“The strategic-surprise” of the Balakot airstrikes by the Indian Air Force in the Khyber Phaktunwa region of Pakistan on February 26 was “complete and total” despite Pakistan being on high alert, according to a report on “the lessons learnt” from the operation, which also mentions that five of the six designated targets were hit, the first official acknowledgement of the number of targets.
The report, a detailed assessment of the positives and negatives of the operation, to be used as a reference for future operations, was discussed at a high-level meeting of IAF recently.
On February 26, in response to a suicide bombing attack by a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama, Jammu, and Kashmir, that killed 40 troopers, and to pre-empt more such attacks, IAF struck a training camp of the Pakistan-based JeM in Balakot. There’s been a lot of discussion and debate on the attack, including on the damage inflicted, but the report marks the first time IAF discussed the operation’s effectiveness.
The assessment has revealed several positives, but because “no battle plan ever survives the first contact with the enemy”, there were also deviations from the plan, and some outright negatives too.
The mission “was accomplished” because of “redundancies” built into the plan, the report, a copy of which has been reviewed by HT, says.
The “strategic surprise” was so complete that only after IAF’s Mirage-2000s delivered the weapons package and turned back did Pakistan scramble jets from “as many as eight fighter bases”. These included the Pakistan Air Force base Mushaf in Sargodha, Rafiqui in Shorkot, Minhas in Kamra Attock, and Murid in Chakwal. “But the distance between PAF and IAF fighters was at least 10 minutes,” a senior officer in the security establishment said on condition of anonymity.
“Pakistan was expecting a response, but from the PAF response it appears it did not expect us to take the aerial route,” the officer added.