The Helium-filled balloon shot down by IAF’s Sukhoi-30 fighter jet in Rajasthan Tuesday morning came from across the border, sources in the Defence Ministry claimed. They indicated that the exercise could have been an attempt by Pakistan to test India’s response time to an aerial incursion. The ministry has apprised the Ministry of External Affairs regarding the matter, they said.
“Our radars picked up a shiny flying object that came into our air space. A fighter jet was quickly scrambled which intercepted it and shot it down,” Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has said.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the IAF said, “Due to heightened security alert, the balloon (of about 3 meters in diameter) was shot down as it would have been carrying unknown payload. However, on analysis of the debris it was established that there was no dangerous payload.”
IAF sources said the balloon, which had “Happy Birthday” written on it, was flying at an altitude of 8 km. The jets fired 97 rounds from the 30 mm cannon and brought the balloon down.
Sources said the operation lasted about 15 minutes. “The bases were on high alert due to Republic Day. Otherwise, the response might have been different. But, standard operating procedures were followed,” an IAF official added.