Pakistan before being loaded on IAF Mirage-2000 fighters at Gwalior for the February 26 pre-dawn strikes.
So, when the “clear to launch weapons” signals popped up on the computers of the Mirage-2000 fighters, which were then – depending on their altitude and angle of attack – around 2 km to 10 km across the Line of Control into Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir, there was little chance of the 1,000-kg bombs missing their targets.
“With their navigationseeker systems, the fire-and-forget Spice-2000 bombs homed into the four to six targets selected within the JeM facility around 50 to 60 km away. The error margin was less than 3 metres,” said a top defence source on Saturday. The “before and after” images captured by the high-resolution synthetic aperture radars (SARs) mounted on “classified platforms” as well as Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, which were part of the “strike package”, show the designated targets were hit with precision, as reported by on Saturday.
Though an accurate assessment of casualties on the ground is virtually impossible, the Spice-2000 bombs armed with “digital scene-matching area correlators” penetrated the roofs of the pre-selected buildings in the terror facility, which would have “killed all the inmates in them with shock and blast waves”, said sources.
Interestingly, the IAF also deployed “a decoy package” of fighters ostensibly headed towards the JeM headquarters in Bahawalpur in the Punjab province to lure Pakistani combat air patrols away from the actual “strike package” that had the Balakot facility in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province in its cross-hairs in the wee hours of February 26. This was in addition to the Mirage-2000s and Sukhoi-30MKIs, IL-78 mid-air refuellers and AWACS (airborne warning and control system) aircraft being deployed from Gwalior, Agra and Bareilly, instead of forward airbases, which took a circuitous route to the Muzaffarabad sector along the LoC to retain the element of surprise for the strikes, as was earlier reported by TOI.
“The decoy package of Sukhoi-30MKIs, in turn, took off from our Punjab to fake a strike operation towards Bahawalpur. Pakistan was taken in by the decoy formation and vectored its fighters in the air towards it,” said another source.
“Consequently, there was no Pakistani fighter anywhere near the actual strike package … the closest one would have been well over 150 km away. This also nails Pakistan’s claim that IAF fighters hastily dropped their bombs without achieving anything, much like its other factually incorrect statements like it did not use F-16s in the air intrusion on February 27,” he added.
The IAF cross-border strike, and that too well inside Pakistan instead of restricting it to POK, has redrawn India’s self-imposed red-lines, which earlier held that any use of airpower would be a sharply escalatory step in the complicated dynamics between the two nuclear-armed neighbours. “If the IAF had been told not to cross the LoC, like it was directed during the 1999 Kargil conflict, the weapons package to be used would have been quite different,” said the source.