Achieved our objective: Dhanoa on Balakot strike
Pakistani Air Force jets could not enter the Indian airspace in retaliation to the Balakot air strike earlier this year, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa said on Monday. He stressed that the Indian Air Force achieved its objective in the operation.
In Gwalior, Dhanoa also spoke on how Mirage-2000 “turned the tide” in favour of India during the Kargil War in 1999, and asserted that AN-32 aircraft will continue to fly in mountainous areas despite a crash in Arunachal Pradesh earlier this month.
On the Balakot airstrike, which was carried out in retaliation against the February 14 terror attack on a security convoy in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama, Dhanoa said, “They did not come into our airspace. And what was our objective? Our objective was to strike the [terror] camp and we have done that. We have achieved our objective. Their [Pakistani] objective was to hit our army places. They could not and that is the bottom line.”
He was replying to a question at a press conference held during a day-long event at the Gwalior Air Base to mark 20 years of the Kargil War.
On February 26, IAF jets targeted a Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan, about two weeks after a suicide bomber of the group killed at least 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel in Pulwama. Tensions spiralled in the aftermath of the two incidents, prompting the international community to ask the nuclear-armed neighbours to exercise restraint.
Dhanoa asserted that the IAF achieved its stated military objective but the Pakistani side did not. “But none of them [PAF aircraft] crossed the LoC [Line of Control] into our side,” he told reporters.
A day after India’s strike, Pakistan tried to retaliate, albeit unsuccessfully, by attempting to target various military installations in Jammu and Kashmir. The two countries put restrictions on their airspace following the dogfight on February 27. Though India has lifted the restrictions, such curbs are still in place on the Pakistani side.
“Our economy is vibrant and air traffic is a very important part and you have noticed that the Air Force has never stopped our civilian air traffic,” he said.
Asked about AN-32, Dhanoa said the aircraft will continue to fly in mountainous areas as “we do not have any replacement”. He added, “We are in process of getting more modern aircraft which will be put in critical role once received, and AN-32 will be out and used for transport and training purposes.” All 13 air warriors on board the transport aircraft died in the crash in a heavily forested mountainous area in Arunachal Pradesh on June 3.
On the Kargil war, the Air Chief Marshal said modification of multi-role fighter aircraft Mirage-2000 was in process back then and was “expedited” for its deployment in the operation.
He described Mirage-2000 as the “sword arm of the IAF”, adding that its integration with targeting pods and 1000-pound laser-guided bombs (LGBs) were done in a “record time of 12 days”.
During the day, the IAF chief also took part in a re-enactment of the Tiger Hill attack and its recapture in Kargil. At the press meet, he spoke how the LGB-equipped Mirage-2000 was used in the Tiger Hill attack in 1999 and how the Spice Bomb-equipped Mirage-2000 was deployed in Balakot operation. Dhanoa said Mirage-2000 jets and air support to ground forces turned the tide of the 1999 war in favour of India.