Air Chief Birender Singh Dhanoa on Monday said Pakistan Air Force planes did not cross the Line of Control (LoC) during the February 27 dogfight in the aftermath of the Balakot air strike, a military objective which India achieved.
“Pakistan did not come into our airspace. Our objective was to strike terror camps. Their objective was to target army places. None of them crossed the border. We achieved our military objective. None of them crossed the Line of Control into our territory,” he said.
He reiterated that the outcome of the February 27 confrontation would have been different if the IAF had the Rafale jets.
Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa was speaking at a press meet after the Indian Air Force at its Gwalior airbase recreated the Tiger Hill attack and displayed aircraft used during the ‘Operation Vijay’ to commemorate 20 years of the Kargil conflict.
The first of the 36 Rafale aircraft India is buying from France is expected to be handed over to the IAF in September this year.
Replying to questions, the Air Chief said, “They (Pakistan) have closed their airspace…that is their problem. Our economy is vibrant and air traffic is a very important part and you have noticed that the Air Force has never stopped our civilian air traffic.”
He recalled, “Only on February 27 (this year) we had stopped Srinagar airspace for two-three hours…We did not allow tension with Pakistan to dictate our civil aviation because our economy is much bigger and much stronger as compared to theirs.”
Referring to the Kargil conflict, Dhanoa said that Mirage aircraft of the IAF carried out effective strikes on Pakistani infiltrators.
“We standby the people who achieved this. Pakistan did not have beyond visual range missile. When you have an element of surprise by your side then you can make success,” he said, adding, “Purpose of our attack has always been to show our resolve and capability.”
Air Marshal Rajesh Kumar, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Central Air Command, who also addressed the press conference, recounted the key operations during the Kargil war, saying that Muntho Dalo was the “turning point” of the battle. “We put their logistics base camp to a standstill,” he said.
On the preparedness of the IAF, Kumar said that the Mirage 2000 planes were undergoing an upgrade to increase their operational life by another 20 years.
One squadron of the Mirage 2000 (around 18 jets) has been upgraded and it “is now converting to the new, significantly more capable aircraft”, he added.
To a question on the continuance of A-32 transport planes, one of which crashed in Arunachal Pradesh on June 3 killing all 13 personnel on board, Dhanoa said, the aircraft will keep flying till the IAF gets a replacement for it. “We do not have a choice,” he said. (ANI)