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May 31, 1999
IAF deploys Mirages to bomb out Pakistanis
Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
The realisation that the Pakistani intruders have dug in deep on the higher reaches on the Indian side of the Line of Control in the Kargil sector today caused the government to reappraise the situation and conclude that dislodging them may take longer than it had thought.
Major General J J Singh, additional director general of military operations, said that despite the best efforts of the armed forces, the intruders had entrenched themselves in reinforced concrete bunkers. Hence, no time frame could be given for dislodging them.
According to Major General Singh, the armed forces have therefore reconsidered their options and decided to use greater air power.
The loss of three aircraft of the Indian Air Force -- a MiG-21, a MiG-27 and a Mi-17 helicopter -- in the conflict has resulted in the Mirage 2000H fighter-interceptors being brought in to destroy the invaders' bunkers.
The Mirage 2000H, nicknamed Vajra (Divine Thunder), of which the IAF has 45, has been optimised for attack with the Antelope 5 radar. Its air-to-surface role is awesome. It can carry 6,300kg of external store (armaments), which includes the 250kg Matra retarded bombs, 219kg Matra-Durandal penetration bomb, two Matra-BGL-1000 laser-guided bombs, 305kg Matra-Belouga cluster bombs, and 400kg Thomson-Brandt BM 400 modular bombs.
Besides, the fighter-interceptor carries four 155kg Matra LR F4 rocket launchers, each with eighteen 68mm rockets, two packs of 100mm rockets, and special gun pods with 600 rounds of ammunition.
IAF officials indicated that it was because of the awesome firepower of the Mirage 2000H jets that the Indian forces had been able to recapture their positions. Some of the reinforced concrete bunkers of the Pakistanis were blown away by the penetration bombs, laser-guided bombs and cluster bombs.
The super-advanced Sukhoi 30 MKI fighter-interceptors have also been cleared for use in the Kargil sector.
The Su-30MKI is equipped with one 30mm gun with 150 rounds, rocket packs, medium- and close-range air-to-air missiles, and a variety of air-to-surface weapons such as guided bombs, short-range missiles with TV homing, and six laser-guided, short-range missiles with TV command guidance.
Meanwhile, external affairs ministry officials said the government attaches much importance to the China visit of External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh in mid-June.
The officials said Foreign Secretary K Raghunath laid the ground for Singh's visit when he visited Beijing last month.
The visit is expected to normalise Indo-China relations which suffered some strain in the wake of the Pokhran II nuclear tests.
Indian officials in Beijing have already stated their concern at the strong military links between China and Pakistan. The Chinese government has been told about India's desire to build friendly, good-neighbourly, co-operative and mutually beneficial relations.
Significantly, the Indian reiteration for friendly Indo-Chinese relations comes soon after Pakistani Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad recently told the Chinese leadership in Beijing that since the Kargil conflict had started, the Chinese could help out by opening a second front against India on the Sino-Indian border. It is learnt that the Chinese leadership advised Pakistan to sort out its differences with India.
China does not want a secessionist militancy to flourish in Jammu and Kashmir because its own Xinjiang province is plagued by an Islamic militancy with the Chinese Uyghur Muslims demanding independence. The Chinese leadership has ruthlessly suppressed the movement of the Uyghur Muslims. Ever since, China is keen to have peace in Kashmir.
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