New Delhi: “Turn cold, turn cold”, a young woman IAF controller sitting in a secure control room in Punjab shouted repeatedly, exactly a month ago. But Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman could not hear anything inside his MiG-21 Bison.
Not realising that he had crossed the Line of Control, Abhinandan locked on to an F-16 of the Pakistan Air Force and fired his R-73 air-to-air missile seconds before his plane was shot at. In a matter of seconds, both aircraft went tumbling down into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
What the woman officer was telling the Wing Commander was to abandon and return as he had crossed over, top sources in the Indian Air Force told ThePrint.
An analysis of the dogfight of 27 February by the IAF has revealed that Abhinandan could not hear the command being given by the officer. The IAF believes this could be because of radio jamming by Pakistan.
Sequence of events
Sources said that around 9:30 am, IAF flight controllers noticed that a large package of PAF aircraft had taken off in a matter of minutes. These aircraft, numbering about 24, included at least 11 F-16s, and got airborne in a span of 15 minutes.
Sources said more than half of them headed to the LoC, while a few remained along the international border.
While India’s Sukhoi Su-30s were on a Combat Air Patrol (CAP) in the Rajasthan sector, two Mirage 2000s were on CAP at the LoC.
The officer in question was sitting in the control room at the time, giving instructions and coordinating the response to the challenge thrown by the Pakistan Air Force. She realised that things could get difficult and immediately ordered the scampering of more Su-30s and MiG-21s, which took off from the Srinagar and Awantipur air bases.
She alerted the Indian pilots to the use of F-16s, which have better beyond visual range or BVR missiles than the Sukhois and the MiGs.
It was her alertness and instructions that allowed the Indian pilots to take preventive measures and escape the AMRAAM missiles fired by the F-16s.
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