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IAF goes public with radar images to rebut Pakistan over F-16 shot down by India

NEW DELHI, April 8: The Indian Air Force on Monday released radar images to rebut Pakistan’s claim that it hadn’t lost a US-manufactured F-16 fighter jet in the February 27 dogfight. The IAF said there was more credible evidence available to establish that Pakistan Air Force had lost one F-16 in the air action.

But the IAF is restricting the information being shared in public domain due to security and confidentiality concerns, Air Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor, Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Operations) said.

Officials said the Air Force also had evidence in the form of radio-telephony intercepts of the Pakistan Air Force F-16 strike package and ground wireless intercepts but would not place this evidence in public domain due to security and confidentiality concerns.

Days after Pakistan sought to assert that the Indian Air Force hadn't shot down one of its F16 fighter aircraft, the IAF released radar images as proof to expose the neighbouring nation's claims.

The fact is that the IAF had achieved its objectives of successfully striking the Balakot camp and thwarting the retaliatory PAF attack against Indian military installations that followed on February 27, Air Vice Marshal Kapoor said.

The AWACS radar image of the engagement area west of the Line of Control opposite Jhangar clearly establishes that there were a bunch of F-16s opposite Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. In a second image taken 10 seconds later, one of the F-16s disappeared.

“That’s the F-16 the PAF lost,” the IAF officer said.

It is believed to have been the first ever kill of an F-16 by a MiG-21 Bison, fighter jets of two different generations.

Pakistan had, however, insisted that the PAF did not lose any fighter jet in the engagement over the skies of Nowshera in Rajouri district of Jammu Province, the first aerial dogfight between the two air forces since the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. Islamabad had also insisted that it did not use the US-made F-16 combat jets in the February 27 air action.

Last week, however, there was a shift in Islamabad’s stand when Pakistan military said it had the right to use any aircraft for its self-defence. Prior to this statement, Islamabad had claimed that it had only used JF-17 Thunder jets, developed jointly with China, in the February 27 engagement with India and that its aircraft had shot down two Indian Air Force jets. India contested both points, saying it lost only one MiG-21 and that an F-16 was shot down.

In the new statement, Pakistan military arm’s media wing said it was “immaterial” whether F-16s or JF-17s were used. It described the events of February 27 as “part of history now” and said no Pakistani F-16 “was hit by the Indian Air Force”.

All Mission Shakti debris to decay in 45 days: DRDO chief

NEW DELHI, April 6: After concerns over orbital debris in the aftermath of the Mission Shakti anti-satellite (A-SAT) strike, DRDO chief G Satheesh Reddy on Saturday said that all debris should decay within 45 days from the day of the launch.

“Mission planning involved extensive simulation to ensure no damage due to debris. The high risk is in the first 10 days, that time frame gets over today. All debris should decay within 45 days from March 27,” said Reddy.

On March 27, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a televised address to the nation, announced that India has entered the elite club of nations to possess the capability to hit a target in space. India had shot down a live satellite in the Low Earth Orbit (LEO), a reference to altitude less than 2,000 km, said the PM. The other countries with such capability are the US, Russia and China.

Criticising India for the tests, NASA had described it as a “terrible, terrible” thing that had endangered the International Space Station (ISS). It also said that it will lead to creation of nearly 400 pieces of orbital debris. NASA also maintained that some of the debris posed a risk to astronauts on board the ISS.

Talking about the project, the DRDO chief said that 150 plus scientists took part in the exercise and around 40 were women.

According to Dr M Annadurai, former director of ISRO satellite centre in Bengaluru, the problem of space debris is a wider issue. “Space debris is composed of satellites, parts of launch vehicles, etc. The only difference with the debris from the anti-satellite mission is that a satellite would be a larger piece weighing a few tonnes, the debris from the destroyed satellite would be smaller,” he said.

With 830 satellites, US leads the world in the number of satellites, followed by China with 280 satellites. India has 54 satellites.

‘How was its part found in India?’ Nirmala Sitharaman asks reporter to read on F-16

AHMEDABAD, April 6: Rejecting the US report that claimed it counted the F-16s in the fleet of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and found none missing, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday said that the Foreign Policy reporter should check the facts of the case.

