DAY-TO-DAY REPORTS OF Op SAFED SAGAR:dfi-1:
26 May 99
Early this morning, the Indian Air Force took armed air action against Pak-aided militants, who had infiltrated and established themselves in our side of the LoC, in general areas of Dras-Kargil-Batalik. (It has subsequently been confirmed that this operation was meticulously planned with the active connivance and participation of Pakistan). The infiltrators were in considerable strength and consisted of a large number of well trained mercenaries, along with regular soldiers from the Pakistan Army. The infiltrators established themselves in positions of advantage on very high ridges, which are difficult to neutralise by ground action alone. In joint operations, the Army is closing in to clear the positions engaged by the Air Force .
The air action was resorted to for the following reasons:-
If not contained at this stage, Pakistan would have been encouraged to extend its operations further. Delayed reaction would have called for a more severe action, possibly increasing the area as well as the scope of operations.
If the infiltration was not arrested and the infiltrators were not evicted, the alignment of the LoC could well be altered to India's disadvantage.
The security of our vital ground line of communication from Srinagar to Leh, via Kargil would be under threat.
If militants continued to hold the heights, infiltration in this area would increase.
The Indian Army and Air Force were directed to take action, as deemed necessary, on the Indian side of the LoC. In the event of any direct or indirect interference in our Operations by the Pakistan army or the PAF, the Indian Forces would take appropriate action.
It would be in the interest of Pakistan to not only stop aiding the militants, but ensure their withdrawal at the earliest. The IAF is using both fighters and helicopters in the operations.
This is the start of Operations and they would continue till our Armed Forces re-occupy our territory. Any escalation of this conflict will be entirely the responsibility of Pakistan.
27 MAY 99
The IAF today has launched further attacks against the infiltrators. These are a continuation of the attacks which started yesterday and are in general area within the Dras-Kargil-Batalik Sector, south of the Line of Control.
The attacks carried out yesterday achieved considerable success. Our pilots did a meticulous and professional job despite operating in an inhospitable environment and intense enemy opposition. All the attacks were in close coordination with the army units in the area and observed by our own ground forces. The air strikes were carried out by fighters and helicopters featuring MiG-21s, MiG-27s (fighters) and Mi-17 helicopters in the attack role.
The initial air attacks needed to be carried out in the face of intense enemy opposition in the form of ground fire and ‘Stinger" SAMs, to sufficiently soften the targets for subsequent engagement by the Army. The attacks were successful and effective. The targets consisted of tented accommodation, logistics stores and suspected hideouts for the infiltrators. All our aircraft returned safely and without any damage whatsoever. Post strike reconnaissance missions have confirmed the visual assessment of considerable damage to the targets, particularly in the Tololing and Dras sectors.
The Indian armed forces are firm in their resolve to vacate its territory of the aggressors and will take whatever steps are necessary to achieve the objective.
28 May 99
Attacks continued yesterday evening within our part of the LoC in spite of losing two fighter aircraft, one to enemy SAMs, and one Mi-17 helicopter.
Results of attacks of the last two days were good. Infiltrator's hideouts were attacked successfully as per pilot reports and later they were confirmed by the ground troops who had those areas under observations. These targets were in Dras, Kaksar and Batalik sectors. Tololing, located on a ridgeline to the north of Drass towards the LoC, was occupied by Pakistani Infiltrators along with army regulars. Our ground troops encountered stiff opposition in this area. The ridge was attacked and pilots reported tents, bunkers and stores destroyed. The attacks have been successful and the Army is now in a position to assault and clear the area. In the process, however, one Mi-17 Helicopter was unfortunately hit by a Stinger missile. The Mi-17 was seen to crash by the other helicopters on the mission. The entire crew of four, comprising Sqn Ldr R Pundhir, Flt Lt S Muhilan, Sgt RK Sahu and Sgt PVNR Prasad are feared killed.
Yesterday one MiG-27 aircraft had an engine malfunction over the target area in Batalik sector on our side of the LoC. Flt Lt Nachiketa ("Nachi"), the pilot of this aircraft, informed this on the radio to his leader, first calling out "Nachi engine flame out, relighting". After a little while he made another call "Nachi ejecting now". Sqn Ldr Ajay Ahuja, also airborne on a mission at the same time, stayed over the area in an attempt to spot the landing of the ejected pilot so as to direct the rescue helicopter, exhibiting great daring as enemy SAMs were known to be in the area. While orbiting the area, he was hit by a missile and ejected. The aircraft was with in the LoC when he was hit, but its wreckage has not yet been found.
Pakistan has claimed that Flt Lt Nachiketa has been captured and Sqn Ldr Ahuja has been killed. If confirmed, then Pakistan would have to immediately return the captured pilot and the body. Appropriate action has been initiated on suitable channels.
