New Delhi: The unarmed BrahMos supersonic missile — a practice version — that was launched into Pakistani territory Wednesday, is understood to have been accidentally fired during an inspection at a secret satellite base of the Indian Air Force (IAF).
Sources in the defence and security establishment told ThePrint that — contrary to Pakistan’s claims of the missile suddenly veering off from its flight path to Rajasthan’s Mahajan Field Firing Range from Haryana’s Sirsa and heading towards its territory — it followed the trajectory that it would have in case of a conflict, but “certain factors” played a role in ensuring that any pre-fed target was out of danger.
Sources said that an inspection and protocol revision was being carried out at a secret satellite base, not Sirsa.
Sources also said that the missile followed the correct trajectory and also ruled out speculation about the launch being part of an actual firing test.
“There was no NOTAM issued and missiles are not fired from Sirsa, contrary to what has been alleged by Pakistan. Such trials don’t take place, as all trials are held on the eastern flank and from the Andaman and Nicobar Command,” another source said. A NOTAM or notice to airmen is a warning issued to alert pilots of potential hazards on a flight route or at a location that could affect the flight.
Noting that Wednesday’s incident was regrettable, a statement by the Ministry of Defence Friday said, “The Government of India has taken a serious view and ordered a high-level court of enquiry”.
The statement also said that the missile had entered Pakistan from India Wednesday due to “accidental firing” caused by “a technical malfunction” in the “course of routine maintenance”.
The missile has several safety mechanisms
Sources in the know expressed surprise over the “accidental launch”, while noting that the missile system has several mechanical and software safety mechanisms to prevent any kind of accidental firing.
They said that the missile has multiple geo-locations of targets fed into the system, which need to be selected or new ones added.
Then there are multiple steps of clearance, including the entry of certain codes before the countdown starts, after which the missile goes into auto mode, sources said.
Asked why there was no warhead, sources explained that it was a practice missile, which meant that everything was exactly the same as an armed BrahMos missile except for the warhead.
Was Pakistan informed first about accidental launch?
Sources said that India had already informed relevant Pakistani authorities of the accidental launch long before Pakistan’s military spokesman Major General Babar Iftikhar held his press conference Thursday night.
However, Pakistan issued a statement Friday questioning, among other things, why ”India had failed to immediately inform Pakistan about the accidental launch, and waited until after Pakistan had announced the incident and sought clarification.”
The sources refused to divulge the specific time and at what level the Pakistanis were informed.
‘Pakistan was not able to track the missile’
Sources said that contrary to claims by Major General Iftikhar, the Pakistanis were unable to track the launch of the missile.
The trajectory of the missile as shown by Pakistan is wrong, which clearly shows that it does not have the capability to track either the flight or the launch site, they said.
They also pointed out that the statement by Pakistan Air Force spokesperson Air Vice Marshall Tariq Zia Thursday that the “projectile travelled 124 kilometres inside Pakistani territory in three minutes and 44 seconds” showed that the country’s air defence did not work against the missile.
The sources also said that while the incident had occurred Wednesday evening, Major General Iftikhar held his press conference Thursday night, more than 24 hours after the missile landed, which also went against Pakistan’s claim of having tracked it from the time of its launch.
Pakistan’s statement Saturday also sought details of the missile’s flight path/ trajectory, and how it ultimately turned and entered the country.
(Edited by Rohan Manoj)