Balakot strikes show major shift in Govt’s handling of terror attacks: IAF chief

Indigenously-developed Tejas Light Combat Aircraft of the Indian Air Force displaying its skill on the occasion of 87th Air Force Day celebration at Hindon Air Force base, in Ghaziabad on Tuesday. (UNI)
Indigenously-developed Tejas Light Combat Aircraft of the Indian Air Force displaying its skill on the occasion of 87th Air Force Day celebration at Hindon Air Force base, in Ghaziabad on Tuesday. (UNI)

GHAZIABAD, Oct 8:
The Balakot air strikes reflect a major shift in the Government’s way of handling terror attacks and show its resolve to punish the perpetrators of terrorism, Indian Air Force chief R K S Bhadauria said today.
In his Air Force Day message, Bhadauria, who took charge as the Chief of Air Staff a little over a week ago, said the IAF must maintain a high serviceability of combat equipment and exceptional training standards to ensure operational success in all future operations.
“The strategic relevance of this (Balakot strike) is the resolve of the political leadership to punish the perpetrators of terrorism and the capability of the IAF to execute a strike inside Pakistan. This has been a major shift in the government’s way of handling terrorists attacks,” he said in a written message published in a booklet on the occasion of 87th anniversary of the Indian Air Force.
Without naming Pakistan, Bhadauria said the present security environment in India’s neighbourhood is a serious cause of concern and the Pulwama terror strike is also a stark reminder of persistent threat to defence installations.
“While security of all our assets is of paramount, I also expect air warriors to pay particular attention to the security of our information and cyber networks,” Bhadauria said in his message.
“We must always be ever ready to respond to any contingency,” he said.
In a separate address at the Hindon Air Base, he pointed out that the geo-political environment has been rapidly changing and uncertainties have created numerous challenges to national security.
“It is extremely important that we are always vigilant and alert to the existing sub-conventional threat. In the year gone by, the IAF has demonstrated its resolve and capability in punishing the perpetrators of terrorism and we need to be ever prepared to meet any contingency that challenges the defence of our country,” he said, referring to the Balakot strikes.
Post the Pulwama attack on February 14 that martyred 44 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel, the IAF launched air strikes on terror camps at Balakot in Pakistan.
Bhadauria said the IAF also acknowledges the contributions of all personnel of commands, stations and units who silently and professionally contributed to the success of the air strikes on the terrorist camps at Balakot earlier this year.
He said the IAF has operationalised indigenously made surface-to-air missile Akash systems and many more such systems will be inducted.
In future, the IAF will also induct the Arudhara and Mountain radars, he added.
Balakot dominated the Air Force Day Parade. The 51 Squadron, the 9 Squadron and 601 signal unit of the Indian Air Force were also awarded citations by Bhadauria for their role in the Balakot air strikes.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman and fighter pilots, who were a part of the Balakot operation, participated in the flypast.
After the Balakot strikes, Pakistan launched an air strike on India. In the process, Varthaman engaged a Pakistan Air Force aircraft in a dogfight and downed the enemy jet during an aerial combat. He was held captive for three days.
The IAF, Bhadauria stressed, is committed to work with dedication to enhance the ‘jointness’ among three services.
He said the IAF is on the path of rapid modernisation through acquisition of crucial technologies and critical capabilities such as the Rafale fighter aircraft, S-400 Surface-to-Air Missile, precision weapons, advanced electronics and early warning systems.
He also stressed the need to focus on indigenous design and manufacturing and said the IAF is fully committed towards indigenous development of high technology hardware in consonance with ‘Make in India’.
“We have started building the LCA (Light Combat Aircraft Tejas) fleet. We already have one squadron operational and five more will be inducted in the near future. The development of indigenous 5th Generation Advanced Multi-role Combat Aircraft (AMCA) has been launched.
“In helicopters, we already operate the Advanced Light Helicopter, and will soon induct the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) and Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) ‘Made in India’. In Surface-to-Air Missile, we have operationalised the indigenous Akash system and are well on our way to induct more such systems,” Bhadauria said.
The IAF has successfully sponsored the development and use of bio-jet fuel along with Indian Institute of Petroleum (CSIR) on AN-32 aircraft and soon we will replicate this on other aircraft also, he added.
Identifying aerospace safety as one of the key result area that needs “intense attention”, Bhadauria said it is the duty of every air warrior to take ownership and responsibility for safety of combat equipment placed under them. (PTI)

Squadrons awarded
Two squadrons and one signal unit of the Indian Air Force that were part of the Balakot operation were decorated with citations today.
On the occasion of 87th Indian Air Force Day, Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria awarded citations to 51 Squadron, the 9 Squadron and the 601 Signal Unit for their role in the airstrike on terror camps in Pakistan’s Balakot in February.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman and fighter pilots, who were a part of the Balakot operation, also participated in the flypast.
Varthaman was leading the bison formation of MiG 21 aircraft. The fighter pilot had downed an enemy jet during an aerial combat with Pakistan in February and was held captive for three days.
In his Air Force Day address, Bhadauria said the IAF acknowledges the contributions of all personnel of commands, stations and units who silently and professionally contributed to the success of the airstrike on the terror camps at Balakot.
The Srinagar-based 51 Squadron, to which Varthaman was attached during the Balakot strike, was also involved in thwarting the retaliatory attack by the Pakistan Air Force, a day later.
“The squadron displayed exemplary courage, determination and professional acumen to ensure victory in the ariel engagement, claiming an enemy fighter aircraft in the process, the first instance since the 1971 war. During the entire period of activation, the squadron flew a total of 71 live missions and 36 on station close air patrols deterring the enemy from any misadventure,” the citation for 51 Squadron read.
Post Pulwama, the Gwalior-based 9 Squadron was tasked to neutralise the terror camps in Balakot.
The unit planned and executed simultaneous parallel runway operations by night for the first time in the history of the IAF, the citation said.
“The aircraft successfully crossed the LoC despite the complex vulnerabilities and and completed the mission in the most professional manner. For its gallant services of the nation in undertaking the Balakot air strikes, the 9 Squadron is awarded unit citation by the chief of the Air Staff,” the citation for Gwalior-based 9 Squadron read.
The 601 Signal Unit has an area of responsibility of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and northern parts of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. The unit played a critical role during the Balakot airstrike and also when the Pakistan Air Force launched a counter attack, a day later.
“The response caused the strike to release their weapons hastily and missed their targets. For the professional conduct of operation 2019, Signal Unit is awarded unit citation by the Chief of Air Staff,” the citation for 601 Signal Unit stated. (PTI)