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

Ghaziabad: 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 on Tuesday.

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 killed 40 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.