Click to EnlargeThe F-104 Starfighter was undoubtedly one of the most charismatic fighters of the 50s and 60s. It was the first Mach-2 capable fighter in the Indian Subcontinent, when it was inducted into the PAF as part of the Military Asistance Program of the CENTO. It prompted the Indian Air Force to search for a similar aircraft that would balance it.

 

 

Click to Enlarge F-104A 56-874 is an old PAF warhorse that had seen action in both the Indo-Pak Wars of 65 and 71. It has one confirmed Air to Air Combat kill and another Air to Ground kill. Its currently on display at Sargodha AFB . Photo Courtesy: Abbas Ali, HistoryOfPIA.com

The F-104 Starfighter was undoubtedly one of the most charismatic fighters of the 50s and 60s. It was the first Mach-2 capable fighter in the Indian Subcontinent, when it was inducted into the PAF as part of the Military Asistance Program of the CENTO. It prompted the Indian Air Force to search for a similar aircraft that would balance it.

Between 1961 and 1965, the PAF procured 14 of these aircraft. Ten single seaters and two Twin seaters were inducted till 1964. After one of the single seaters was lost in an accident (Serial no unknown), two replacement aircraft was seconded from Taiwan in Mar 65. The following table gives the individual aircraft numbers and the fates as known.

Tail # Date Rec SOC Remarks
56-802 05-Aug-61    
56-803 05-Aug-61    
56-804 05-Aug-61 06-Dec-71 S/L Amjad Hussain was SD by AA fire over Amritsar
56-805 05-Aug-61    
56-807 05-Aug-61    
56-868 05-Aug-61 17-Sep-65 F/O GA Abbasi crashed while landing in low visibility. Mystere claim (65)
56-874 05-Aug-61   Preserved at PAF Peshawar. Canberra Kill (65) HF-24 Ground Kill (71)
56-875 05-Aug-61   Pole Mounted at PAF Risalpur
56-877 05-Aug-61 07-Sep-65 F/L Amjad Hussain was SD by S/L AB Devayya (Mystere). 'Gnat FL Claim'
56-879 05-Aug-61   Preserved at PAF Masroor
56-773 08-Jun-64 12-Dec-71 W/C MH Middlecoat was SD by F/L BB Soni (MiG-21) over Kutch
56-798 01-Mar-65   Preserved at Karachi Museum Internal Hangar - Ex Taiwan
57-1309 05-Aug-61   Two Seater Trainer - Preserved at Karachi Museum
57-1312 05-Aug-61   Two Seater Trainer - Preserved at PAF Faisal

The F-104 Starfighters remained in service with Pakistan Air Force for twelve years and flew 11,690 hours. During the 1965 Pakistan-India War, the F-104s flew a total of 246 hours and 45 minutes while during the 1971 War, the F-104s flew a total of 103 hours and forty-five minutes.

Of the fourteen aircraft, two were officially lost in the 65 War and another two were lost to Indian AA fire and MiGs respectively in the 1971 conflict. Today atleast six of the original fourteen are known to be preserved at various locations in Pakistan. Only one of the aircraft has a rich combat history as far as we know. 56-874 preserved at Peshawar has a Canberra night kill in the 65 war and a confirmed HF-24 strafed on the ground at Uttarlai in the 71 Operations.

One Starfighter 56-875 is displayed on a pole at the PAF Academy in Risalpur , while 56-879 is at PAF Masroor.

Click to Enlarge F-104A 56-875 is displayed in a striking manner at the PAF Academy at Risalpur. Photo Courtesy: Abbas Ali, HistoryOfPIA.com
F-104A 56-879 in a magnificient display at PAF Masroor. Photo Courtesy: Usman Shabbir. Click to Enlarge

Two other PAF F-104s are preserved in the Karachi PAF Museum. These include one of the two seaters 57-1309. The PAF Museum also houses a third F-104 serialled 62-682 . This third Starfighter was a gift from Turkey and is displayed on a pedestal in a nose high attitude sporting the Turkish Air Force markings. The other Starfighter is the ex Taiwanese machine 56-798 which is displayed inside the hangar in the museum. This was reported to have been displayed at Sargodha earlier before being moved to its current home. The last of the two seaters 57-1312 is preserved at the gate of PAF Faisal near Karachi.

There were reports of a sixth PAF survivor but no information is known on its serial number. A picture of this aircraft appears in the PAF History book for 1988-98 and it is reported to be preserved at Chaklala. If this was indeed another original PAF F-104 Starfighter, it would leave two other F-104s unaccounted for, as we know one was lost Pre-1965. But it turned out that this was the same aircraft that is now displayed in Risalpur. So that left just three F-104s of whose fate we do not have information about.

F-104B 57-1312 is one of the two twin seaters used by the PAF , seen here on display at PAF Faisal. Photo Courtesy: Abbas Ali, HistoryOfPIA.com Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge F-104B 57-1309 is second of the two twin seaters used by the PAF , seen here on display at PAF Risalpur, before it was moved to the PAF Museum in Karachi in 1999. Photo Courtesy: Abbas Ali, HistoryOfPIA.com

John Fricker in an article 'Post-Mortem of an Air War' that appeared in Air Enthusiast in January 1972 reported that the PAF had only eight F-104s at the beginning of the war implying that atleast four were lost in accidents before the 1971 war. Fricker also mentions that the PAF was able to account for five survivors at the end of it. But we now have six survivors. Its probable that one of the six survivors was actually struck off charge before the 71 Ops commenced.

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