India, Pakistan scramble jets at border
The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Monday scrambled two Sukhoi-30 fighters from a forward airbase in Punjab after the Indian Army sighted a Pakistani unmanned aerial vehicle across the border, two senior officials said on the condition of anonymity.
Within minutes of the Sukhois getting airborne, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) responded by launching two F-16 fighters, said one of the officials cited above.
The second official said neither the Indian fighters nor the Pakistani jets violated airspace restrictions and such occurrences were not new after the February 26 Balakot air strike.
The development assumes significance against the backdrop of military tensions between India and Pakistan following the bombing of a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror base in Balakot by the IAF.
More than a month after the Balakot strikes, the air force is still in its highest state of alert and prepared to scramble fighter jets from its forward bases within minutes, as reported by Hindustan Times on Saturday.
Military tensions between India and Pakistan escalated following the Balakot strikes, with PAF fighters, including F-16s, making a failed attempt to bomb Indian military installations on February 27.
A fortnight ago, the IAF conducted an operational exercise over the skies of border areas in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab to test its combat readiness.
Close to 50 fighter planes, drawn from four combat squadrons, took part in the drill.
The fighter planes involved in the exercise included Sukhoi-30s, Mirage 2000s and upgraded MiG-29 fighters.
The Balakot strikes were India’s response to the Pulwama suicide car bomb attack in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed on February 14. JeM claimed responsibility for the attack.
The IAF’s Mirages 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, as reported by HT on Saturday. Each bomb was carrying around 80kg of explosives in a 900kg steel casing, with the explosion caused by time-delay fuses sending a lethal quantity of shrapnel that would have instantly killed the occupants of the buildings.
The bombs hit their targets in a vertical attack angle, leaving holes measuring 80 to 90 cm in diameter on the rooftops of the structures.
Last week, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa quoted lines from an iconic Bob Dylan track in response to a question on Pakistan downplaying the pre-dawn raid by the IAF’s Mirage 2000 fighters and also denying that any damage was caused by the precision bombing. “It is there in front of you (Pakistan), but you don’t want to see it...I can only recall Dylan, ‘And how many times can a man turn his head, and pretend that he just doesn’t see; the answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind..,” Dhanoa said, referring to the song, which was part of Dylan’s 1963 album, The Freewheeling Bob Dylan.