The Indian Air Force (IAF) is prepared to fight at “short notice” and is fully ready to respond to any terror strike from Pakistan, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria said on Friday.
The IAF chief described as “new threat” the dropping of consignments of weapons by drones in border areas of Punjab allegedly by Pakistan-based terror groups and vowed to take “action” to deal with incidents of airspace violation.’
At a press conference, Bhadauria said IAF was monitoring the development of military infrastructure by China along the Tibetan region, noting that it was not an issue of great concern. “The IAF is prepared to fight at short notice in full synergy with the other two sister services… Our operational preparedness has been of a very high order,” he said.
Bhadauria said the IAF had achieved a number of operational milestones during the last year including the strikes on a terrorist training camp in Pakistan’s Balakot. “While we are proud of our past, we do not rest on our past laurels. Our primary focus is to continue to build and maintain effective airpower for the future,” he said.
Bhadauria reiterated that India had shot down a Pakistani F-16 fighter aircraft in the aerial engagement on 27 February while losing a MiG-21. Pakistan has been denying that India shot down one of its F-16 jets.
Asked whether the IAF was ready for another Balakot-type strike, the Air Chief Marshal said any terror activity or strike from Pakistan would be responded to according to government’s directive. “Whatever be the targets, they will be taken care off,” he said.
Asked whether Pakistan would be able to block IAF’s communication network in future, the Air chief said necessary infrastructure has been put in place to ensure safe radio communication.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who downed the Pakistani F-16, could not hear radio messages during the aerial combat on 27 February as the communication was jammed by Pakistan. Minutes later his MiG 21 Bison was hit and he was held captive in Pakistan for three days.
“They will not be able to hear and jam our communication network,” said the IAF chief. On reports that the terrorist training camp in Balakot has been “reactivated”, he said, “If we had not carried out the Balakot strikes, then the level of activities would have been in greater intensity.”
When asked about incidents of Pakistani terror groups dropping arms in Punjab border using drones, the Air Chief Marshal said, “I would not say it is a very serious threat. It is a new threat. It is not something which we had not anticipated. Some measures were taken already to deal with the situation.”
“It is an issue of airspace violation and necessary steps will be taken… Action has been initiated,” Bhadauria said. On China building helipads and other military infrastructure along the border, he said IAF was monitoring their infrastructure development. “We are working on our own infrastructure. It is not an issue of some great concern. We know exactly what is happening,” he added.
The IAF chief said the induction of new-generation combat aircraft and lethal precision weapons would provide the force with an overwhelming offensive capability to deter and punish the enemy. “Our air defence network has also been strengthened by the induction and integration of modern sensors and weapon systems. We are progressively nearing our goal of establishing a robust network-centric operations capability,” he added.