‘Highly Tense & Secretive Strikes’: IAF Pilots Who Flew to Balakot

The Indian Air Force airstrikes on Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) base in Pakistan's Balakot, in retaliation to the Pulwama attacks on a CRPF convoy in February was a very secretive and precise mission. Talking to Hindustan Times, two of the pilots from the operation said the mission was over in 90 seconds. NDTV also talked to two of the pilots from the mission, who said that the two-hour long mission “went by in a flash because there was a lot to do.”

SECRETIVE, HIGHLY TENSE MISSION

The first Indian Air Force attack on Pakistan soil after the 1971 war was carried out with such secrecy that not even the families of the assault team knew about it, one of the pilots told Hindustan Times.

" “Next day, when news broke, my wife asked me whether I was part of the attack. I kept quiet and slept off.”" - IAF Pilot to Hindustan Times

Also Read: Balakot Air Strike Took Place in Kashmir, Not in Pak: Sharad Pawar

One of them also said the senior IAF officials didn’t change their daily routines, in order to keep the mission secretive.

A squadron leader told NDTV that once they knew what the mission was, they "kept pacing up and down, and smoked a lot of cigarettes."

DISTRACT AND DISMISS

Another squadron leader told the daily that the Air Force flew many Combat Air Patrols (CAP) along the LoC as a ploy to throw off Pakistani air defence. They said that they knew something was happening two days prior but no one had a clear idea.

“While previous CAPs and sorties were without weapons, on 25 February, at about 4 pm, the Spice 2000 missiles were loaded on to the Mirage jets and the coordinates of the camp were fed into the weapon systems and we took off at 2 am that night,” one of the pilots was quoted as saying by HT.

Also Read: Balakot Biggest Anti-Terror Operation in India’s History: Rajnath

SPICE 2000s HIT THE BULLS EYE

The squadron leader NDTV talked to was one among the twelve Mirage 2000 pilots, whose mission was to take out the terrorist facility by firing two types of Israeli bombs – the Spice 2000, designed to penetrate deep inside target structures, and the Crystal Maze, which is meant to send back video feed of its strike.

The Crystal Maze weapons were not able to function due to the low cloud base. Hence, the fighters launched five Spice 2000 bombs, one of the squadron leaders told NDTV. The variant of Spice 2000 used was meant to take out human targets without necessarily destroying buildings.

In fact, one of the pilots said he had flown approximately eight kilometres across the line of control to get into a position to fire the Spice bomb.

The other pilot told the news channel that there is no doubt that the Spice 2000s hit their targets.

The Mirage pilot said that the satellite images released by DigitalGlobe were very low resolution which is why the structures seemed intact in media reports.

NDTV was reportedly shown ultra-high resolution images of the main targets, showing three precise holes on the roof of one of the main structures. Foreign diplomats and journalists who were taken to the site by Pakistani authorities 43 days after the attack were not shown this building, according to the report.

One of the pilots HT talked to also said they had hit the “bull’s eye.”

Also Read: Pak Didn’t Violate Indian Airspace After Balakot, Says IAF Chief

(With inputs from NDTV and Hindustan Times)

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