Service No: 7662 F(P)
Service: Air Force
Last Rank: Flight Lieutenant
Unit: 32 Sqn, AF
Operation : Op Cactus Lily
Missing in action : 05 Dec 1971
Flight Lieutenant Vijay Vasant Tambay after completing his schooling joined the 23rd NDA course and was commissioned into the IAF as a pilot officer on 28 Oct 1963. He was selected for the flying branch in the IAF and was trained as a fighter pilot. After completing his flying training, Flt Lt Tambay served with various flying squadrons located at different Air Force bases. By 1971, Flt Lt Tambay had put in about 8 years of service and evolved into an ace fighter pilot having expertise in various air operations.
During 1971, Flt Lt Tambay was serving with the 32 Squadron based at Air Force Station Ambala and was operating SU-7 aircraft. The SU-7 aircraft was inducted into the IAF to undertake the roles of offensive air support, counter-air, short term interdiction, and tactical reconnaissance. Although the SU-7 had an impressive performance, with a maximum speed of 1056 mph (1700 km/h) at 40,000 feet (12,190 m) and an initial climb rate of 29,900 ft/min (152 m/sec), it had an overly modest radius of action and limited external stores carriage.
Air operation: 05 Dec 1971
In response to the preemptive strikes by the Pakistan Air Force on Indian Air bases on 03 Dec 1971, the IAF launched operations against the Pak Air Force. As part of the IAF operations , 32 Sqn based at Ambala took part in numerous missions against Pakistani targets. By 04 Dec 1971, Flt Lt Tambay had already undertaken two missions deep inside Pakistan against its air bases. On 05 Dec 1971, Flt Lt Tambay was tasked to be part of the mission that was to attack the Pakistani air base at Rafiqui. Flt Lt Tambay took off in his SU-7 (B-839) as planned for his 3rd such sortie within two days against the Pakistani airbase.
However, Flt Lt Tambay in a bid to cause maximum damage to the target airfield, flew dangerously close to enemy air defense batteries and was shot down by anti-aircraft guns. Flt Lt Tambay was declared “Killed In Action”(KIA) on 05 Dec 1971. However, a confusion continued to persist about his death, as some of the Prisoners Of War (POW) lodged in a Pakistani jail, later informed about the presence of Flt Lt Tambay in Pakistani Jail. The Dawn newspaper of Pakistan had published front page news stating that Flt Lt “Tomboy” had been shot down and captured. Flt Lt Tambay had “Tomboy” written on his flying helmet, which explained the news headline. Pakistan, however never acknowledged the presence of Flt Lt Tambay in a Pakistani jail.
Flt Lt V V Tambay is survived by his wife Smt Damayanti Tambay. A four-time national badminton champion, Smt Damayanti Tambay is the leading member of “Missing Defence Personnel Association”, an organization which is still spearheading the campaign to obtain the release of Indian POWs lodged in Pakistani jails.
On December 3, 1971, when Mrs Damayanti V. Tambay’s husband, fighter pilot Flt Lt V.V. Tambay, who was posted at Ambala Cantonment went to war, he told her “I may return, I may not return. Take care of yourself”.
Mrs Tambay had told her husband “Vasant, ‘V’ for victory. Carry on. The entire nation is behind you”.
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