The Indian Air Force struck at Jaish-e-Mohammed’s biggest terrorist training camp at Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, using 12 Mirage 2000 aircraft supported by a fleet of Sukhoi 30 jets, a mid-air refueller and two Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), official sources said.
They said all the bases of the IAF have been put on maximum alert to deal with any possible retaliation by Islamabad to the strike, the first by the IAF inside Pakistan after the 1971 war.
The sources said the IAF jets used a number of laser-guided bombs, each weighing over 1,000 kg, to destroy the the JeM training facility in Balakot, around 80 km from the Line of Control.
The operation began around 3:45 am and concluded by 4:05 am while the actual strike lasted for less than two minutes. The aircraft took off from a number of bases, they said.
The entire operation was monitored from the Air headquarters in Delhi by top commanders of the IAF including Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa, the sources said.
They said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Army Chief Gen. Bipin Rawat and Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba were being updated about the operation on a real-time basis.
“It was a massive strike and Pakistan will never forget about it. The operation was 100 per cent successful,” said a source.
It said the strike sent out a clear message to Pakistan that India no longer hesitates to use air power to deal with terror groups operating from the neighbouring country.
The sources said most of the jets, which were part of the operation, flew very low to avoid being detected by Pakistani radars while the AWACS provided the radial cover to the Mirage 2000 jets.
They said all the IAF assets returned to their bases without sustaining any damage.
The mid-air refueller was an IL-78 aircraft which did not cross the LoC.
The sources said Mirage 2000 fighter jets were chosen for the strike due to its capabilities of hitting long-range targets with “pin-point” accuracy.
Hours after the strike, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale told the media that a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated.
“Credible intelligence was received that JeM was attempting another suicide terror attack in various parts of the country, and the fidayeen jihadis were being trained for this purpose. In the face of imminent danger, a pre-emptive strike became absolutely necessary,” he said.