This painting composed of a dogfight between a IAF MiG-21 and F-86 Sabre of PAF over Tezgaon airfield was painted for Dadoo Subaiya who was my flyiing instructor during my cadet days. Following are the excerpts from the book , “Eagles over Bangaldesh” by PVS Jagan Mohan and Samir Chopra that has narrated the encounter in an extremely lucid fashion…please read on !!
…..the second section, comprising of Behal and Bhatia was about to join the attack when the second escort, Flight Lieutenant Subaiya, orbiting overhead (Tezgaon air base) noticed a Sabre approaching from the opposite direction….Subaiya noticed the Sabre trying to position itself behind the MiGs as they commenced their dive. Subaiya punched his centre tank and dived behind the MiG formation, cutting in front of the Sabre to distract the PAF pilot, while calling out a warning on the R/T to Behal and Bhatia. The Sabre pilot took the bait and turned towards Subaiya. Now the MiG-21 and the Sabre were in a low speed scissoring dogfight over skies of Dacca. ……Though at several points Subaiya found himself on the tail of the Sabre about thirty degrees off, he was not in an ideal position to launch his K-13 missile. With his fuel situation turning precarious, Subaiya decided to exit the fight. He engaged his afterburner, turned away from the Sabre and put his aircraft in a dive accelerating away to the north, trying to catch up with the rest of the formation… (This is the exact moment that I tried to freeze in my painting).
….Manbir Singh called out to Subaiya, ‘Dadoo, what is your position?’….he looked to his left and right and then glimpsed Subaiya’s MiG to his right about two kilometres away, flying low and slightly ahead. …when he was about a kilometre away, he spotted a Sabre following Subaiya 800 meters behind….Manbir shouted to Subaiya, ‘Dadoo ! You have a Sabre behind you !’ Subaiya looked behind and sure enough, the Sabre was rapidly closing in on him. ..He immediately slammed the throttle lever forward to engage the afterburner and yanked the control column to the left….forcing the Sabre to overshoot Subaiya’s MiG. Subaiya reversed his turn and picked up the Sabre ahead of him around 400 metres. But the PAF pilot was throwing his turn into extravagant turns that prevented Subaiya from using his missiles…….Subaiya later confirmed on R/T that he had disengaged and from air combat and was flying back to Gauhati.
….Bishnoi asked Subaiya to report his fuel state. Subaiya checked and reported he had barely 900 litres left. Bishnoi was shocked. 900 litres meant eighteen minutes if flying time at low level…He ordered Subaiya to climb to six kilometres for range flying to base….509 SU at Shillong confirmed that the Sabre was not in pursuit …As the MiG crossed the Indian territory, Subaiya had 400 litres in the aircraft….by the time the formation was in visual contact with Gauhati airfield, Subaiya reported 50 litres of fuel left…Bishnoi and Manbir alerted Guwahati to keep the rescue helicopter ready for a possible ejection of Subaiya if his engine quits….Subaiya radioed that he would not eject and would undertake a direct high-level approach and landing. The risk with a direct approach from high level approach was great as aircraft would sink uncontrollably if the engine flames out in the process of a controlled descent resulting in impacting the ground with a destructive force…Bisnoi tensed at sensing a possible disastrous outcome….but Subaiya touched down smoothly, much to everyone’s relief. Subaiya’s MiG slowed down and before he reached the end of runway, its engine flamed out.