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PAF and the induction of the F-86E - a brief
The clandestine procurement of 90 surplus ex-Luftwaffe Canadair Sabre from West Germany by Pakistan could have made for a gripping thriller movie. It involved Germans, including ex-Nazi’s Iranian & Pakistan Air Force officers and the usual suspect, the US government.
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Air Marshal Nur Khan has a word with F.S Hussain while strapped into a Canadair Sabre Mk 6. Note that aircraft is still sporting a Luftwaffe colour scheme and serials.
Even though Pakistan was under the American arms embargo, it was able to procure the 90 surplus Canadair Sabre Mk.2s from West Germany via Merex AG, an arms trading firm, opened and run by a decorated ex-Nazi Gerhard Mertins.
The deal is believed to have been done with the blessing of German government and intelligence services but keeping in mind the sensitives around the imposed arms embargo and selling to an active conflict zone country, was to be done via a third nation. American intelligence was also believed to be in the know but turned a blind eye. Even though the deal was struck with the Iranian government, it was known right from the start that the aircraft were intended for Pakistan.
The deal was worth USD 10 million and even though the deal was to be with the Iranian government, Gerhard Mertins is believed to have negotiated directly with the Pakistan embassy in Bonn during 1966. To keep up appearances in subsequent negotiations, PAF officers, participated wearning Imperial Iranian Air Force (IIAF) uniforms and ID badges. Some of the PAF officers would go on to keep their IIAF badges as mementos.
The first 10 aircraft were ferried to Vahdati Air Force Base located in South Iran by Luftwaffe pilots in April 1966, hopping across various European bases to refuel. The aircraft flew into Vahdati in 4-ship formations once a week or every few days. The Luftwaffe pilots would park the aircraft, switch off and then would be flown to Tehran for their subsequent return flight.
At Vahdati Air Base, the aircraft were test flown by a group of PAF pilots led by Squadron Leader Ali Kazim. Over the following months, the rest of the aircraft were also ferried, with the last 20 aircraft delivered in December 1966.
The ferrying of the first two F-86Es from Iran to Pakistan was done by Wing Commander F.S. Hussain and Waqar Azim.
The boss told me . that he will fly Vahdati–Mauripur direct! Looking at the expression on my face he said ‘Ali don’t fret, I have worked out everything. Just have them parked just short of the runway, top up to last drop, have two APUs to start up both at the same time and off we will go.’... Was done that way. I took a deep sigh of relief the moment I got the message that they had landed at Mauripur. All 90 went to Pakistan in Luftwaffe colours. The other 88 went Vahdati–Shiraz–Mauripur.’
The acquisition of these Sabres was a shot in the arm for PAF. These aircraft equipped four squadrons, No. 17, 18 and 19 Squadrons in West Pakistan and No. 14 Squadron, which was still deployed in East Pakistan.
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