NEW DELHI: The Heluim-filled balloon that was shot down by the IAF’s fighter jets after a security alarm had actually come from Pakistan. And top officials of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) say the US-made balloon could have been an attempt to gauge India’s response time. The MoD has now written to the Ministry of External Affairs, informing about the incident for further necessary action.
The shiny 3-metre diameter balloon, with ‘Happy Birthday’ written on it, was flying at a height of about 25,000 feet in Jaisalmer district when it was picked up by Air Force radars, which were on high alert in view of Republic Day celebrations.
Speaking on the sidelines of an event in the capital, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said, “Our radars picked up a shiny flying object entering our air space. A fighter jet was quickly scrambled, which intercepted it and shot it down.”
The Indian Air Force said in a statement, “Due to heightened security alert, the balloon was shot down as it would have been carrying unknown payload. However, on analysis of the debris it was established that there was no dangerous payload.”
Meanwhile, government sources said the balloon, made by an American company, was flying at an altitude higher than that of a helicopter (18,000 feet) and hence leaving nothing to chance, it was shot down. The wind speed was also high and the threat level was high.
“Investigation is on, but it could have been an attempt to check our response time,” they said, adding that the IAF followed the protocol by scrambling the jet and shooting the object down.
“Imagine, if it was not just a commercial balloon,” the sources said, adding that 97 rounds were spent as the fighter plane sprayed bullets as per Standard Operating Procedure.
As per the Aircraft Act, 1934, “aircraft” means any machine which can derive support in the atmosphere from reactions of the air, (other than reactions of the air against the Earth’s surface) and includes balloons, whether fixed or free, airships, kites, gliders and flying machines. The balloon was manufactured by Illinois-based firm CTI Industries.
Balloon spotted at Delhi airport
New Delhi: Security officials at Indira Gandhi International airport went into a tizzy when an alert was sounded on Wednesday after authorities received a call about a big balloon hovering over it. “The call centre of the Delhi International Airport Ltd received a call about spotting of the big balloon, following which the airport was put on alert. All security agencies have been informed about the information though police has not spotted the object,” Deputy Commissioner of Police told Express. The officer said that the airport was put on high alert after the DIAL call centre received a call about a balloon. The call was received around 5 pm and the caller said that the balloon was heading from the airport to Aya Nagar area.