Aviation History

Former Pakistan Air Force pilot decorated for having scored three (unconfirmed) kills against Israeli military aircraft during the Six-Day War passes away

Saif ul-Azam claimed, and was credited with downing 3 Israeli jets in the June 1967 War. His claims remain ‘unclear’, though.

Saif ul-Azam, former pilot of the Pakistan Air Force, and then the Bangladesh Air Force, highly decorated for his actions during the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War, passed away a few days, ago Al Jazeera reported.

For those to whom his name might ‘not ring any bells’, or ‘too few to recall’….

Mr. Azam claimed, and was credited with downing 3 Israeli jets in the June 1967 War. Correspondingly, he was highly decorated – by Iraq, by Jordan, and in Pakistan (the latter decorated him for his 1 confirmed kill during the September 1965 Indo-Pakistani War).

His claims from 1967 remain ‘unclear’, though. It’s actually so that due to the Pakistani propaganda he’s simply the ‘best known’ in the West – although by far not the only one pilot involved in air combats there, and surely not the only one to have scored kills.

To make sure: Mr. Azam, may he rest in peace, was also humble enough to stress this, in an interview I’ve had with him, about 10 years ago.

Over Jordan on Jun. 5, 1967, his Jordanian wingman Ihsam Shurdom also claimed 1 kill, and the Israelis admit only one loss. So, who scored that kill? Azam or Shurdom?

That remains unclear until this very day.

Over Iraq on Jun. 7, 1967, not only Azam claimed two kills, but also Azam’s Jordanian wingman claimed two, and – Samir Yousif Zainal – one of two Iraqi pilots that was around – claimed two. Every single one of them was credited with two kills and was decorated for two kills. However, the Israelis didn’t lose 6, but only 3 or 4 jets. So, again: who scored what kill….?

Another unclarity…

Nobody – especially no Pakistanis – have ever seriously cross-examined all these claims before Mrs. Patricia Salti’s and my related book HAWKER HUNTERS AT WAR has been published, four years ago.

BTW, and so typically, the Pakistanis never talk about Mr. Azam’s subsequent career: he was forced to leave the PAF in 1971, because he was a Bengali. That’s why he then went over to Bangladesh and served with the local air force instead.

(I would like to stress once again, this is NO attempt to lessen Mr. Azam’s achievements or skills as a pilot, or any other kind of disrespect: just a reminder that such instances like al-Jazeera are all wrong in regards of Mr. Azam. There is only one pilot to have 4 confirmed claims against the Israelis during the June 1967 War. That was Mohammed Mansour, a Syrian MiG-21-flier, whose story I’ve told in one of my earlier posts. Mansour did score 4, perhaps even 4.5, undeniably confirmed kills. …if there is any disrespect, then on the part of the US troops, which looted the Memorial Room of the former Iraqi Air Force‘s Intelligence Directorate, back in April 2003, smashed the wing of an Israeli Mirage shoot down by Azam, Shurdom and/or Zainal, took away the helmet of one of downed Israeli pilots, and sent it to Israel… or all those ‘Arabs’ who are commemorating Mr. Azam, while being entirely clueless about Zainal or Shurdom. BTW, Zainal was forced to leave Iraq due to the Ba’athist coup of 1969: he fled to Syria, joined the air force there, and was killed during the October 1973 War with Israel, while in command of a MiG-17-squadron of the Syrian Arab Air Force).

Royal Jordanian Air Force Hawker Hunter

Check out Helion & Company website for books featuring interesting stories written by The Aviation Geek Club contributor Tom Cooper.

Photo credit: Bangladesh Air Force and RuthAS via Wikipedia

Tom Cooper

Tom Cooper is an Austrian aerial warfare analyst and historian. Following a career in the worldwide transportation business – during which he established a network of contacts in the Middle East and Africa – he moved into narrow-focus analysis and writing on small, little-known air forces and conflicts, about which he has collected extensive archives. This has resulted in specialisation in Middle Eastern, African and Asian air forces. As well as authoring and co-authoring 560 books and over 1,000 articles, he has co-authored the Arab MiGs book series – a six-volume, in-depth analysis of the Arab air forces at war with Israel, in the 1955–73 period. Cooper has been working as editor of the five @War series since 2017. tom@acig.info

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