IAF Hero Denzil Keelor Recalls How He Shot Down Pak Jet in 1965
(India’s renown air-warrior Denzil Keelor celebrates his 85th birthday today. Here’s a unique and rare interview from The Quint’s archives where Keelor speaks about his 1965 war experience.)
Even in his eighties, Air Marshal (Retd) Denzil Keelor is modest about his achievements in service to the nation. Speaking to The Quint, he recalls his incredible dogfight over Sialkot in the 1965 war. The sector witnessed the greatest battle since the Battle of Kursk in World War II with thousands of men and hundreds of tanks involved.
Keelor, entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the ground troops, shot down a Pakistan Air Force Sabre aircraft in what was one of the first dogfights by the Indian Air Force. Just a few days earlier, his brother Trevor had also shot down a Pakistani fighter aircraft in what became independent India’s first air kill.
Keelor, arguably India’s oldest living MiG pilot, recalls his first dogfight and kill in the 1965 Indo-Pak war.
Awarded a Veer Chakra for his valour, Keelor remains modest about what he achieved along with his brother.
Six years later, in the middle of the 1971 Indo-Pak war, Keelor’s aircraft was shot down on the 8th of December, a day after his 38th birthday. Keelor managed to eject safely, but a hard landing caused by entanglement with the parachute resulted in some injuries that forced him to spend the rest of the war in the hospital. An Indian Army unit managed to pick him up from no man’s land minutes before a Pakistani patrol unit arrived there.
But Keelor wasn’t done seeing action yet.
In 1978, Keelor was awarded the Kirti Chakra, one of India’s highest military bravery awards, for two miraculous safe landings.
Gp Capt. Keelor, who had rich and wide combat experience and the destruction of a Sabre aircraft to his credit, was flying a MiG-21 U trainer on 27 Mar 78 when due to structural failure the canopy of the aircraft detached and flew off. Gp Capt Keelor felt sudden decompression and loss of control but managed to fly back to base and execute a safe emergency landing without the canopy. Later on 17 May 78, during firing trials one of the 23 mm Cannon Shells exploded causing extensive damage and total electrical failure to his aircraft. He successfully executed another safe landing back at his airbase.Kirti Chakra citation to Air Marshal (Retd) Denzil Keelor
Though he was an ace pilot trained to fly some of India’s best fighter aircraft from the 1960s to the 1980s, Keelor finds new basic technology fascinating. He was particularly amused by the functioning of an app-based taxi service with the driver’s ability to locate us using the built-in location finder functionality.
Talking about changing trends amongst fighter pilots, Keelor recognises the drastic change.
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