“There was electronic signature of F-16. Besides, a joint press conference by all the three wings of the defence had showed the part of AM-RAAM missile, which is used only with F-16. So how this part was found in India if Pakistan did not use F-16 against India. Our MiG-21 pilot had shot down one F-16. Foreign Policy magazine reporter should check all these facts,” she said at a press conference in Vadodara. She was in this central Gujarat city for campaigning.

Foreign Policy quoted one of the senior US defence officials with direct knowledge of the count as saying Pakistan invited the US to physically count its F-16 planes after the incident as part of an end-user agreement signed when the foreign military sale was finalised. The Indian Air Force has already rubbished the report.

IAF officers with knowledge of the situation said on condition of anonymity that the air force had enough evidence in the form of airborne warning and control system (AWACS) radar images, radio-telephony intercepts of the PAF F-16 strike package and ground wireless intercepts to establish that an F-16 was shot down that day. This evidence has not been shared with the US.

India successfully intercepts ballistic missile

NEW DELHI, March 27: India has shot down a low earth orbit satellite with an indigenously-developed ASAT missile, a giant leap for the country’s space capability that propelled India into an elite club comprising US, Russia and China, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a televised address to the nation on Wednesday.

“Some time ago, our scientists, shot down a live satellite 300 kilometres away in space, in low-earth orbit… It was conducted under Mission Shakti, which was completed in three minutes,” Modi said in his 10-minute address.

The weapon, an Anti-Satellite missile or ASAT missile, allows for attacks on enemy satellites - blinding them or disrupting communications - as well as providing a technology base for intercepting ballistic missiles. The interceptor was indigenously produced, he said.

“India has registered its name in the list of space superpowers. Until now, only three countries had achieved this feat,” he said.

The ASAT missile was launched from DRDO’s testing range in Odisha’s Balasore at about 11.16 am, nearly an hour before Modi appeared on television. It said the decommissioned satellite blown up in space was a micro-satellite launched by the ISRO on January 24 this year.

The Foreign Ministry followed up Prime Minister Modi’s announcement about the Anti-Satellite weapon with a statement explaining India’s stand to the world. New Delhi underlined it was only driven by its responsibility to deter threats to its space assets from long-range missiles and had no plans to enter into an arms race in outer space.

The opposition rushed to congratulate scientists at Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The Congress also added that the anti-satellite missile programme was started during its tenure and accused Modi-led government of trying to derive political mileage from the success of scientists.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley blocked the many darts that opposition parties hurled at the government, insisting that the scientists had the capability to build the missile for years but never got permission from the Congress-led government.

The government said the test was done in the lower atmosphere to ensure that there is no space debris. “Whatever debris that is generated will decay and fall back onto the earth within weeks,” the foreign ministry said in its explainer. China had destroyed a satellite in 2007, creating the largest orbital debris cloud in history, with more than 3,000 objects, according to the Secure World Foundation.

Soon after Modi made the announcement, Union minister Nitin Gadkari congratulated the scientists involved in the project. The prime minister, in his address, said the Mission Shakti was accomplished by the scientists of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

India’s space and missile programme -- along with its economic growth of more than 7 percent and a bid for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council -- is major part of the country’s efforts to build up its defense capabilities and establish itself as a world power.

Third nuclear-powered attack submarine from Russia on its way to India

NEW DELHI, March 8: India is on course to lease out a second Akula-II nuclear-powered attack submarine from Russia with the two countries hammering out a deal worth almost $3 billion on Thursday, two officials said on the condition of anonymity.

The Indian Navy currently operates one Akula-II attack submarine, called Chakra II, leased from Russia in 2012 for 10 years. The second Akula-II being leased is likely to join the Navy in five to six years and will be called Chakra-III, the officials said. It will be the third Russian submarine to be leased to the Indian Navy.

Defence ministry spokesman Colonel Aman Anand refused to comment on the deal.

