Vikash Sharma

The Indian Army and the Indian Air Force won a gritty and decisive war to evict the Pakistani intruders during the Kargil war in 1999. Even after 22 years, the memories are still fresh as a group of pilots had scripted a new chapter in the air warfare for the country.

Air Officer Commanding in Chief (AOC-in-C) of Eastern Air Command Air Marshal DK Patnaik terms the victory as priceless as the task for the Air Force was challenging. Patnaik, who was then a Squadron Leader, had launched the first-ever night laser-guided bomb strike on Tiger Hill.

“During the initial few days, it was not known how the intruders managed to enter our territory. Air power is not used frequently as it is always considered to be escalatory. The then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had clearly instructed us not to cross the Line of Control (LoC),” recalled Patnaik.

In an exclusive interview to OTV, Patnaik said, “Dropping weapons from high-altitude was first of its kind in the country and the world. We had to devise innovative methods as laser-guided bombs were included in the Indian Air Force so, we had to practice a lot before hitting the targets. It was not easy as the enemy was equipped with stinger missiles. It was a complex operation as our troops were on the ground and we had already lost two IAF aircraft, a MiG-21 and a Mi-17 helicopter.”

Sharing experience, Patnaik said capturing Tiger Hill was important as the enemy had a perfect view of Drass and the National Highway. “We took the enemy by surprise and cut off their supply which forced them to withdra,”he said.

Patnaik was commissioned into the fighter stream of the Indian Air Force on June 8, 1984. He is an alumnus of the National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla, Defence Services Staff College and College of Air Warfare. A fighter combat leader, Patnaik has more than 2,500 hours of accident-free flying experience on various types of aircraft.

The Odisha-born IAF officer further said, 'one thing came out very clear from Kargil that enemy is not predictable'. "You need to think like an enemy and explore all possibilities to counter it through a lot of discussions, flying exercises and other aspects," he added.

(Edited By Pradeep Singh)