Israeli help and Indian jugaad in recapture of Tiger Hill

Exactly to this day 18 years ago, the 18 Grenadiers and 8 Sikh snatched the crucial feature back from Pakistani intruders, decisively turning the course of the Kargil conflict. Paving the way for the heroic victory was the Indian Air Force, the munitions for whose assault were supplied by Israel, and tweaked with Indian engineering ingenuity.

Written by Sushant Singh | Published:July 5, 2017 12:42 am
india israel, india israel military relations, indian army israel, tiger hill, indian express news Tiger Hill, overlooking the strategic Srinagar-Leh highway, was taken back from Pakistani infiltrators over July 4-5, 1999. (Source: Express Archive photo from 2009/Tashi Tobgyal)

June 24, 1999. Around 7 am, two Mirage-2000 fighters of the Indian Air Force’s 7 Squadron were 18 kilometres short of Tiger Hill, the strategic hilltop then under the occupation of Pakistani infiltrators. The first aircraft brought the crosshairs of the laser designator from the Israeli LITENING pod on to the Pakistani bunkers, which served as the Command and Control centre of the Pakistan Army’s Northern Light Infantry battalion, directing artillery fire at the Srinagar-Leh National Highway. When his warjet was seven kilometres short of Tiger Hill, the pilot let go the Paveway laser-guided bomb (LGB).

The video of the first LGB hitting Tiger Hill was released in New Delhi on June 25, 1999, and is still available on YouTube. The two Mirages returned after another bombing mission at a target 80 km to the west, and recorded another video of Tiger Hill. The grainy black and white footage shows a lone Pakistani soldier who had survived the attack, trying to climb to the top of the feature.

The second aircraft was a twin-seater, in whose rear seat was Air Chief Marshal A Y Tipnis. For the IAF, it was a momentous occasion — its first ever operational use of an LGB. It was also an achievement inspired by the famed Indian jugaad, or innovation on the fly, as the conflict on the heights raged, and after the IAF had lost a couple of fighters.

***

The Mirage 2000s, bought from France in 1985, were equipped with Thomson-CSF laser designator pods known as ATLIS, capable of delivering Matra 1,000 kg LGBs. The IAF had more than 60 Matra LGBs, which were purpose built for the destruction of reinforced targets. But these bombs were very expensive — more than Rs 2 crore each. Also, as an Air Marshal who was then serving in 7 Squadron, told The Indian Express, “each of these bombs virtually had a high-value Pakistani target — a bridge, a dam, an ammunition dump — written on it. With the danger of conflict escalation still there, we could not have used them in Kargil”. (As it happened, the officer said, all of those bombs were later retired unused.)

The solution came from the Israelis. The IAF had signed a contract for Israeli-made LITENING electro-optical targeting pods in 1997, but it would take three or four years before these could be made operational. The pods, fitted on aircraft, have a laser designator and a powerful camera, which provides a 10-times magnified view of the target. The Israelis went out of their way to help the IAF integrate the LITENING pods to the Mirages — Israeli technicians flew in urgently and worked with the IAF’s Aircraft System Testing Establishment in Bengaluru. As in the 1971 War, Israel delivered when India needed it the most.

Paveway-II LGBs were to be used with the LITENING pods’ guidance. India had started getting some Paveway kits in 1998, but supplies stopped with the sanctions imposed after the 1998 nuclear tests. The Paveway’s tail-kits were made in the US, the front-kits in the UK. As the IAF’s traditional 1,000-pound dumb bomb had a shape and design similar to those used by the British, it was decided to fit the 1,000-pounder into the Paveway kit. Problems with fitting the front adaptor into the bomb was overcome with jugaad, while taking care to maintain the safety of the fuse wire setting.

***

The first laser-guided bomb hit Pakistani positions on Tiger Hill on June 24, 1999. IAF video grab

By June 12, 1999, these Mirage 2000s were ready to fire LGBs in operations for the first time. In routine course, these aircraft would have never flown in war because they were not certified. The Paveway kits still had defects that made the LGBs unreliable. The software of the LITENING pod had bugs: it shut down at an altitude of 30,000 feet, and its stability was not of a desirable standard.

But these were unusual times, and the IAF chose to fly into the unknown. The mission for Tiger Hill was repeated on June 25. A total of nine LGBs — eight from Mirage 2000s and one from a Jaguar — were fired until July 4, with five of them targeting Tiger Hill. They formed only a minuscule part of the 979 bombs — 348 tonnes of ordnance — that the IAF dropped on Kargil on 24 target systems, but they were a significant first.

After Tiger Hill was recaptured, the Army’s field headquarters sent a congratulatory message to the IAF on July 10, 1999: “You guys have done a wonderful job. Your Mirage boys with their precision laser-guided bombs targeted an enemy battalion headquarters in Tiger Hill with tremendous success. Five Pakistani officers reported killed in that attack and their command and control broke down — as a result of which our troops have literally walked over the entire Tiger Hill area. The enemy is on the run. They are on the run in other sectors also. At this rate, the end of the conflict may come soon.”

