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July 12, 1999
IAF reconnaissance missions continue
The Indian Air Force has suspended its air operations in the Kargil sector in view of Pakistan's announcement of withdrawal of its troops, but would carry out reconnaissance missions to oversee the movement on the ground, Air Marshal Vinod Patney, air officer commanding-in-chief, Western Air Command, said today.
''On May 26 (when the air campaign began), we were ready for a full-scale war,'' he said. ''Normally escalation is rapid in use of air power, but this time it was not used by both sides. We operated in an environment of total air superiority.
''In an effort to preclude the possibility of escalation, we had to impose constraints in keeping with the national policy of not crossing the Line of Control,'' he said.
He said for every strike or reconnaissance mission, an air defence aircraft was airborne ''since we did not wish to be surprised by the enemy''.
Regarding the constraints faced by the pilots during the campaign, he said the problems were compounded not only because the terrain was very difficult, but the targets were very small, so much so that they could not be sighted. ''Faced with that kind of a situation, innovation became our creed and our pilots adapted remarkably,'' he said.
''The total effort was less than the average flying per month of the squadrons which were involved in the air campaign ... Only 25 per cent of the forces at the disposal of the WAC were used,'' he said.
He denied reports that laser-guided bombs were used during the operations. ''The LGB is very expensive. What we used were 1000 pound bombs fitted with a kit capable of guiding them through laser reflections,'' he clarified.
The campaign saw 550 strike sorties, 150 reconnaissance missions and a little less than 500 escort missions.
Asked why Sukhois, the Russia-built multi-role aircraft, were not used during the operations, he said, ''These aircraft do not have reconnaissance capability. During the course of the missions, the pilots had to do a lot of aerial search.
''The lessons learnt from Operation Vijay will help us hone our skills further,'' he added.
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