New Delhi: Five Mirage 2000 aircraft of the Indian Air Force crossed over the Line of Control and went at least 10 km inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, before firing multiple Spice-2000 precision-guided bombs that hit the sprawling Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp in Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province Tuesday morning.
Top defence sources told ThePrint that the five Mirage 2000s were backed up by more fighter aircraft of the same kind, along with a number of Sukhoi Su-30 MKIs, a mid-air refueller and two Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS). The strike began at 3:45 am and lasted 21 minutes.
The initial idea was not to cross the LoC but to fire these bombs, each weighing 1,000 kg, from within Indian air space because they have a range of about 100 km.
“However, the wind was very strong from west to east, and hence the five fighters crossed over the LoC,” a top source is the security establishment told ThePrint.
GPS coordinates and an image
The sources said that the Israeli-made bomb was pre-fed with GPS coordinates and an image of the camp, which featured six barracks, each at least two or three storeys high.
The Spice 2000 uses a Digital Seen Matching Area Correlator (DSMAC) technology which automatically matches the target, as it zooms in, with the image that has been pre-fed, besides the GPS coordinates.
They added that the precision-guided bomb can be used day or night, and also has anti-GPS jammer, which means that the GPS homing technology cannot be jammed by the enemy.
PAF scrambled two fighters
A source said as soon as the five fighters crossed over the LoC, the Pakistan Air Force scrambled two fighters.
“But they beat a hasty retreat as soon as they realised that the Indian formation was large. Within minutes, the IAF fighters had dropped the bombs and returned,” the source said.
Asked why the Mirage 2000 was chosen over India’s frontline fighter aircraft Su-30 MKI, sources said only the Mirage is capable of using this particular bomb right now.
Why was Balakot camp targeted?
The Balakot camp was the largest training camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, where its chief Masood Azhar’s son Abdullah was also trained.
Top sources in the defence establishment said the camp was about 65 km from the LoC and was housing roughly about 200-300 terrorists at the time of the strike.
The camp was headed by Maulana Yousuf Azhar, also known as Ustad Ghouri, the brother-in-law of Masood Azhar.
Sources said that following the Pulwama attack, terrorists were made to leave from the launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and were brought to the Balakot camp.
Another terrorist trained at the camp was Afghan war veteran Abdul Rashid Ghazi, an IED expert who had entered Kashmir in December 2018. He had also been a trainer at this camp.
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