Saiful Azam, from Bangladesh, holds awards for gallantry in aerial combat from Pakistan, Jordan, and Iraq! Azam was born in 1941 in Pabna, Bangladesh, and, as a young boy, lived in Calcutta. In 1947, his family moved east to an area that became part of predominately Moslem East Pakistan. In 1955, he went to West Pakistan and attended high school until 1958, when he entered the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Cadet College. Graduating in 1960, he was commissioned as a pilot officer in the PAF. He trained in the Cessna T-37 and then traveled to Luke AFB, Arizona, for an advanced fighter course in the North American F-86 Sabre. He returned to East Pakistan and flew the Sabre until 1963.
He next flew the T-37 as an instructor at PAF Base Mauripur from 1963 to 1966. During the September 1965 war with India, Azam was flying Sabres in No. 17 Squadron from PAF Base Sargodha. After successfully executing a ground attack strike, his formation was bounced by Indian Air Force fighters. In the ensuring fight, Azam shot down one of the two attackers, a Folland Gnat, and earned his first victory. He was awarded the Sitara-I-Jurat, Pakistan’s Distinguished Flying Cross. In 1966, Azam commanded No. 2 Squadron and instructed again in the T-37. In late 1966, he became an advisor to the Royal Jordanian Air Force and flew the Hawker Hunter with No. 1 Squadron. During the 1967 Israeli-Arab War, he again distinguished himself in the air. During an Israeli Air Force strike on Jordan’s main base at Mafraq, Azam scored one confirmed victory and sent another trailing smoke to the west. Two days later, on 7 June 1967, the Israelis struck H-3, an air base in western Iraq. Azam, this time flying an Iraqi Hunter, scored two victories. For his actions, he received Jordan’s Husame Isteqlal and Iraq’s Medal of Bravery, the Noth-es-Shuja.
He returned to East Pakistan in 1969 and became a flight commander in a squadron flying the Shenyang F-6, a Chinese-built version of the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-19. Next, Azam became a flight commander at the PAF Fighter Leader’s School. In 1971, when East Pakistan gained independence as Bangladesh, he became Director of Flight Safety, and, later, Director of Operations for the Bangladesh Air Force (BAF). In 1977, he became Wing Commander and Base Commander of the BAF base at Dhaka. After retiring as a group captain, in the 1980s, Azam twice served as Chairman, Civil Aviation Authority. He was also Managing Director of the Film Development Corporation. A member of Bangladesh’s Parliament from 1991 to 1996, he is now is Managing Director, Natasha Trading Agency, Limited, trading in aircraft and other equipment. He also directs a travel agency and with his wife, Nishat, has three children.