THE DAY BOBCAT AND CHETAH NEARLY MADE THE MARUT INTO A D.P.S.A. – Sam Sekhar

From Left – Sudhir Batman Batra, KKB & Boss Jit, Bobby Kasbekar, Boo Srikant.

The time was early Seventies. Jodhpur was a flying paradise for the Daggers and the Tigers. There was One Bossman, Two Flight Commanders, One Flight Lieutenant and Four Flying Officers. The serviceability was exceptional and the pilots were happy.

Deep selection had not been introduced and a good time was being had by all.

In other words

NO ONE WAS KISSING BA-TOO-TAH.

NO ONE WAS APPLE POLISHING.

NO ONE WAS BACK STABBING.

The station master was from the Helicopter Stream and he kind of left the Marut Operations alone. Low flying was an all day long affair and it stood to reason and logic, as in times of war, you flew at sand dune level – making hay while the sun shines. Both squadrons terminated the First detail with a Strike over the Airfield. The targets designated were the Squadron Married Officers Houses and the various targets on the airfield. The H T S Bell Helicopters were asked to sit on the short runway till the strikes were over. As usual many a Pilot chose a chopper to scare and gave it a buzz.

The local Air Force School had a NCC Air Wing unit and the Station Master fixed up with Air H Q to give the NCC Cadets from this school some Helicopter rides. All was well and one particular NCC Cadet was singled out to be given more than the normal quota of helicopter flying. This was okay as he was the son of the station master. Bobcat and Chetah would ensure that this particular chopper was given a buzz on an as and when required basis.

One sunny day Bossman JIT and Flight Commander K K B are called by the Station Master for some operational planning. Rumour had it that it was to do with some extended range of the Marut Beast. The two junior most flying officers are designated as M M M and so Bobcat and Cheta become the Mobile Map Makers. You have to remember that G P S and Moving Map Displays were a figment of the imagination in the IAF at the time.The two slaves start cutting and pasting maps west of Ulai and Jazzmere. While they are at it the other pilots elect to give them a HAND.

This HAND is in the form of CLAPPING by the other pilots every FIVE MINUTES.

Bobcat tells Chetah maybe there is a plot afoot to add on 230 Gallon Drop Tanks on the inner stations of the Marut. Senior Flying Officer K P nixes the idea and says the aircraft is too low slung and the flaps will interfere with the 230 Gallon Drop Tanks. Bobcat adds it wold also require after burners for take off. We both thank the other jocks for THE HAND and jump in with JIT and KKB in to the jeep.

We are all ushered in to the Station Master’s palatial office and are asked to sit down. We are immediately asked to swear by all the HOLY BOOKS that what is being planned will never leave the room. The two slaves exchange glances and hold their grins – just how green is this guy, they wonder.

We are to plan for two missions – Msn Alpha, Msn Bravo.

The helicopter stream station master says that he has been studying our war plans and is quite disappointed at our calculations of fuel consumption. He further adds that we have no idea of economy of effort and air miles coverage per gallon of fuel. The configuration he is talking about is as follows:

FOUR 100 GALLON DROP TANKS

55 SNEB MATRA ROCKETS INTERNAL

600 – 30 MM ROUNDS INTERNAL 150 PER GUN

FULL INTERNAL FUEL

HIGH SPEED FINISH ON ALL AIRCRAFT.

The station master says

Increase 2 nautical miles per minute in the configuration for optimum fuel consumption.

There will be no compensation for diversion fuel. This is war and so Mission Alpha will land on the Taxy Track and Mission Bravo will land on the main runway. Take the diversion fuel and add it to the radius of action.

The Marut Four have dropped their jaws and are spell bound by this logic. The station master says Gentlemen commence map making.

Sam and Keru are asked to proceed to the next room, lock the door from inside, commence the strike plans, no phone calls or even picking up the phone, no coming out of the room till the job is done. The duo sharpen their Mk 1 pencils and commence. Occasionally the Mk 2 Erasers are used. Soon both pilots have the strike maps ready.

Bossman JIT and Commander KKB look over the maps and say “ HOLY KAKA “ AND MEASURE THE RADIUS OF ACTION DISTANCE.

THE MARUT HAS MORPHED INTO A DEEP PENETRATION STRIKE AIRCRAFT (DPSA). THE RADIUS OF ACTION – 312 NAUTICAL MILES. THE TARGET – A VERY STRATEGIC MEGA INSTALLATION DEEP IN THE HEART OF OTHER LAND.

The Bossman and KKB spot an asterisk in red five miles from the border inside the enemy territory.They see another asterisk in green five miles from the border in our territory.

KKB in his deep baritone asks “YOU BOUNDERS WHAT DO THESE ASTERISKS INDICATE “.

Sam says the asterisk in enemy territory is where Mission Bravo punches out due to lack of fuel as per actual Marut fuel consumption.

Keru says the asterisk inside our territory is where Mission Alpha punches out due to lack of fuel under the same situation.

The continuation of the flight lines beyond these points is purely for the Station Master’s ego massage.

JIT and KKB commence laughing and are soon in hysterics with tears streaming down their cheeks. The situation calms down and we all enter the station master’s office.

The maps are handed over to him and he goes over them with a fine tooth comb. He has no clue of what he is seeing and even less about the asterisks as he does not question them at all. He starts beaming and says very good we have now cleared up the radius of action anomalies.

The station master instructs bossman JIT to commence practice runs as early as possible.

