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How Balakot’s air attack became ‘Operation Bandar’: internal history of the man who executed it | India News

NEW DELHI: The Research and Analysis (R&AW) wing provided excellent intelligence data for the Balakot airstrike, said Air Marshal (retired) C Hari Kumar, who led the IAF Western Command during the operation last year.

“The intelligence given by R&AW in Balakot was excellent, very specific. It had good coordinates, that’s what was required. It had good images and had good grounding of the target. Having done that, of course, we moved on. And I looked at it. with our ISR platforms and satellites to confirm that all locations are correct, “Kumar told ANI on the first anniversary of the Balakot airstrikes.

Recalling the sequence of events, Kumar said: “After Pulwama, on 15 (February) himself, the Prime Minister had called a meeting of the CCS to take stock of the event and see what should be done. The same 15 the Chief of Air Staff were informed at the Western Air Command about what are the options available. ”

Last year, on this day, the Indian Air Force carried out air strikes in Balakot of Pakistan, targeting the terrorist training camps of Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM).

The JeM had claimed responsibility for a deadly terrorist attack on February 14 in Pulwama, in which 40 CRPF staff members were martyred.

“At that stage, we saw a certain set of objectives to be addressed. However, on February 18, we obtained very good intelligence about Balakot, which was transmitted by the leadership as to what it is about. Considering the distance involved, the The Air Force was the best service to address it. If it were something closer, it could have been something different. ”

The former Marshal of the Air said that once the objectives were decided, more intelligence was gathered about what could be the average point of impact designated on those objectives.

Responding to how the IAF concentrated on Mirage fighter jets to carry out the mission, he said: “If you look at Balakot geographically, then it is more than 50 km beyond LoC. At that stage, Mirage was the only one who transported both SPICE and Crystal Maze that gave us a much larger separation range. ”

Explaining how the Air Force was able to keep the mission secret, the Marshal of the Air, who retired two days after the mission, said: “In all these operations, there were multiple challenges. The first challenge was to keep the operation secret. ”

“To keep it a secret, I had to continue doing what was initially planned as routine. If you remember, on 14 (February) it was Pulwama, on 16 it was Vayu Shakti in Pokharan, we performed the full exercise showing the capabilities of the Air Force, he added. .

The Air Marshal recalled that between the planning and the execution of the operation, the National War Memorial and the Aero India Show were inaugurated and all continued as planned.

“I retired on February 28 after more than 39 years of service. Being in service for so long, there is a farewell process and many other functions, we let it continue in the same way. The number of people informed was very less because in today’s world of very fast communication, there is a possibility that information leaks inadvertently simply by speaking out loud, “he said

“We did not use the mobile at all. Everything was face to face or through secure communications. Only those select people knew what had to be done and what had to be done. I did not know the big picture,” he recalled.

Speaking about how they selected the date for the mission, he said: “On February 18, when we got the target, we observed the tentative date of February 26 to carry out this attack. 26 is my birthday and I thought it was an excellent day. So that the date was set. Basically it was said that we do it after Aero India because many foreigners were in the country at this time. ”

Speaking about the challenge that the weather posed for the mission, he said: “The weather moved faster. We made the decision that we will do it on February 26 (February) and if the weather intervenes, we will delay it one day.”

When asked about the name of the operation “Bandar”, the former Marshal of the Air recalled that it was a key word to convey the success of the mission.

“It was on the 25th that my farewell to the Air Force took place. I had a big banquet on the 25th in Akash Mess. The Chief took me to the gardens to confirm if everything is fine. At that time, all he said was when this was done, call me and if you say “Bandar”, that means that it is successful and everyone is safe. It was a key word to say that the mission was successful, “he said.

The entire operation was coordinated, planned and executed by the control stations at the headquarters, the Western Air Command, the operating room, he said.

“We had these Mirages in the air from Gwalior. There was an option to take them to the Western Air Command before, but we didn’t do it to make sure everything remains normal. We transported them from Gwalior, we went north to the Bareilly sector, I went to the hills to use the mountainous terrain cover and attacked after going north from Srinagar in a direction 270 towards Balakot, “he said.

“We knew with certainty that, depending on its radar coverage, we would have a 12-minute window of vulnerability and to counter that, we had enough assets flying as Combat Air Patrols (CAP) in our own territory in case there was a retaliation “. he said.

Speaking of the final moments that preceded the mission, Kumar said: “The moment of the impact of the bomb was 0328. At 0305, we saw two F-16s in the air. He established a CAP on the East-West axis on Murid. We were flexible enough to launch four Jaguars from Ambala, with two CAP Su-30 at high speed to run to Bhawalpur. Bhawalpur is also a great JeM camp. ”

“It was more like a decoy. Both F-16s broke the pattern and continued at great speed south. The decoy worked very well,” he said.

The air marshal said they knew for sure that Pakistan would retaliate.

“It was only later that (the IAF planes) landed back, that’s around 4 o’clock. We had a full air defense alert, so that in India, everyone is elevated to a certain level of preparation, “he said.

The retired IAF officer said the PAF had begun to be activated on February 14.

“On February 27 … On the morning of 0942, our radars recorded increased air activity throughout Pakistan. But we also have to understand that most of the flights they make from their bases are to the east. So it is an activity regular air. In fact, it was daylight. They showed up. It’s just that they took off at all air bases, regrouped and turned eastward, “he said, speaking of the so-called Rapid Replica Operation of Pakistan. .

“It’s not that we didn’t have an adequate CAP. We had two sets of CAP Su-30 next to Srinagar, two Mirage upgrade planes near Udhampur and we had Operational Preparation Platforms (ORP) all the time. At the time it hit, two (MiG-21) scrambled bison from Srinagar, MiG-29UPG scrambled from Udhampur, we had scrambled all the time, “he said.

“It’s just that they used the time frame and moved with a large number. They never crossed the IB or the LoC. We could face them well. They threw 11 bombs but none of them reached the target,” he said.

The former Marshal of the Air recalled that when they entered, there were enough counters that they could not follow.

“They failed to hit anything but dropped many weapons. They had the AMRAAM. At that time, he had the advantage of the first shot,” he said.

Speaking of the fratricide incident related to the IAF helicopter, he said it was a “big mistake.”

On Pakistan that claims to have shot a Su-30, the former IAF officer said: “It’s your imagination.”

Speaking about the Balakot terrorist training camp, he said: “We had very good intelligence from many people. I can’t put a figure, but taking around 500-600 people (in the Balakot camp) is a good guess. If you look to Balakot, we are almost a year on the line and we have not had a major terrorist attack. The message is also clear that the use of the Air Force is not a climber. The government has the will and the means to take such rapid measures. next time it happens, we’ll hit them even harder. ”

Times of India