“If a second nuclear-powered attack submarine is leased, it would significantly add to the Navy’s underwater domain capability. It will also take us ahead on the operational, tactical and technical as well as eventual indigenisation curves,” said military affairs expert Rear Admiral Sudarshan Shrikhande (retd).

He said the Navy’s ability to maintain peace in the Indian Ocean region and having a good measure of underwater domain dominance depended on nuclear-powered attack submarines.

Apart from an Akula-II nuclear-powered attack boat, India currently operates 13 ageing conventional submarines, one Scorpene-class submarine INS Kalvari and the indigenous nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine INS Arihant, which successfully completed its first deterrence patrol in November 2018. The fully operational Arihant completed the sea leg of India’s nuclear triad, giving it enduring nuclear strike and counterstrike capabilities. The second Arihant-class submarine, called Arighat, was secretly launched in 2017 and is likely to join the naval fleet in 2021.

The Navy will induct its second Scorpene-class submarine Khanderi in April-end, a navy official said. Commissioned in December 2017, INS Kalvari is the first of six Scorpene submarines being built at Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited in Mumbai, under licence from French firm Naval Group, previously called DCNS, under a ₹23,562-crore programme called Project-75.

The Navy hopes to induct all the six diesel-electric attack boats by 2020. The lease of Chakra II could be extended beyond 2022, said one of the officials cited above. “One hopes that the lease of Chakra II is extended. Ideally, if two such boats are operated, it would be good,” said Shrikhande.

India’s sub-sea power is way behind China’s. The neighbour’s underwater capability is far superior with more than 60 diesel-electric attack submarines and a mix of 10 nuclear attack submarines and nuclear ballistic missile submarines, experts said.

Six more advanced submarines are also to be built under project P-75I under the Make in India initiative to scale up the Navy’s undersea warfare capabilities and counter the swift expansion of China’s submarine fleet.

IAF’s MiG-21 crashes after bird hit in Rajasthan’s Bikaner, pilot ejects

NEW DELHI, March 8: A MiG-21 fighter jet of the Indian Air Force crashed in Rajasthan’s Bikaner on Friday. The plane crashed after it reportedly suffered a bird hit.

The plane had taken off from Nal near Bikaner. The pilot is said to have ejected safely.

Bikaner SP Pradeep Mohan Sharma said the MIG aircraft crashed in Shobhasar ki Dhani, 12 km from Bikaner city, news agency PTI reported.

Sharma said police teams have rushed the spot to cordon off the area. No loss of life has been reported.

A statement by the IAF said that the MiG-21 had taken off from the Indian Air Force’s Nal airbase in Rajasthan and that it was on a routine mission.

The IAF statement said, “Today afternoon a MiG-21 aircraft on a routine mission crashed after getting airborne from Nal near Bikaner. Initial inputs indicate the likely cause as bird hit after take off. Pilot of the aircraft ejected safely. A CoI [Court of Inquiry] will investigate the cause of the accident.”

In recent times, the IAF has witnessed a series of crashes involving fighter jets and choppers.

On February 1, a Mirage 2000 fighter jet had crashed during a routine testing flight. Both the pilots in the jet had died after their safety equipment gave way. The pilots were on an “acceptance sortie” of the Mirage 2000 trainer aircraft after it was overhauled by the Bengaluru-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

Barely a fortnight later, two Surya Kiran Hawks were involved in a collision that led to the death of one pilot. The crash had taken place barely days before the 12 edition of Aero India.

On February 12, a MiG-27 fighter jet had crashed at the Pokhran firing range after taking off from the Jaisalmer air base. The jet was on a training mission. The pilot managed to eject safely from the jet before it crashed.

More recently, on February 27, a Mi17 helicopter of the Indian Air Force had crashed at Budgam in Kashmir. All six IAF personnel on board the chopper were killed. A civilian was also killed in the crash.

The MiG-21 fighter jet has been in the news recently after Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was flying a similar aircraft shot down a Pakistani F-16 before crashing in Pakistan.

The MiG-21 is a supersonic jet fighter and interceptor aircraft, designed by the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau in the erstwhile Soviet Union.


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