A year ago, in the wee hours of February 26, Indian Air Force carried out an air strike in Balakot terror camp. It was IAF's the first strike on a target in mainland Pakistan since the 1971 war. Since then, a lot has changed. IAF, the world's fourth strongest air force, has taken several measures to further modernise itself.
In a recent interaction with THE WEEK, Army Chief Manoj Mukund Naravane has admitted that Pakistan has reactivated terror camps again in the same vicinity of Balakot. And he also said that intelligence inputs have indicated that there are more than 250 terrorists camping at the Line of Control and making attempts to infiltrate into the Indian side.
But, General Naravane made it clear that "India's strike on Balakot terror camps will now act as a note of caution before Pakistan, as there will be some restraint and lot of caution which has come in before escalating".
After Balakot, Pakistan army has taken an aggressive stand on the Line of Control. There have been more than 3,000 incidents of ceasefire violations by the Pakistani army since Balakot air strike, with escalated calibre.
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On the occasion of first anniversary of the Balakot strike, both the IAF and Army chiefs are in Kashmir. IAF chief Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria piloted MiG-21 fighter jet of 51 Squadron from Srinagar airbase.Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was part of the 51 Squadron. On the other hand, Army chief General Naravane made a visit to forward Army posts in Keran and Gurez sector.
IAF believes that Balakot air strike marked a major paradigm shift in the way India has responded to cross-border terror attacks on its soil. "Pakistan has now realised that India can hit them any time. And now with induction of Rafale, IAF's beyond-visual-range combat will reach a new level. Pakistan will not have any answer to that," said an IAF official.
Even the government is standing right behind the armed forces. Within months, the government relaxed certain rules to cut delays in military purchase like allowing the three services to procure required weapons and equipment from a single vendor. Additional financial powers were given to the vice chief of all three services to meet the operational preparedness under the emergency procurement in off-the-shelf mode.
Moreover, after Balakot, absence of adequate Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) was realised and it is believed that it gave Pakistani fighter jets a window of opportunity to enter the Indian air space. Need for more eyes in the sky was needed, as IAF is only having three such platforms, which plays a role of force-multipliers in such situation. Proposal for two more such eyes in the sky platform has been pushed by the ministry, though the IAF requires at least eight AWACS to have 24x7 operation.
Moreover, additional Spice-2000 missiles (popularly known as 'building blaster') used by IAF's Mirage jets to bomb Balakot, was also approved to boost IAF's firepower.
In addition to Spice-2000 missiles, IAF also signed an agreement for weaponry worth about $700 million from Russia, including air-to-air missiles with an extended range as well air-to-surface missiles. Three hundred short-range air-to-air missiles, the R-73, and 400 medium-range air-to-air guided missiles, the R-77, were ordered. These weaponry will be placed in Sukhoi and Mirage 2000 jets.