It was unfortunate: IAF officer who shot down Pak maritime jet carrying 16
The downing of the naval aircraft left five officers and 11 sailors dead — the biggest loss the Pakistani navy suffered in a single day since the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war — and aggravated the tension between the nuclear-armed sub continental rivals.
Twenty years ago — on August 10, 1999 — the Indian Air Force shot down an intruding Pakistani maritime surveillance aircraft over Naliya in Gujarat. It was in the aftermath of the 1999 Kargil war when the militaries of both countries were on edge, and ties between the subcontinental rivals were particularly icy.
“We never expected that he would go down” immediately, Group Captain Sanjeev Naraynen (retd.) said, recalling the downing of the French-built Breguet Br.1150 Atlantique.
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The downing of the naval aircraft left five officers and 11 sailors dead — the biggest loss the Pakistani navy suffered in a single day since the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war — and aggravated the tension between the nuclear-armed sub continental rivals. “We didn’t expect so many to be on the aircraft. It was unfortunate,” Naraynen said. “I learned about them when the media reported about their funeral,” he said.
The IAF airbase at Naliya was preparing for a visit the next day by Air Chief Marshal AY Typnis when two MiG-21 aircraft were suddenly scrambled, recalled Group Captain Vijay Suman Sharma ,the fighter-controller that day and commander of the 254 SU Control and Reporting Centre. “I knew something was wrong.” “The Pakistan aircraft was picked up at 10.52 am, the controller vectoring the fighters had just three months of experience. I took over the controls,” he said. “The fighters were airborne and heading towards the Pakistan aircraft by 11.01.” The first aircraft was flown by Wing Commander PK Bundella and the second by Flight Lieutenant Sanjeev Naraynen. Their call signs were “Bandy” and “Nanu”.
The sky was overcast, making it difficult for the fighters to spot the intruding aircraft. Radar signatures, however, showed the aircraft was on a southerly heading, crossing Lakpath and Koteswar in the Rann of Kutch back into Indian Territory. The two fighters climbed to 2,500 metres to avoid the cloud cover and at about 2,100 metres they spotted the Pakistan aircraft at 11.16. “The Pakistan Aircraft was about 10 km inside our territory. Bandy and Nanu closed in and read the tail number of Atlantique,” Group Captain Sharma said. “It was carrying offensive weapons inside our territory. I gave them permission to engage.” Wing Commander Budella would seek radio confirmation “to engage” at 11.17. “Affirmative. You are cleared to fire,” Group Captain Sharma recalled saying. “At 11.18. Bandy was back on the radio, missile gone, left engine (of the Pakistan jet) on fire, breaking off.”
“I don’t know whether the Atlantique intended to come into India. Pakistan’s radar controllers should have warned the aircraft,” Naraynen said.