Service No : 5284 GD(P)
Last Rank : Squadron Leader
Unit : 45 Sqn
Arm/Regt : Indian Air Force
Martyrdom : September 1, 1965
Sqn Ldr Aspi Kekobad Bhagwagar was commissioned into the Indian Air Force on 30 Nov 1956 in the flying stream of the IAF. He got trained as a fighter pilot and graduated as part of 70th Pilots' Course. After completing his flying training, he served with various flying squadrons located at different Air Force bases.
After nearly five years of service he got promoted to the rank of Flight Lieutenant on 30 Nov 1961. In the year 1964, he also had the distinction of becoming a flying instructor with a responsibility of training the new pilots in various combat operations. By 1965, Sqn Ldr Bhagwagar had put in about 8 years of service and evolved into a professionally competent fighter pilot having expertise in various air operations.
Offensive Air Operation (Indo-Pak War) : 01 Sep 1965
In 1965, Sqn Ldr Bhagwagar was serving with 45 Squadron which was operating Vampire fighter bomber aircraft. The 45 Squadron of the IAF was formed on 15 Feb 1960 with the British built De Havilland Vampire with Squadron Leader Mirgind Singh Grewal as its first Commanding Officer. The Squadron was christened as "Flying Daggers' with its motto being 'Ajeetakshay". Barely eight years into service, Sqn Ldr Bhagwagar got an opportunity to take part in active operations as the war broke out with Pakistan in 1965. As the war clouds gathered on the horizon, 45 Sqn with Squadron Leader Sudesh Kumar Dhar as its Commanding Officer was tasked to move from Pune to Pathankot.
Pakistan launched a full scale attack on 01 Sep 1965 in the Akhnoor area. Accompanied by heavy artillery fire at around 0330 hrs, 70 Pakistani tanks along with two infantry Brigades raced across the Akhnoor bridge with an intention to cut the Indian Army's lifeline to the towns of Rajauri, Jhangar, Naushera and Poonch. 191 Inf Bde in charge of the area immediately asked for air support to thwart the enemy designs. In response to this, the Vampires of 45 Sqn were tasked to carry out offensive missions against the enemy targets with the first mission scheduled for 1719 hrs, second at 1730 hrs and third at 1740 hrs. Sqn Ldr Bhagwagar was detailed to go as a leader of the second mission along with Flt Lt Bharadwaj, Flt Lt VM Joshi and Flt Lt WS Sondhi.
As the second mission with Sqn Ldr Bhagwagar and three other pilots went in to attack the enemy armour, they were taken on by enemy Sabre jets of No 5 and No 15 PAF Sqns. The sidewinder missile armed PAF Sabres were technologically superior to Vampire aircraft but Sqn Ldr Bhagwagar and his comrades continued to engage them, displaying courage and professional skill of a very high order. However eventually in the fierce air combat three Vampires were lost which included that of Sqn Ldr AK Bhagwagar, Flt Lt S Bhardwaj and Flt Lt VM Joshi. Sqn Ldr AK Bhagwagar was a gallant and committed air warrior, who laid down his life in the service of the nation.