Since the Kargil conflict of 1999, Indian Air Force (IAF) has developed the ability to take part in operations across the spectrum of conflict “from sub-conventional to nuclear,” Air Chief Marshal (ACM) B.S. Dhanoa said on Tuesday.
“In 1999, precision bombing capabilities were operationalised only on the Mirage-2000 aircraft. Now all aircraft, Mirage, Su-30, Jaguar, MiG-29 and MiG-27 Upg, have the capability for precision bombing. Not only that, in case we have correct coordinates we can do all-weather bombing through clouds very accurately, he said at an IAF seminar on ‘20 years of Op Safed Sagar.’ “We have just seen in the attack that we carried out on February 26 that we are capable of precision strike from stand-off distances and very accurately,” he added.
He identified reconnaissance, intelligence, mid-air refuellers and early warning aircraft as challenges during the Kargil conflict. “All that is behind us,” he said. During Kargil, the Air Force was actually prepared for a 1971, which was the last full scale war India fought. But they were not allowed to cross the Line of Control (LoC), which he said was a political decision. “Wars are fought for political objectives,” he added.
In the summer of 1999, India was caught off guard as Pakistani regular soldiers dressed up as irregulars occupied the heights in Kargil and adjoining areas. The then Vajpayee government had initially declined the use of air power, but gave the go-ahead on May 25 as ground casualties mounted and IAF launched airstrikes a day later.
On May 27, 1999, IAF lost two fighter jets while attempting to evict infiltrators from the icy heights of Kargil. While Flt. Lt. K. Nachiketa was taken Prisoner of War (PoW) by Pakistan after his Mig-27 was shot down, Sqn. Ldr. Ahuja lost his life on the ground after ejecting from his Mig-21 and was posthumously awarded the Vir Chakra (VrC). On May 28, 1999, IAF lost a Mi-17 after it successfully attacked enemy positions in Drass sector. Four officers were killed.
After this, the IAF pressed in Mirage-2000s and used Laser Guided Bombs to target hardened bunkers which turned the tide in India’s favour.