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SOURCE:  RAVI PAI / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG

It was 10.08 am in the morning when a single Sukhoi-30MKI guarding a military installation at 15000 feet when a 3-4 formation of F-16s flying at over 40000 feet fired the first salvo of 4-5 AIM-120 C-5 AMRAAM missiles at the lone Sukhoi-30MKI, which nearly allowed PAF jets a high first kill probability but thanks to advance pilot training and aircraft maneuvering that the missile missed their targets and it was the tiny Mig-21Bis which sneaked in close in the moment of chaos and fired a Within visual range R-73 missile at the first F-16 on the scene before it was shot down.

” Technological asymmetry ” which IAF talked about was that AMRAAMs fired from the high attitude prevented IAF to successfully engage its own BVRAAMs flying from the lower altitudes thus preventing further loss of the PAF jets in the Aerial dog fight which was followed after failed raid attempts at the Indian military installations. Senior Retired IAF officer, a few weeks back even claimed that if we had Rafale we could have brought down 7-8 PAF jets that day which all points to push for the purchase of more advanced Meteor air-air missile which will come with Dassault Rafale.

The inability of IAF jets to fire at raiding PAF jets due to ” Technological asymmetry ” is a flawed argument, since IAF even after being on high alert on the western border was not able to scramble more jets in the air, even when being a bigger airforce of the two, PAF was able to field close to 24 aircraft formation and IAF only 6 jets before two more Mig-21Bis were scrambled after breach of airspace by Mirage-III strike Bomber used to fire Standoff weapons at Indian military installation facilities.

Right to Engage (ROE) set by IAF too has been questioned by Defence pundits back home which allowed PAF jets to fire first round of BVR at the Su-30. According to the sequence of events, PAF F-16 entered forward battlefield formations to protect fleeing Mirage-III Strike formation which should have been seen as an invitation to fight but rather Two Mirage-2000 deployed successfully prevented the intervention of nearly 8 JF-17 fighter jet flying north of the F-16 formations but never took a shot at F-16 at the vicinity which allowed F-16 to target lone Su-30 while staying within its own air space.

ROE set by IAF was that F-16 should be fired upon only if it breaches Indian airspace was an unwritten rule which was not respected by the adversaries on that day. According to laid down norms by both the sides, rotary wing aircraft should not come within one kilometer of the LoC and fixed-wing aircraft should not be within 10 km of it. PAF had breached both the norms that day but, they were technically still flying in their own airspace IAF pilots were told to maintain ROE set by both countries but PAF F-16 fired AMRAAMs across the Line of control thus ending a long pending argument which was never defined by both air-forces.

Jets from both Air force break 10 km LOC limit routinely but don’t engage with each other if the other side scrambles jet in the same sector. single Mig-29A Pilot locking Two PAF F-16 with his R-77 BVRAAMs at the height of Kargil War while providing Combat Escort Mission to a fleet of Mirage-2000 then was not allowed to engage his targets after confirmed radar lock, so has to maintain the set ROE since PAF jets didn’t break into Indian air space then. BVRAAM advantage at the time of Kargil war allowed IAF jets to carry out bombing missions on Pakistani army targets without fear of intervention from PAF. PAF since the Kargil war has acquired BVR-AAM missiles both from China and the United States and took advantage of weapons in its possession that day to fire the first shot.

Heroics of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman not only was a face-saver for IAF, but He also was the lone pilot who refused to follow ROE set by IAF and breached the Line of control to give a bloody nose to PAF pride, which was their F-16s. If F-16 were able to bring down one or two Su-30s that day without any loss on their side it could have been the biggest loss of face for IAF which could have been taunted IAF for decades to come by PAF. If IAF wants to keep PAF off track on any future military strikes then it has to be more aggressive and not play by the rules set by PAF which is usually interested only in theatrics. IAF needs to prepare for the next battle which will give PAF even a bigger bloody nose. since it is more or less confirmed that any aircraft brought down over its own airspace will be denied by PAF, IAF needs to have technology up in the sky and Ground which can be provided as evidence to blow any cover-up attempts of PAF in future.

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