Losses are an inevitable price to pay in any kind of operation; OPERATION SAFED SAGAR, in particular, poses added risks to combat aircraft due to higher terrain altitude resulting in reduced maneuverability of aircraft and reduced engine power, large radius of turns and degraded ballistic properties of weapons. In contrast, the permissible launch envelope of SAMs is enhanced by these same conditions, further increasing the lethality of the flying environment. Tenacity of IAF pilots in pressing home their attacks in the face of lethal enemy opposition is commendable.
29- 31 May 99
The IAF operations have continued on this fourth day with the pounding of earlier identified positions of infiltrators. As a result of yesterday’s attacks, we have achieved success on two more positions, one in Jubar and one in Mashkoh valley sectors. However, it would take some time for the effects would begin to show.
Yesterday one of our downed pilots was captured and the other was known to have ejected, but reported by Pakistan to have been killed in the crash. However, last night the body of Sqn Ldr Ahuja was handed over and arrived at Srinagar via Kargil. Post-mortem examination of the body has revealed that he was shot point blank, one bullet at his heart and one bullet in his lower chin toward his head. This clearly confirms beyond doubt that the downed pilot was murdered on the ground after a safe ejection. This is against all accepted codes of conduct of armed forces the world over. This action of the enemy has been strongly condemned and needs to be done likewise by the world. The body is now being sent to the family members at Bhatinda where it will be cremated with full military honours. The brutal killing of Sqn Ldr Ahuja, the downed IAF MiG-21 pilot, shocked the nation and incurred a sense of abhorrence in all civilised minds. However, the incident only serves to accentuate the baser instincts and motives of the infiltrators and steel the resolve our fighting forces.
Air operations continue unabated. Some of the targets engaged are shown below. The inhospitability of the terrain to combat flying operations and difficulty of visually acquiring the target (circled) stands out all too clearly in these still photographs, taken through the windscreen of a fighter during an attack.
In most cases, targets consist of a few tents and bunkers difficult to discern against a background of rock and snow, especially when moving at over 900 kmph!
Against such a background and as such speeds, fleeting glimpses of the target would, at best, be achieved only close to actual firing range. The success that the IAF has achieved, under these circumstances, is all the more creditable.
The Army is gradually getting into a position from where they would be able to effectively engage the enemy positions.
[U]1-8 JUN 99[/U]
1 Jun 99
The Indian Air Force, planning in conjunction with the Indian Army, carried out operations for the seventh day on 1 Jun 99. In spite of cloudy weather in the mountains, aircraft were utilised to attack certain new targets in the same Kargil Sector and Batalik Sub-Sector within our own areas on our side of the LoC. The shift of attention takes place as previous target areas were followed up and neutralised by the Army. Together we are pushing the armed intruders back from the places that they have occupied. The effects of some of the attacks today have yet to be obtained but others have had a telling impact on the ground.
2 Jun 99
Air operations continued for the eighth day today. The type of targets remains the same with little variety – intruders who have dug in into hideouts and their stores of supplies that they have stocked up on. These targets have been identified by the earthwork or the tents and other light construction work. These have natural camouflage available because of the ubiquitous black and white color combination. If snow falls, stores and supplies lose contrast under a uniform white blanket. It goes without saying that the IAF is scrupulously restricting action to our own side of the LoC .
The type of targets available cannot be effectively engaged by every type of weapon in the Air Force inventory. The IAF therefore selects the most appropriate weapon for each type of target. The selection is also based on diverse other factors like attack direction, terrain, weather etc which could vary with individual targets of the same type. The attacks are designed to inflict as much damage on personnel and their weapons or other supplies, to relentlessly and continuously degrade the enemy’s will and capacity to fight. When an adequate degree of ‘softening’ of the target is achieved, the air attacks are followed up by army assaults to clear and secure the area. The target are dispersed and in pockets and mobile, necessitating practically individual attacks. Stores, as soon as they are located, can be engaged effectively but the effects of their loss are felt only after some time.
Nevertheless, our attacks have been effective. Their efficacy is not measurable in terms of so many killed or so many stores destroyed. They can only be measured in terms of the success that the Army has had in removing the armed intruders from a number of areas, showing a steady increase every day.
Air Attacks today, were carried out in two areas – one the Batalik area and the other West North West of Dras at an important hill feature. All our aircraft returned back to their bases. There were clouds covering some of the valleys and the cloud cover increased as the day progressed – just as the weather is wont to do in the mountains. Nevertheless the target areas were located by our aircraft and engaged.