sushant.singh@expressindia.com

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  1. P
    Pmani
    Jul 6, 2017 at 6:40 pm
    Stani pillon Ki mau bomb laga k uda do....katuwa atanki
    Reply
    1. K
      Kanu Singh
      Jul 6, 2017 at 12:32 pm
      Airpower At 18,000 ft The Indian Air Force in the Kargil War by Benjamin S.Lambeth (pub. by the Carnegie Endowment, 2012) throws some light on the proceedings at Kargil in 1999. “only 9 LGBs were dropped during the whole war, 8 by the Mirage fleet and one by a Jaguar". Marcus P. Acosta in his 2003 study, “High Al ude Warfare: The Kargil Conflict And The Future for the Naval Post-Graduate School, Monterey Calif. He says that Mountain warfare is the domain of light infantry. Artillery remains a necessary element of maneuver warfare. Air power alone cannot deliver sufficient firepower to support ground maneuver in the high mountains."
      Reply
      1. B
        Bagawat.Nama
        Jul 6, 2017 at 5:06 am
        Shameless brahmins dogs. Even for skrewing their women folks they need Israeli help! Is that why Bagawat said "Now we have got the help of Israel. So there is no justification for Brahmin women to say their husbands are not skrewing them enough to litter 5 babies"?
        Reply
        1. R
          Rahul
          Jul 6, 2017 at 9:30 am
          Burn, just burn porki, in i m p o t e n t frustration...I am lovin' it :)
          Reply
        2. E
          Ehsan Habib
          Jul 6, 2017 at 12:55 am
          Pakistan always complained, it was never India alone. In 1971 and 1999 too it was Israel and USSR in 1971. Still Pakistanis haven't learnt it to plan for this as well. Silly Indian Air Force sent two aircraft's to AJK Ann they were shot down like pregnant duck.
          Reply
          1. S
            Suresh
            Jul 5, 2017 at 9:31 pm
            Its time to strengthen all round relations with reliable friend of India i.e. Israel. Also it's high time that govt should take tough decision like completely banning Chinese goods in India. The world needs to teach China how to peacefully live while respecting others sovernity.
            Reply
            1. A
              AVINASH M
              Jul 5, 2017 at 7:50 pm
              A true friend is one who helps in bad times, and to our country it's definitely Russia and Israel. I wish this friendship is taken forward on many fronts, apart from the fight against terrorism.
              Reply
              1. V
                vijay
                Jul 5, 2017 at 2:42 pm
                The sure fire way to make this world as a better place to live for everybody other than Muslim is not using rat poison on them or shooting them but to inoculate every Muslim against the concept of hatred, intolerance and aggression. It may sound preposterous but true. A Sarajevo Muslim shot the arch duke and started the Second World War, Genghis khan, in the middle Ages, killed and pillaged his way through the world. And our very own Tippu sultan and his dad Hider Ali, the recent offerings of Islam, caused untold misery to people in Malabar to humanity in general. Now, the same religion is gifting us with ISIS and ALKAIDA, LASKARE TOIBA and a host of others trying to rival each other in barbarism and mindless and wanton cruelty in the name of a stupid religion. So if we can eradicate the aforesaid building blocks of a Muslim’s mind he will loose his ability to breath and Inshan Allah the world will a peaceful place again!
                Reply
                1. I
                  Israel_Always
                  Jul 5, 2017 at 11:45 pm
                  Vivek dumb boy. GENGIS KHAN wasn't moslem.
                  Reply
                  1. M
                    manish
                    Jul 6, 2017 at 12:29 am
                    abey rss chaddi gang member, genghis khan was not a muslim, he was a great warrior who consolidated and made a single en y of his captured lands, not what your pathetic so called "brave" hindu kings could do. They were always busy infighting for capturing thrones and killing the 75 of hindus which they called "shudras and untouchables". also Haider Ali was not father of Tipu Sultan, he was the general of army of tipu sultan who by the way fought britishers unlike many of your hindu rajput rulers who supported them in north India. so get your facts right and stop reading from chaddi gangs whatsapp pathshala and on their accounts of facebook. Muslims of India have shed more blood for our independence then your beloved rss's father organization hindu mahasabha and their other brat organization who were always opposing freedom movement sitting in lap of britishers.
                    Reply
                    1. R
                      Rahul
                      Jul 6, 2017 at 9:34 am
                      'manish' mohammad, how is the weather in pakistan? Be careful when you go out after trolling...a 'peace-lover' could explod, just like 'peace-lovers' around the world so...do they also wear chaddis over their half-cuts?
                  2. M
                    madhusudan Bangalore
                    Jul 5, 2017 at 1:42 pm
                    Isreal is important for India to neutralize the threat of CHINA AND PAKISTAN. Indian should act fast in the interest of our country by boycotting all CHINESE GOODS in our country. That will help our country to fight against aggressive CHINA since economic boycott is a most effective weapon in present situation. Pakistan has launched PROXY WAR against INDIA with help of terrorist groups flourishing in that country. Pakistan has connived with CHINA in the destruction of Indian economy and military. So China is creating trouble all along INDO-CHINA border. All terrorist's activity is taking place in connivance of CHINA AND PAKISTAN. Both COUNTRIES HAVE LAUNCHED PROXY WAR AGAINST INDIA TO DESTROY INDIAN ECONOMY AND MILITARY. Pakistan has no capability to fight with India unless PAK is backed by the dragon. China is an aggressor country which has illegally occupied a large chunk of territories belong to its neighboring countries whose ambition is to go to on increasing its land area.
                    Reply
                    1. B
                      Bagawat.Nama
                      Jul 6, 2017 at 5:09 am
                      Israel should also help your mother to bear a few more dumb siblings like you. You write with your DIK in your mouth!
                      Reply
                      1. A
                        aum
                        Jul 6, 2017 at 9:31 am
                        mr porki calm down
                        1. R
                          Rahul
                          Jul 6, 2017 at 9:36 am
                          Don't think everyone is like your ammi, katue...don't waste your time here, you are missing out on getting customers for her...
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