Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria on Tuesday said that the Balakot airstrikes were a “major shift” in the government’s way of handling terrorist attacks, adding that the Pulwama terror attack was a stark reminder of the threat to defence installations.
In a written note in a booklet as part of the 87th Air Force Day celebrations, Bhadauria said that the “strategic relevance of this (Balakot strike) is the resolve of the political leadership to punish the perpetrators of terrorism and the capability of the IAF to execute a strike inside Pakistan”. This, he wrote, “has been a major shift in the government’s way of handling terrorist attacks”.
He said the present security environment in India’s neighbourhood is a serious cause of concern, and the Pulwama terror strike is a stark reminder of the persistent threat to defence installations. “We must always be ever ready to respond to any contingency,” Bhadauria, who took over as the Indian Air Force chief last week, noted.
Delivering a speech at the Hindon Air Base in Ghaziabad, Bhadauria acknowledged “the contributions of all personnel of commands, stations and units who silently and professionally contributed to the success of the air strikes on the terrorist camps at Balakot earlier this year”.
He awarded citations to the 51 Squadron, the 9 Squadron and 601 signal unit of the Indian Air Force for their roles in the air strikes. “It is extremely important that we are always vigilant and alert to the existing sub-conventional threat. In the year gone by, the IAF has demonstrated its resolve and capability in punishing the perpetrators of terrorism and we need to be ever prepared to meet any contingency that challenges the defence of our country,” Bhadauria said.
He reaffirmed the Air Force’s commitment to “work with dedication to enhance the ‘jointness’ amongst the services”.
Speaking about the modernization of the IAF, the Air Force chief said that it was on the path of “rapid modernisation through acquisition of crucial technologies and critical capabilities such as the Rafale fighter aircraft, S-400 Surface-to-Air Missile, precision weapons, advanced electronics and early warning systems to name a few,” just hours before Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inducted the first Rafale jet in France.
But he stressed on the importance of developing defence equipment within the country, He said, “To achieve true strategic autonomy, we need to focus on indigenous design and manufacturing” and said that the IAF “is fully committed towards indigenous development of high technology hardware in consonance with ‘Make in India’.”
After Bhadauria’s speech, the star of the dogfight between the Indian and Pakistani Air Forces on February 27, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was awarded the Vir Chakra for downing a Pakistani fighter jet, led a MiG-21 Bison formation at the Air Force Day flypast.
Another hero of the dogfight that made a brief appearance was one of the Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighter jets that Pakistan had claimed it had shot down during the dogfight.