A day after the Indian Air Force (IAF) struck a terror camp deep inside Pakistan, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) aircraft violated Indian airspace in J&K Wednesday morning and attempted air strikes but caused little damage on the ground as the bombs fell in uninhabited areas near military installations.
The intrusion over Nowshera and Krishna Ghati sectors of Rajouri and Poonch districts was thwarted by the IAF which lost a MiG-21 Bison — its pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, ejected across the Line of Control and is in Pakistan Army custody.
Official sources said a Pakistani F-16 was brought down by IAF jets during the engagement, although the wreckage of the aircraft fell on the Pakistani side of the LoC. Army soldiers in the area saw two pilots paradrop in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, suggesting that two aircraft had been hit in the engagement.
Denying that it lost any warjet, Pakistan claimed that no F-16 was part of the operation — any such admission would violate US sale conditions of not letting Pakistan use F-16s in an offensive role. Sources said four F-16s, four JF-17s and four Mirage-5 aircraft of the PAF attempted an air strike shortly after 10 am. When the F-16s entered Indian airspace, the IAF scrambled a combat air patrol (CAP) from Srinagar and Awantipora airbases.
The CAP comprising five aircraft moved in within minutes to engage the intruding F-16sr. The Mirage-5 targeted four military targets — a brigade headquarters, a battalion headquarters, an ammunition point and a logistics depot — but the bombs missed the targets.
Sources said two MiG-21 Bison, including the one piloted by Wing Commander Abhinandan, engaged the intruding F-16s. One of the F-16s was locked on by an air-to-air missile fired from a MiG-21 aircraft.
Wing Commander Abhinandan’s aircraft, sources said, had crossed to the Pakistani side of LoC as he engaged the F-16s. His aircraft, sources said, was hit by Pakistan Army’s ground air defence weapons and he had to eject. He was captured by local residents who later handed him over to the Pakistan Army which started circulating videos of his capture.
Nowshera residents said a PAF aircraft showed up at 10.20 am, released a bomb near an ammunition depot at Narian near the Jammu-Rajouri National Highway and retreated.
According to the residents, there was a huge explosion but there was no casualty or damage to property since the bomb had fallen in a wooded area. The PAF action came the morning after the Indian Army destroyed five Pakistani posts while retaliating to heavy shelling and firing from across the LoC.
Defence Ministry spokesperson Lt Colonel Devender Anand said Pakistan resorted to “shelling with heavy calibre weapons at 12 to 15 places along the Line of Control’’ from 6.30 pm onward Tuesday. Pakistani troops were also seen “firing mortars and missiles from civilian houses using villagers as human shields’’, he said.
The Indian Army, he said, retaliated and “our focussed fire resulted in severe destruction of five Pakistani posts and a number of casualties to Pak Army’’. Five Indian soldiers sustained minor injuries.