The Indian Air Force wishes to place on record its gratitude for the support of the people and the Government of India, letters encouraging our efforts, and the veritable flood of email from all over the world.
3 Jun 99
On 3 Jun 99, the cloudy weather persisted. However, our aircraft found the gaps required, not without difficulty, to negotiate the weather and put through their attacks. The targets were relentlessly engaged throughout the day. They remained similar to the ones engaged hitherto – bunkers and concentrations of tents and light structures. The air operations were directed on tactically important points in the Mashkoh and Dras sub-sectors.
4 Jun 99
Air operations were prosecuted by the Indian Air Force for the tenth consecutive day today. The day remained cloudy in the area of operations. Nevertheless, the IAF put through its attacks throughout the day. Air Operations were carried out over both the Dras and Batalik sub-sectors. The targets remained similar - bunkers and tented areas. Targets were chosen in conjunction with the Army so that coordinated timing could be optimised. Timing is essential, as much as target to weapon matching. The weapon chosen has to be such that it can be delivered by the aircraft in a profile that does not take it over the LOC and the profiles are flown at 900 km/h where the radii of turns are 3 to 4 kms. The weapons have to a have a reasonably large footprint or area of effect so that some amount of errors that creep in due to the difficulties of target acquisition and the extraordinary weapon delivery parameters at heights of four-five kms above sea level can be neutralised. And yet the footprint cannot be large enough to be dangerous to our own troops on the ground who may be in the close proximity - troops who have taken positions or are making their way up to assault positions. They would need to be in close proximity for if the follow up assault is delayed excessively, the intruders recover to an extent and if their assault is too early then they themselves become vulnerable to the Air attack. Jointmanship is, therefore, of the essence and the Indian Air Force cannot but respect the valor of the officers and soldiers of the Indian army for the arduous tasks they are accomplishing in the effort to push the intruders off Indian soil.
The IAF is also pleased that Flt Lt Nachiketa has been released and is now with the Indian Embassy staff. It is expected that he would be arriving at the Wagah border checkpost between five and six this evening. He would then be flown down by a service aircraft to reach Delhi sometime tonight.
5 Jun 99
The Indian Air Force did not carry out any attacks on 5 Jun 99. Planning, which is done jointly with the Army, did not envisage any requirement on this day. This day also saw the joyous return of Flt Lt Nachiketa, the downed MiG-27 pilot who was in Pakistani captivity since 28 May 99. Formally received at the Wagah border, he was flown to a heroe’s welcome at Delhi where he was subsequently received by the Prime Minister as well as the President who congratulated him on behalf of a grateful nation. It later emerged that he was subjected to intense interrogation by the Pakistani Intelligence Agency using physical and mental measures. Flt Lt Nachiketa, a good Air Force Officer, withstood these. No injuries are apparent at this stage. As would be expected of any true combatant, he is eager to get back into a fighter cockpit and complete an unfinished job.
6 Jun 99
The IAF carried out air operations today again for the 12th day. The weather did not hamper air operations and all attacks were put through successfully. The Army has been consolidating on the effects of the air attacks carried out earlier.
7 Jun 99
The Indian Air Force prosecuted its air operations for the thirteenth day today. The weather was fine over the target area and air operations were not hampered in any manner. Air attacks were carried out over the Dras sub-sector, close to Mashkoh valley and North West of Dras. The attacks were put through successfully.
08 JUN 99
The Indian Air Force continued air operations and strikes this morning. The weather was fine and did not hamper the attacks. We have always stressed the factor of joint planning. As the army closes in to their objectives, the Air Force needs to lift its fire and move it further out beyond the limits of our own forces. The targets engaged this morning were in the Mashkoh Valley. Storages of supplies and individual bunkers, were attacked today. Our attacks today were successful as reported by our pilots and other mission reports.
9-14 June 99
During this period, the IAF carried out attacks against enemy positions at Tololing, Butalik sector and Mashkoh valley. The attacks were successful and coordinated with the Army; an Army objective was first softened up by air action before the ground forces engaged it.
Bad weather precluded air strikes on the 10th and 11th June, which was just as well as the Army had no urgent requirement during that period. Heavy clouds came down to below mountain tops, preventing penetration by any class of aircraft. The latter half of the week saw an increase in cloudy weather but did not significantly affect the conduct of air operations.
In a brilliant coup, intelligence agencies taped the telephone conversation between the Chief of the Pakistani Army (at his hotel in Beijing) and the Vice Chief of (Pakistani) Army Staff at Islamabad. Among other things, the taped conversation clearly proved that the IAF Mi-17 helicopter which was supposedly shot down by the Mujahideen on 28 May 99 was, in fact, done so by the Pakistani Army within Indian territory.