NEW DELHI: The
carried out a long-range precision strike mission against a practice target at Pokhran in Rajasthan to mark the second anniversary of the pre-dawn bombing of the JeM terror facility at
on February 26 in 2019.
The mission was conducted by the same Mirage-2000 fighter jet squadron that had conducted the Balakot strikes, in which five of the six designated targets were hit in the cross-border operation codenamed `Operation Bandar’ two years ago, as was earlier reported by TOI.
IAF chief Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria on Saturday also flew a Mirage-2000 in a multi-aircraft sortie, which included
as well, to commemorate the occasion, said officers.
The mission conducted at Pokhran, incidentally, also used the Israeli Spice-2000 precision guided penetration bombs that were used during the Balakot strikes.
In 2019, backed by IL-78 mid-air refuellers and AWACS (airborne warning and control system) aircraft, the Mirage-2000 were deployed in the “strike package” against Balakot from Gwalior, Agra and Bareilly, instead of forward airbases to retain the element of surprise in the early hours of February 26 in 2019.
The IAF had also simultaneously deployed “a decoy package” of Sukhoi-30MKIs ostensibly headed towards the JeM headquarters at Bahawalpur in the
province to ensure Pakistani combat air patrols were lured away from the actual “strike package” meant for Balakot in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, as was then reported by TOI.
The IAF had achieved its “strategic and operational aim of successfully bombing” the JeM terror facility at Balakot. But it did lose the MiG-21 being flown by Wing Commander
, who shot down a F-16 before he himself ejected and was captured by Pakistani forces, in the aerial skirmish in the Nowshera sector along the Line of Control a day after Operation Bandar.
“Friendly fire” had also brought down a Mi-17 helicopter – which killed six IAF personnel and a civilian -- at Budgam around the same time as the aerial skirmish.