Balakot raid proved IAF’s precision strike powers, says Air Chief Dhanoa
Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa said the Balakot strikes proved that the IAF had the capability to carry out operations across the full spectrum of operations and this was achieved through “long planning and induction” of platforms.Updated: Jul 16, 2019 17:23 IST
Indian Air Force chief BS Dhanoa on Tuesday asserted that the February 26 raid on a terror base in Pakistan’s Balakot demonstrated the Air Force’s capability to carry out precision strikes from a standoff distance.
Speaking at a seminar on 20 years of Operation Safed Sagar, the code name for the IAF’s action during the Kargil war, Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa said the Balakot strikes proved that the IAF had the capability to carry out operations across the full spectrum of operations and this was achieved through “long planning and induction” of platforms.
“That’s the big change that has taken place over the years,” he asserted, crediting his predecessors for laying the foundation for enhanced capabilities.
The strike on the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp in Balakot was India’s response to the February 14 Pulwama suicide attack in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers were killed. The IAF’s Mirage-2000s hit three targets in Balakot with five Israeli-origin Spice 2000 bombs with penetrator warheads that allowed them to pierce through the rooftops before exploding inside to cause maximum damage.
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Pakistan Air Force fighters made a failed attempt to bomb Indian military installations on February 27, leading to an aerial engagement along the Line of Control during which an Indian combat jet was shot down and its pilot captured and briefly detained by Pakistan. The neighbouring air force also lost a fighter plane in the aerial skirmish.
The air chief said the February 27 skirmish served to illustrate the IAF’s network centric warfare capabilities. Dhanoa, who was commanding a MiG-21 squadron during the 1999 conflict, said the IAF was prepared for a Kargil-like operation. “Like all good generals, we are prepared to fight the last war. If Kargil comes again, we are very well prepared,” the IAF chief said.
In his speech, Dhanoa recalled the air action that took place during the Kargil conflict during which MiG-21 aircraft carried out air-to-ground bombing at night in the mountains for the first time. He spoke at length about the operational limitations in 1999 and the innovative ways adopted by the IAF to overcome the difficulties.
He said the developments that took place post Kargil had transformed the IAF’s capability to counter any kind of air threat in conventional and sub-conventional domains. He said precision bombing capabilities that existed only on Mirage-2000 during Kargil were now available on Su-30, Jaguar, MiG-29 and MiG-27 upgraded planes.
Dhanoa further said that while Pakistan had upgraded its capabilities swiftly after Kargil due to a “faster decision cycle,” India had also moved forward significantly in that direction in recent years.