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The Balakot airstrike, a significant operation carried out by the Indian Air Force (IAF) in February 2019, marked a pivotal moment in India’s defense strategy. The strike not only demonstrated India’s resolve against cross-border terrorism but also highlighted critical gaps in its electronic warfare (EW) capabilities. Following the operation, a comprehensive reassessment and enhancement of these capabilities became a strategic imperative for the Indian Armed Forces.

On February 26, 2019, in response to the Pulwama terror attack, the IAF conducted a pre-dawn airstrike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) training camp in Balakot, Pakistan. This operation was a bold demonstration of India’s ability to execute precise and strategic military actions beyond its borders. However, the subsequent aerial engagements with the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) revealed significant vulnerabilities in India’s EW systems.

During the Balakot operation, the IAF encountered several challenges related to electronic warfare. These included issues with radar jamming, communication interception, and electronic countermeasures. The PAF’s swift and effective response exposed the limitations of the IAF’s EW capabilities, particularly in hostile and contested environments.

Electronic warfare is crucial in modern combat, encompassing a range of activities designed to disrupt, deceive, or deny the enemy’s use of the electromagnetic spectrum. Effective EW capabilities ensure superiority in the information domain, which is vital for mission success and the protection of assets. Recognizing this, the Indian Armed Forces embarked on a comprehensive overhaul of their EW systems post-Balakot.

The immediate response involved upgrading existing EW systems to enhance their performance. This included improving radar warning receivers, jammers, and electronic countermeasure pods. These upgrades aimed to increase the effectiveness of IAF aircraft in detecting and evading enemy radar and missile systems.

India has accelerated the induction of advanced EW platforms to bolster its capabilities. The DRDO-developed ‘Shakti’ EW system, designed for naval platforms, is an example of indigenous advancements. Similarly, the IAF has procured advanced EW systems from global suppliers to complement indigenous developments.

Recognizing the importance of operational readiness, the IAF has intensified EW training for its personnel. Simulated environments replicating complex electronic warfare scenarios have been integrated into training programs. This ensures that pilots and EW operators are well-prepared to handle real-world challenges.

Improving interoperability between the three branches of the Indian Armed Forces—Army, Navy, and Air Force—has been a focus area. Joint exercises emphasizing EW coordination and integration have been conducted to ensure seamless communication and operational efficiency during combined operations.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has been at the forefront of developing cutting-edge EW technologies. Collaborations with academic institutions and private sector enterprises have been encouraged to foster innovation and accelerate the development of advanced EW systems.

The Balakot operation served as a wake-up call, highlighting the importance of robust electronic warfare capabilities. By prioritizing the integration of an ODL system, the IAF is taking a crucial step towards ensuring seamless communication and maintaining air superiority in future conflicts.