Strike at Longewala

36 × 24 inches

The Battle of Longewala (4–7 December 1971) was one of the first major engagements in the western sector during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, fought between assaulting Pakistani forces and Indian defenders at the Indian border post of Longewala, in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan state in India.The battle was fought between 120 Indian soldiers accompanied by 4 Hunter fighter aircraft and 2000-3000 Pakistani soldiers accompanied by 40-45 tanks.

Although massively outnumbering the Indian defenders, and having surrounded them, the Pakistani troops were unable to advance over open terrain on a full-moon night, under small arms and mortar fire from the outpost. This encouraged the Indians not to give up their strong defensive position, frustrating the Pakistani commanders. As dawn arrived, the Pakistan forces had still not taken the post, and were now having to do so in full daylight.

In the morning, the Indian Air Force was finally able to direct some Hawker Hunter aircraft based at Jaisalmer to assist the post; they were not outfitted with night vision equipment, and so were delayed from conducting combat missions until dawn. With daylight, however, the IAF was able to operate effectively, with the strike aircraft being guided to the targets by the airborne Forward Air Controller (FAC) Maj. Atma Singh in a HAL Krishak.[23] The Indian aircraft attacked the Pakistani ground troops with the 16 Matra T-10 rockets and 30 mm cannon fire on each aircraft. Without support from the Pakistan Air Force, which was busy elsewhere, the tanks and other armoured vehicles were easy targets for the IAF's Hunters. The range of the 12.7 mm anti-aircraft heavy machine guns mounted on the tanks was limited and therefore ineffective against the Indian jets. Indian air attacks were made easier by the nature of the barren terrain. Many IAF officers later described the attack as a 'turkey shoot' signifying the lopsidedness. By noon the next day, the assault ended completely, having cost Pakistan 22 tanks claimed destroyed by aircraft fire, 12 by ground anti-tank fire, and some captured after being abandoned, with a total of 100 vehicles claimed to have been destroyed or damaged in the desert around the post.   Longewala had proved to be one of the defining moments in the war.  

This oil painting made to reconstruct Battle of Longewala fought in Indo-Pak War 0f 1971. Fortunately, there are enough write ups, videos etc available in the net on how the battle unfolded from both Air Force and Army sides. However, I thought my painting should portray FIRST of the onslaught of attacks by IAF Hunters that pulverised the Pakistani armour in the battle. For my task I contacted Gp Capt DK Dass (Retd)  the pilot who fired the first salvo of 4x T-10 on to a T-59 tank of Pak Army . He with his No. 2 Flt Lt Ramesh Gosain flew the first mission and subsequently Hunters and HF-24 Maruts destoyed bulk of the Pak Army armour.


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