P Gautam pp

Service No: 4482

Date of Birth : 23 Jul 1933

Birth Place : Chennai, Tamil Nadu

Service: Air Force

Last Rank: Wing Commander

Unit : 16 Sqn AF

Award : MVC (Bar), VM

Operation : Op Riddle

Date of Martyrdom : Nov 25, 1972

Wg Cdr Padmanabha Gautam MVC (Bar), VM

Wg Cdr Padmanabha Gautam was born on 23 July 1933, and grew up in Indore, where both his parents were academicians. His father Mr. Neelkanta Padmanabha was a physics professor, and later the principal, at Ahalyabai Holkar College. His mother was also a teacher; and retired from directorship of educational establishments only at the age of 90.  Wg Cdr Gautam joined the 3rd course at the JSW, the early predecessor of the NDA which was in Dehra Dun at that time.


Wg Cdr Gautam got trained as a pilot at Begumpet, with the 60th Pilots’ Course, and was commissioned on 1st April, in 1953. His first spells of squadron service were with a Spitfire / Vampire squadron, in Halwara; and then with a Toofani squadron. By 1956 he had been selected for the Flying Instructors’ School, FIS. From 1957-58, he was an Instructor at the Air Force Flying College in Jodhpur, instructing on Harvard aircraft. In 1958 he converted to the Canberra, at the Jet Bomber Conversion Unit( JBCU), in Agra.


In the early 1960s, Wg Cdr Gautam got posted to Iraq, as an instructor and flew MiG-15s, and MiG-17s aircraft during that period. From late 1961 to early ’62 he served with the 5 Sqn Detachment, in the first Indian-manned UN peacekeeping mission in the Congo.  Wg Cdr Gautam received the first of his gallantry decorations, a VM, for his contributions there.


Air Operations: Indo-Pak Wars (1965 & 1971)


At the time of the 1965 ops he was back at the JBCU, commanding it. The JBCU and its instructors participated in the operations like any operational squadron, and distinguished themselves by particularly deep penetration and target marking. Wg Cdr Gautam flew missions with such characteristic elan, that even Pakistani chroniclers mentioned them, with some respect and admiration.  Wg Cdr Gautam received his first MVC during these operations.


By the time of the 1971 war, he was the CO of 16 Squadron, flying out of Gorakhpur. At the end of that brilliantly successful campaign, Wg Cdr P Gautam received a bar to his MVC, one of only two people in the IAF to be so honoured. In early 1972 he was posted as Officer in charge Flying at Air Force Station Poona (now Pune). On 25 November 1972, he  took off on a Mig – 21 aircraft , however immediately after the take off, the engine of the aircraft flamed off  and he was forced to crash-land the  aircraft. During the process of landing he was injured and  finally succumbed to his injuries owing to internal bleeding.


Wing Commander Gautam was one of the most decorated Indian Air force officer. He led many important missions during both the wars and  had inflicted  heavy injury and thereby crippled the capability of war waging of adversary.  His audacious bombing on enemy territory deep inside their country speaks of his courage, commitment and dedication to the Nation. He was one of the few officers who was awarded the prestigious Maha Vir Chakra twice; once for  1965 war and later  for his heroics during 1971 war.

The citation for the first Maha Vir Chakra awarded to him reads :


Squadron Leader P. Gautam, Commanding Officer of a bomber conversion-training unit led it in a number of difficult and dangerous missions. He undertook six important offensive and tactical close-support operations over Pakistani territory during the period from 6 to 21 September 1965. In complete disregard of personal safety in the face of heavy enemy ground fire and of the risk of attack by Pakistani Sabrejets, he carried out his missions successfully with courage and determination. These missions included reconnaissance deep into enemy territory and the bombing of Akwal and Gujarat airfields and enemy troops concentrations in the Gujarat and Chawinda areas.


Throughout the operations, Squadron Leader P Gautam’s devotion to duty, professional skill, and gallant were in the finest traditions of the Air Force.


The citation for the second Maha Vir Chakra awarded to him reads :


Wing Commander P Gautam, Commanding Officer of a bomber squadron, led many missions deep into enemy territory. Notable among these were two raids on the night of the 5 and 7 December 1971 when Wing Commander Gautam led attacks on the Mianwali airfield. On both these occasions, he and his formation were met with intense anti-aircraft fire. Despite that, the target was attacked with great precision at low level and heavy damage was inflicted. On the other missions, he carried out rocket and four gun attacks on railway marshalling yards in the Montgomery-Raiwind area with conspicuous success. Throughout the operation, Wing Commander  Gautam displayed conspicuous gallant, exemplary flying skill and leadership in the highest traditions of the Air Force.

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  • Bhavitha Singh

    2017at11:08 am Reply

    My deepest respects and salute for your sacrifice…

  • Kanupriya Bazaz

    2017at12:53 pm Reply

    Salute to you Brave Heart! Rest in Peace Warrior.
    Jai Hind

  • EX-SGT Gurmit Singh Saroya

    2018at1:13 am Reply

    I worked with Wing Commander Gautam for about two months only, he was Very gentle and outstanding personality. In Nov 1972 I was on my annual leave in Punjab when this sad news was given by my father that some one named by Wg Cdr Gautam died in the Air Crash, What sad moment of my life was? Anyway I salute to his services to the Great Nation of India.

    Ex- Sgt Gurmit Saroya

  • Dr.Amrith Pakkala

    2018at1:04 pm Reply

    He was my dad’s (Ex- SGT Paramanand PK) CO in IAF. I have heard a lot about his war achievement and administrative skills from my father. I wish present day officers emulate this great man.

  • Poonam Coshic

    2019at4:06 pm Reply

    My deepest respect to you sir. God be with your family. Jai Hind

  • Jagdish Chandra Etauria (Ex IAF)

    2019at12:06 pm Reply

    At the time of 1971 Indo-Pak war, I was posted at No.17 Wing, Gorkhpur and Wg Cdr P Gautam was Officer Commanding No.16 Sqn. there. I was stunned to see a breaveheart MVC(Bar), VM Fighter/Bomber pilot of an Air Force like an innocent child when I was painting his face with colours and gulal on the occasion of Holi (29.2.1972). Not only this remote incident, he was known to be so, soft spoken, humane and generous all the time, but once seated in the cockpit of aircraft, he would be entirely a different entity, a ruthless, fearless, efficient, ferocious and brave fighter in the skies…I could’nt find a person parallel to this phenomenon…

  • प्रभाकर अनंत कदम

    2019at2:37 pm Reply

    My deepest respect to you sir. God be with your family. Jai Hind


    2021at1:12 pm Reply

    To me the greatest IAF Air Warrior is Wing Cdr Padmanabh Gautam Maha Vir Chakra and Bar (i.e two MVC), VSM.

    When news of his crash reached KendriyaVidyalaya, I set out with 3 friends to find his crashed fighter at about 11 AM, as we jogged to runway end/approach

    but it was the wrong end of runway, it was avery sad day.

    Came back to school by about 4 PM.

    It was the original Kendriya Vidyalaya in 1020 area. Well before KV#2 was built 4 yrs later.



  • Jitendra Kumar Singh

    2022at5:58 pm Reply

    Salute to two great IAF Pilots decorated with MVC Bar Squadron leader Jag Mohan Nath and Squadron leader Padamnath Gautam who left adventurous memories to today’s young youth to defend our nation with pride and valour. Jai Hind

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