New Delhi: The 12 Mirage 2000 aircraft of the Indian Air Force, which struck at Jaish-e-Mohammed’s biggest terrorist training camp at Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, were supported by fleet of Sukhoi 30 jets, a mid-air refueller and two Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS).
According to sources, the IAF carried out the three strikes in Balakot, Chakoti and Muzaffarabad at 3:45 AM, 3:48 AM and 3:58 AM respectively, in which at least 350 terrorists are believed to have been neutralised.
At least 325 terrorists and 25 to 27 trainers were at the Balakot camp, which turned out to be “a sitting duck target” for the Indian Air Force.
Everyone at the camp was sleeping and Pakistani defence establishment had no clue that the attack was coming so deep into their country because they had expected a surgical strike on camps in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir near the Line of Control, said the sources.
The sources added that while the operation began around 3:45 AM and concluded by 4:05 AM, the actual strike lasted for two minutes. The aircraft took off from a number of bases, they said.
The sources said the IAF jets used a number of laser-guided bombs, each weighing over 1,000 kg, to destroy the the JeM training facility in Balakot, around 80 KM from the Line of Control.
While the bombs were shelled by the Mirage 2000 warplanes, the Sukhoi Su-30 aircraft were deployed in an air defence role in case there was a need to respond to any action from Pakistan Air Force — but that never came.
The sources said most of the jets, which were part of the operation, flew very low to avoid being detected by Pakistani radars while the AWACS provided the radial cover to the Mirage 2000 jets.
They said all the IAF assets returned to their bases without sustaining any damage.
The mid-air refueller was an IL-78 aircraft which did not cross the LoC.
The sources said Mirage 2000 fighter jets were chosen for the strike due to its capabilities of hitting long-range targets with “pin-point” accuracy.
The entire operation was monitored from the Air headquarters in Delhi by top commanders of the IAF including Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa, the sources said.
They said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Army Chief Gen. Bipin Rawat and Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba were being updated about the operation on a real-time basis.