This painting by Group Captain Deb Gohain (Retd) is an attempt to recreate the mission flown by Flying Officer Utpal Barbara, Vr.C. who retired from Air Force as Wing Commander and now settled at Guwahati.
On 26 April 1965, while on an armament training detachment of 101 Sqn at Jamnagar, Gujarat, Flying Officer Utpal Barbora got chance to fly his first operational mission in war. His task was to fly a FR mission over Pakistani army that had mounted an attack against one of our company positions in Biar Bet area of Kutch. The task was to collect evidence of the presence of Pakistani armour in this area and use of tanks by Pakistani forces that were supplied by America with strict riders not to use them against India. Such evidence was of vital importance since Pakistan had denied use of American tanks in battle. Before him other aircraft like Canberra that had dedicated photo role had flown over the target area with no result.
When Flying Officer Barbara escorted by another Vampire from the same squadron arrived over the target area, he saw the entire area below him covered in a dense layer of dust and smoke. He immediately realised that cameras fitted in his aircraft would not be able to see anything through the haze layer if flown at medium levels, as was instructed during pre flight briefing. Descending through the haze was too risky as flying at ultra low levels at high speeds required ground to be in perfect contact. There was also danger of being caught in the crossfire of the artillery duel between the Pakistani forces and our troops at low levels.
Fully aware of the risks, Flying Officer Barbara decided to descend to low level. Soon the ground was whizzing past as he descended lower and lower in search of enemy. As he descended to almost 100 feet above ground level all of a sudden something that resembled an enemy tank went past him bellowing dust and smoke. On pressed a little lower he spotted almost 15 Pakistani tanks that appeared to be advancing towards Indian positions.
Flying Officer Barbara realised that he found what he and the whole nation was looking for and that is irrefutable evidence of Pakistani forces using American arms against India. He made a single level pass over the tanks with all cameras on. He was not too sure of resolution of photos taken at such low light conditions. Throwing all caution to wind, Flying Officer Barbara made repeated passes over the tanks. For enemy soldiers on ground the entire hell broke loose and they were seen running helter-skelter for cover in all directions. As a disciplined soldier he held back his urge and temptation to fire on enemy. His objective achieved, Flying Officer Barbara returned to his base at safe and sound.
Analysis of the photographs confirmed that Pakistan had used foreign tanks inside Indian Territory despite the assurance given to the international communities. This refutable proof forced the Pakistani forces to withdraw from inside Indian Territory.
In this very dangerous and sensitive mission Flying Officer Utpal Barbara displayed courage, determination and professional skill of a high order in the best traditions of the Air Force and he was awarded the gallantry award of Vir Chakra by the grateful nation.
In this operation, Flying Officer Barbara displayed courage, determination and professional skill of a high order in the best traditions of the Air Force was decorated with a Vir Chakra.