Indian Air Force (IAF) chief, Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa, on Monday said that while the IAF achieved its military objective in Balakot on February 26, Pakistan did not achieve its target when it launched a riposte the next day, even though IAF lost an aircraft and one of its pilots was held captive.
ACM Dhanoa was speaking at a seminar organised as part of events marking the beginning of birth centenary celebrations of Marshal of Indian Air Force Arjan Singh, DFC.
ACM Dhanoa said, “Post-our strike on a terrorist training camp, to thwart an impending strike on our soil, PAF launched a riposte on February 27 against Indian military targets. Did they succeed in their objective, the answer is a clear ‘No’, as the attack was thwarted, while we achieved our objective in Balakot. This is the main argument.
“Yes, we lost an aircraft, MiG-21 Bison, and one of our pilot was held captive, but we got an aircraft too, which electronic signatures suggest was an F-16.”
“But to shift the narrative to this air combat from not being able to achieve your military objective is obfuscating the issue, like the statements given by the other side post-1965 and 1971,” he added.
Referring to the strike on JeM terrorist camp by the IAF on February 26, he stated, “In the Balakot operations, we had technology on our side as we could launch precision stand-off weapons with great accuracy.”
His statement confirms The Indian Express’s reports that the IAF had used precision-guided munition from a standoff distance, which meant that Mirage-2000 fighter jets were on the Indian side of the Line of Control.
He said, “In the subsequent engagement, we came out better because we had upgraded our MiG-21 Bison and Mirage-2000 aircraft. Imagine fighting with the MiG-21 Bis. The results would have been further skewed in our favour had we inducted our Rafale aircraft in time.”
The tender for buying 126 multi-role medium-range combat aircraft was issued by IAF in 2007; trials completed and Rafale aircraft shortlisted in 2011. After inconclusive negotiations, the tender was withdrawn in 2015 after the government decided to buy only 36 Rafale under an inter-government agreement. The first of these Rafales will be with the IAF this September.
The IAF chief reiterated his earlier observation that “with the proposed induction of Rafale and the S-400 SAM system in the next 2-4 years would once again tilt the technological balance (against Pakistan Air Force) in our favour, like it was in 2002 during Op Parakaram.”
But he added a note of warning about lack of modernization of IAF in recent years by asserting that “some critical technological inductions such as AWACS, 4th Generation Fighter aircraft, ISR platforms and critical force enablers have to be fast-tracked to maintain the edge in short skirmishes where we cannot bring our numbers to bear for decisive outcome.”
Highlighting the fact that by 2030s, over 55 per cent of fighter aircraft would be indigenously manufactured, ACM Dhanoa clarified that this “would not sufficiently offset the impact of technology to meet the challenges of Air Power especially considering the galloping development in aircraft modernisation by China”.
He therefore called for a “Make in India fighter programme under a strategic partnership and our indigenous technology would give us the capability of designing, developing and manufacturing 5th Generation fighter aircraft by the 2040s”.
After the seminar, ACM Dhanoa unveiled the bust of the late Marshal of the IAF at Vayu Bhawan.
The IAF is also conducting the Marshal Cup all-India hockey tournament, which started in Chandigarh on Monday, and had earlier organised a half-marathon on April 14 in New Delhi.