron also modified their over load 60 gal drop tanks to drop supplies and ammunition. This operation was later to earn the sobriquet "Mehar Singh's Operation Poonching" after Air Cmde Mehar Singh, overall commander of air operations in the valley. By early 1948 the Pakistan Army had several small garrisons in Jammu, and especially in the "Gilgit Agency", Skardu, Aston, and Chilas. Most importantly the enemy had bolstered their anti aircraft defences, quite significantly, by positioning 40mm Bofors and 3.7 in AAA along the valleys after manhandling them up the defiles. The first loss to ground fire was 8 sqn's Fg offr Amrit Singh Bakshi who lost his tyres and brakes to small arms fire on 29 Jan 48. In the recovery at Jammu the aircraft lost control and somersaulted. Bakshi survived with burn injuries but was invalided from fighter flying.




    The Third Phase.



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    This phase of the Kashmir War came in the spring of 1948. Tempests opened the phase in early Feb 48 by softening targets ahead of 50th Para brigade's advance on Kot and provided close support at the battle of Naushera, the biggest of the campaign. Exploiting the successes at Naushera, Indian forces pressed towards Jhangar, once again being continuously shepherded by strafing, bombing and rocketing Tempests and recaptured it on 15 Mar 48. On the same day, Fg Offr Donald Michael of 8 Squadron was hit whilst attacking targets at Naushera in PR 749. During the landing at Jammu his damaged port tire disintegrated and the Tempest somersaulted several times before coming to rest on its back and in two pieces. Michael was extricated just in time before the aircraft exploded.



    The next day Fg Offr Balwant Singh also of 8 Squadron was shot down and killed by ground fire in PR 597 whilst attacking targets in the same area. Similarly Flt Lt Sardindu Dasgupta of 10 Squadron was lost on take off from Jammu when his aircraft (PR 660) crashed due to engine failure on 22 Mar 48.



    RIAF Dakotas of 12 Squadron also unnerved the enemy by rolling out, by hand, 500 lb and 1000 lb bombs from the cabin over enemy troops in the Rungad Nullah area of Poonch. On 23 Apr, 10 Squadron carried out daring raids against the strategic Domel and Kishenganga bridges with several Tempests being damaged by 40mm fire. On one such occasion, Flt Lt JC (Lofty) Plomer operating from Jammu was hit by ground fire which, unknown to him, destroyed his left tire. On landing the ac's basic tendency to swing to port was magnified ten fold and Flt Lt Plomer was just able to stop the aircraft without nosing over. However, several other pilots suffered serious consequences when they landed with shot away brakes or tyres and ended up on their backs.


    On 28 Apr RIAF Tempests led the way to the attack on Traqbal on Wullar lake and continuous rocketing and bombing under difficult weather managed to dislodge the entrenched Frontier Force Rifles, Chitral and Gilgit scouts and regular Pakistan army elements leading to the capture of Tithwal in May and Gurais in Jun 48. On 12 May 48, Fg Offr Derek Austin O Brien was lost in a non combat accident whilst trying to dead stick PR 601 with a stuck throttle at Jammu and Flt lt Aloysius William Barrette of 8 Squadron fatally crashed soon after take off during an air test from Jammu in HA 431 on 08 Aug 48.



    The formidable Zoji La was captured on 01 Nov 48 with the ingenuous use of Stuart light tanks of 7 Cav supporting the Gurkhas, Patialas, Rajputs, Marathas and Jats. RIAF Tempests supported 77 Para brigade by strafing enemy dug in positions and mortar nests on either side of the Zoji la defile and beyond with the Tempests having to climb 23,000 ft mountains and flying through valleys with crests 5000' high. However, in spite of brave attempts to supply the State Force's Skardu garrison by Tempests, it was overrun on 14 Aug Jul 48. Tithwal was a particularly AAA infested objective and several Tempests were severely damaged in attacks during its capture.






    The Final Phase.

