New Delhi: A retired Indian Air Force (IAF) officer, who Sunday inadvertently became the subject of Pakistan’s false propaganda about success after Balakot air strikes, has called the entire incident “ridiculous”.
Speaking to ThePrint, Air Marshal Denzil Keelor (retd), who won the Vir Chakra for shooting down a Pakistani Sabre during the 1965 war, said, “It is really ridiculous that they will edit a four-year-old video to show success.”
Keelor’s comments came a day Pakistan’s director-general of Inter-Services Public Relations, Major General Asif Ghafoor, tweeted a video of the retired officer, claiming that he was talking about “Indian failure” in the dogfight between the IAF and the Pakistan Air Force on 27 February, a day after the Balakot air strikes.
After being called out for tweeting an old video, Ghafoor backtracked to say the video “was revealed to be doctored through inset”.
“They had first claimed two Indian aircraft were shot down (during Balakot) and that two pilots were in custody. But then they could produce only one. They cannot admit that their air force also lost an aircraft and hence out of frustration they tweeted the video,” Denzil told ThePrint.
The officer who has been used to spread negative propaganda against the IAF is actually a hero who took part in two wars, including 1971.
Denzil and his brother Trevor, who was also in the IAF, shot down two Sabres in the 1965 war with Pakistan. Both brothers were honoured with the Vir Chakra, the first time two brothers received the award for the same reason.
The Keelor brothers
On 19 September 1965, Denzil Keelor, then a Squadron Leader, was providing fighter escort to Mystere aircraft during a strike mission in the operations against Pakistan.
His section of four Gnat aircraft was engaged by four enemy Sabre jet aircraft and the battle was fought at a height of less than 2,000 feet from the ground where enemy anti-aircraft guns were also active. Under his guidance, his subsection leader shot down a Sabre jet aircraft. But Denzil wasn’t to be left behind. He himself engaged another Sabre jet and crippled it.
His action came just days after his brother, late Wing Commander Trevor Keelor who was the first IAF pilot to score an air kill in independent India, also shot down a Sabre.
On 3 March 1965, the IAF sent in a batch of the slow moving Mystere fighter-bombers as bait to draw in the PAF. This was led by Wing Commander William Macdonald Goodman.
Seeing him in air, the F-86 Sabre jets came after him. However, in a surprise, the package was supported by F-104 Starfighters. Unmindful of the numerical superiority of the enemy, Trevor, then a Squadron Leader, chased a Sabre jet and pressed home his attack until the enemy aircraft caught fire and disintegrated in the air.
This was the first victory of the IAF in air battles against the PAF.
Denzil went on to fight in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. But on 8 December 1971, a day after his 38th birthday, his aircraft was shot down. He managed to eject safely, but a hard landing caused him injuries and forced him to spend the rest of the war in the hospital.
Contribution to Balakot strikes
Air Marshal Denzil Keelor had an indirect contribution even to the Balakot air strikes on 26 February.
Denzil had played a crucial role in the purchase of the French Mirage 2000 aircraft that were used by the IAF to strike the main training camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammad in Pakistan’s Balakot.
“I was appointed as the Defence Attache in Paris when the deal was being worked out. Later, on my return, I was made in charge of setting up the Gwalior base for the Mirages,” Denzil told ThePrint.