Bossman JIT tells him that these plans leave no margin for error.

STATION MASTER SAYS “ THEN GENTLEMEN DO NOT GO ON THIS MISSION.”

The station master faintly mumbles one word in an undertone.The sharp radar ears of the two flying officers pick up the word. It is “ CHICKEN “.

Bossman JIT commences a detailed explanation of the fuel calculations.

STATION MASTER SAYS “ THEN GENTLEMEN YOU HAVE CLARIFIED THE RANGE AND SO PLEASE DO GO ON THE MISSION“.

Commander KKB says that this navigation route takes the mission directly over the only rail and road bridge over a major river in OTHER LAND. It is heavily defended by ground to air weapon systems and so the skies will burst in to “ALL INDIA DEWALI CELEBRATIONS”

The station master says you do not have to be worried as the enemy does not HAVE ACK ACK SHELLS WITH YOUR NAMES ON THEM.

“SO GENTLEMEN PLEASE DO GO ON THE MISSION “

BOBCAT asks for permission to speak and is granted the permission with JIT and KKB giving him “THE LOOK”

BOBCAT says SIR WE ARE NOT WORRIED ABOUT THE ACK ACK SHELLS WITH OUR NAMES WRITTEN ON THEM.

WE ARE A LITTLE CONCERNED ABOUT THE SHELLS FROM THIS AIR DEFENCE BATTERY WHICH HAVE THE WORDS

“ TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN “ PRINTED ON THEM.

JIT, KKB and KRS go in to bouts of compressed laughter but still keep straight faces and they are turning blue in their faces. Their chests are pumping like piston engines.

The station master gives BOBCAT’S words some deep thoughts ( Not Deep Penetration “) and says okay gentlemen “PLEASE DO NOT GO ON THE MISSION.”

He once again mumbles under his breath “ Dar Pokh Hain “ ( Scared Cats )

These words are heard by all and in IAF there is a logic which says “ YOU CANNOT PASS WIND AGAINT THUNDER “ In other words you do not apply logic to station master’s sayings, thinking or logic.

KKB informs the station master that this has to be a four aircraft mission for maximum impact and weapon delivery. He also adds that no escort aircraft can accompany this mission as their range is very limited.

The station master stands up and says

“YOU HAVE MY BLESSINGS GENTLEMEN PLEASE DO GO ON THIS MISSION”

All four exit his office post haste.

The ride back is non stop laughter all the way and Bossman JIT has great difficulty keeping the jeep on the road.

Bobcat and Chetah are singing a jingle in the back of the jeep.

Bobcat “ KERU PLEASE DO GO “

CHETAH “SAM PLEASE DO NOT GO “

Back at the TIGER LAIR the maps are put away in a safe place, very safe. We contemplate if the station master was pulling our legs for all the beat ups we have been doing.

The opinion as CHETAH put it was “NOT A CHANCE” he was serious.

SOUTH OF INDIA

A couple of years pass and we are now in the South Of India at a base in Training Command. On this fine day one Flight Cadet and his aircraft do not return to base within the allotted time. Over due action commences and late in the evening word is reached at the Base that an aircraft has flown in to a banyan tree and the pilot in the plane is dead.

The base goes in to the recovery and enquiry action and proceed to the crash site. One telugu speaking instructor is drafted to act as interpreter. This pilot on the way to this site picks up a couple of kilos of raw tobacco leaves to loosen the tongues of witnesses.

They arrive at the scene of the crash and it appears that the aircraft has flown in level flight in to this massive Banyan tree. The tree is humongous and has engulfed the whole plane. This tree is the only one in a large field. The area is on the route of a planned high level solo navigation sortie. The telugu speaking instructor gets down to business and commences talking to the local folks within a few mile radius of the crash site. He skillfully distributes the tobacco and folks start talking. One group of people who were working in the field closest to the Banyan tree and the crash site tell him their story.

They were working in the fields and hear the sound of airplanes. They spot two airplanes flying low to the ground and in close proximity with each other. Both planes are headed straight to the Banyan tree. The first plane barely flies over the Banyan tree and the other plane flies smack in to the Banyan tree. They run to the crash site and see the tangled web of metal. There is no fire and the Pilot is dead. As they are retrieving his body they hear a plane come over the Banyan tree. They see it circle the tree twice and then it flies away.

The telugu speaking instructor takes down all their statements and translates them in to english. He makes them all put their thumb impressions on their statements. The witnesses all confirm that the “NUMBER ON THE COWL OF THE OTHER AIRCRAFT WAS 37”.

He heads back to base and informs the STATION MASTER of the other aircraft and hands over the statements. The autho book confirms that the crashed aircraft and cowl number 37 took off at two minute intervals on the same high level navigation solo sorties.

The flight cadet of cowl 37 aircraft is called and asked to come clean. He initially beats around the bush but soon comes clean.

The two cadets had planned on the ground before take off to meet up at the first way point and cowl 37 would be the leader. They would do the rest of the sortie in close formation. Soon he starts going lower and lower and is at tree top level. He flies over this huge tree and in his peripheral vision sees the other aircraft fly in to the tree. He turns back and circles the tree and realizes that the other cadet is toast. He climbs to height and returns to base and elects to keep it a secret.”

The flight cadet pilot of cowl number 37 had a Jodhpur connection. He was a NCC cadet from the Air Force School.

He was given the boot to civilian street thereafter.

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