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    With the main threat swinging to the North, 7 Squadron was moved up from Amritsar to Srinagar in Aug 48 under Sqn Ldr ED Massilamani with eight Tempests and one Harvard. On 03 Oct 48, 7 Squadron suffered its fourth and last loss near Pandu when Fg Offr UG Wright baled out after being shot down in HA-363. After a harrowing escape and evasion during which he was fired at during the parachute descent he managed to return and link up with Indian troops.



    Plt Offr Ivor Patrick Carrapiett, the youngest casuality of the war was declared missing in action when his Tempest HA-416 failed to return from a mission to Chamb on 05 Nov 48. Interestingly, Patrick's father moved to Karachi in Pakistan after the war to take up a senior position in the Pakistan railway. His younger son joined the Pakistan air force and was at Shorkot Rd (today Rafiqui) during Sqn Ldr 'Jimmy' Bhatia's and Flt Lt Tambay's (32 Squadron on SU-7s) strike on the airfield on 04 Dec 71. The younger Carrapiett is said to have recovered Tambay's body and returned his belongings after the war.


    Tempests played an equally important role in the strikes against hostiles at Pir Badesar and the dominating Pir Kalewa which finally led to the action enabling the link up with, and relief of the Poonch garrison on 20 Nov 48. Tempests twins alternated with field artillery to keep constant pressure on the enemy and established the location of Pakistani 7th Arty Div's 25 pounders shelling Poonch, these targets being finally destroyed with rockets. The taking of Ramgarh fort and Pt 6944 on the west flank of Bhimbar Gali was to be a classic close support action with Indian forces carrying out a final bayonet charge against the enemy trenches whilst Tempests strafed and rocketed the trenches at close quarters. On a chance reconnaissance, enemy airfields were located at Gilgit and 40 NMs south, at Chilas. Tempests flew several strikes against the landing strips in Oct and Nov 48, cratering & damaging both and destroying several hangars, barracks and radio installations. This attack destroyed Pakistani plans to build an offensive air capability in the North. Already, with Tempests prowling the valleys, Pakistani re supply by Dakotas had been limited to hazardous night flying through the valleys. With the war shifting to the northeast, 10 Squadron the first to move into the theater was relieved and moved to Palam in Oct 48. In Oct and Nov 48, 8 Squadron joined with 7 Squadron at Srinagar to launch large formations to strike Bagh and the old and newly built forts at Skardu. The fort at Skardu was attacked on several occasions as also the Pir's house at Rondu with satisfying results. These missions were flown over arctic conditions with normal temperate clothing worn by the pilots leaving little chance for survival in case a pilot was forced to abandon his ac. Sorties called for negotiating the 26,000' mastiff of the Nanga Parbat .


    Towards the south-east, 77 parachute brigades advance on Kargil and Dras, which had been captured by the enemy in May was continuously supported by Tempests in Nov 48 until the Gurkhas in the Leh garrison were firmly linked on 24 Nov 48. With both sides becoming increasingly exhausted and reaching a stale mate in the west, a UN enforced cease fire was agreed to from midnight, 31 Dec 48, with the Line of Control (LOC) becoming the de-facto border. RIAF Tempests continued to carry out reconnaissance over the troubled areas near Jammu with occasional strafing to dissolve any build up of offensive activity especially at Bagh and Kotli. The last major action was the concentrated enemy shelling of Naushera with nearly 5000 shells being lobbed into these confines in less than eight hours. Patrolling 7 Squadron Tempests also encountered heavy AAA fire around these areas for the last time on 14 Dec 48. The last targets attacked by mostly 7 Squadron Tempests were the bridge at Hajira and troop concentrations at Palak and Sadabad in the last week of the war. Thus ended India's first military action post independence.




    More Here: The Hakwer Tempest II in Indian Air Force Service - Polly Singh [www.bharat-rakshak.com]
     
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  3. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    Tempests rock...

    I can only dream to see a modern avatar of her..
     
  4. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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  5. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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