On 26th February 2019, India conducted a surgical airstrike at Balakot terrorist camps run by JeM’s, deep inside Pakistan which resulted in an unknown number of casualties. The Pakistani army quickly admitted the strike’s authenticity but said there were no damages to any buildings or losses. However, Pakistani army cordoned the area for several months and later organised a tightly controlled trip for journalists.

Indian government officials said the analysis of before, and after images taken by Synthetic Aperture Radar(SAR) carried by an Airbourne, platform showed damaged to various camps but didn’t publish those images. Later the government disclosed that the Bombs used in the airstrike by Mirage 2000 jets were outfitted with Israeli-made GPS-guided Spice-2000 smart kits (specifically used for six to eight feet accuracy). India claimed that many terrorists and their Pak army trainers were present at the camps when Bombs hit the mark. 

Why Balakot?

Pakistan, especially along the Internation border with India, has been littered with Terrorist camps then why did India choose to strike at Balakote, surrounded by dense forest on all four sides, practically a haven for terrorists? India could have lost fighter jets which were flying deep inside Pakistan and well within their surface to air missile umbrella. 

On 14th February 2019, Pakistan backed terrorist organisation JeM’s suicide bombers rammed an explosive-laden SUV into a CRPF convoy at Pulwama and killed more than 40 personals. India’s premier Intelligence agency RAW received information that the Jaish were training terrorists at Balakot camps to carry out Pulwama type suicide attacks all over India. The Balakot is a stronghold of the Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists and each year thousands of Jaish militants trained in this camp.

According to Intelligence sources, initially, Hizbul Mujahideen used to run this terrorist camp. Later on, radical Islamist and terrorist Masood Azhar( He was released by India after terrorists threatened to blow up hijacked IC-814 along with its passengers), an expert in brainwashing youth with religious doctrines, took over the base. The recruits were given sophisticated weapons training including Shoulder-fired MANPADS(Man-portable air-defence systems), Improvise explosive devices (IED) set up, underwater demolition by Jaish. The Jaish and Pakistani army trained most suicide attackers at this camp, resulting in many deaths in India. 

How operation Bandar was executed by Western Air command

India wanted to hurt the Jaish badly and damage Pakistans capability to launch terrorists in India. At first, the Satellite imagery was analysed, and ISR(Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) platforms verified the location and number of terrorists. The entire operation was kept secret by planners at Western Air command HQ. Only a few high ranking officers of Indian armed forces and government officials (Rumor has it that PM Modi personally authorised the op) knew about the operation.

At 3:30 am on the day of the attack, A Squadron of Mirage-2000 jets armed with Spice-2000 smart bombs and crystal Maze missile were Airbourne from Gwalior airbase under the pretext of exercise. They flew towards the Bareily where they met a mid-air refueller and filled up their tanks then flew towards Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan smelt something and sent Two F-16’s, but they were successfully decoyed by SU-30 MKI’s. Twelve jets entered Pakistan, and four remained over J&K as backups. By that time sky over Jammu and Kashmir was covered by squadrons of Su-30 MKI, Mig 21’s to take care of any Pakistani misadventure. Two AWACS of IAF was scanning the whole J&K sector. one by one all jets emptied their ammunition on their designated target and returned to their bases. The entire operation lasted less than 30 minutes. Garuda, the special forces unit of IAF was kept on standby for any eventualities. The whole operation was code-named “Bandar”.

American made AN/TPS-77 radar failed its purpose

Pakistan has Lockheed Martin made four AN/TPS-77 long-range 3D air searcher radar. Each one of them has an operational range of 450+Km but all failed to detect Mirage jets. However, It is unclear if those radars failed to detect the incoming squadron of Mirage jets or the Pakistani radar operators were just incompetent.

This entire operation did establish one thing that in the last five years the Indian government’s mindset had changed. They can go to any extent to protect their citizens and take revenge if necessary. It was also one of the rarest incidents when a nuclear-armed country did airstrike on another nuclear country without the fear of consequences.