27th Feb PAF failed attempt

Q. During the attack by PAF in retaliation of Balakot strike, why IAF not intercepted PAF F16 & other fighters with SAM and instead sent MIG21, for interception knowing MIG’s are not as capable in this scenario. ~ Chandra Prakash

Ans: There are a couple of important reasons why IAF was not more aggressive in dealing with the PAF attack attempt.

1. The PAF aircrafts at no point of time crossed over the Indian Controlled Airspace across the LoC. India although maintains that all the airspace over J&K (and PoK) belongs to India, usually in the peace time aircrafts (civilian and PAF) operate in the Airspace over PoK. And therefore IAF was not supposed to use SAMs on those aircrafts. Further those aircrafts of PAF had their call signs active , therefore no reason for the SAMs to treat them as hostile untill the very end.

2. Rules of Engagement: Till this incident, the Rules of Engagement as told to the IAF pilots and SAM operators didn’t allow them to be fully aggressive. The IAF response was according to the SoPs laid down by the IAF till that day.

The IAF response was good but we had a couple of deficiencies which I would like to mention.

1. The lack of Software Defined Radios on all aircrafts is the foremost problem. This lead to the Mig21 duo to be not able to work out together, resulting in Mig21 of our hero fighting alone over PoK after Pakistan jammed the communications.

2. Most of the modern airforces in NATO have a type of beacon on their pilots. This means that in case the aircraft goes down , the pilot can be located and a Search and Rescue team can be sent. But our pilots didn’t had those, therefore the Search and Rescue teams based on Mi17 couldn’t be sent in time to PoK to save our pilot.

3. Lack of IFF and networking between all our assets. This lead to the shooting down of our own Mi17 aircraft by our SAM system.

The Mig21 Bison in our service, if the above 3 deficiencies are taken care of are capable to take on the best Aircraft PAF can offer one on one. Bisons are technically fully capable. Hope this clarifies things a bit.


  • Ankit Kumar

    An independent analyst with engineering background. Besides covering military affairs, he is also interested in space, airlines, infrastructure, nuclear, energy and related issues.

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