NEW DELHI: Tuesday morning saw a sea change in the approach of India towards Pakistan. India exercised the option of using its strategic military arm Air Force to destroy the terrorist training camps inside the territory of Pakistan.
The choice of using the Air Force was a big step for it could have led to an escalation to war between the two nuclear nations. But, the conduct of operation has not left the choice for Pakistan to use it as a reason to mount a retaliatory strike as India struck at ‘non-military target’.
This was a clean operation reflecting the inherent flexibility and the speed associated with the fighters, said sources.
The air path which the Aircrafts used started from Gwalior and reached up to Kashmir before the bombs were offloaded at the massive camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) in Balakot training campus with six different barracks housing more than 300 terrorists with their trainers, they added.
Balakot is in Manshera District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan and is about 60 kilometers from the LoC.
In order to reach the target as early as 2:55 am on Tuesday, 12 Mirage-2000 fighter jets of the Indian Air Force (IAF) took off from Gwalior airbase.
These multirole aircraft were armed with Israeli Precision-Guided Munitions (PGM).
This was India’s response to the suicide attack by JeM on the CRPF convoy which took away 40 innocent lives.
A senior officer told on the condition of anonymity that two factors mainly guided the entire operation.
He said, “We had to ensure that there was no hint to anyone about our plans and our movement.”
"The weapon and payload was selected as per a plan."
“We chose the Multi-Role Mirages and armed them with Precision Guided Munitions (PGM) SPICE 2000 and Crystal Maze Mk2,” said the officer.
Gwalior is the home base of Mirages.
The Aircraft followed an air path much deeper inside the Indian territory to remain away from the enemy’s radars.
“From Gwalior, Mirages flew over Hindon in Uttar Pradesh, passed from Sirsa in Haryana, crossed Himachal Pradesh and entered Jammu and Kashmir. And, then took a U-turn. After that, they entered Pakistan Occupied Kashmir in alignment with the target. The aircrafts penetrated, dropped the precision bombs and lunged back into the Indian territory,” told a senior officer.
The entire operation lasted just for 21 minutes from the time Mirages entered, released the bombs and rushed back to safety.
The aircraft from standoff distances released their smart munition, which then glided onto the target locked by the laser.
Meanwhile, India’s own Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEWACS) system called Netra and Israel-configured Phalcons were in the Indian airspace, keeping a watch on Pakistan’s reaction in order to warn the attacking aircraft to do retaliatory action.
Also, India’s other Multirole Aircraft SU 30 MKIs were flying on the Indian side just in case they needed to go in for support operations. Long range UAV Heron was too in the air for monitoring purposes.
Talking about the process of the Battle Damage Assessment (BDA), the officers shared that the aircraft achieved precise hits and all of them returned back safely.
This operation was different for it entered the Pakistan Air force first time after the 1971 War. Even during Kargil, the Indian Air Force Operated within the country’s air space.