Two years since the deadly 2019 Balakot strikes and the IAF has flexed its muscles again: This time against a practice target. To mark the anniversary, the IAF has dispatched the same pilots who conducted the Balakot mission to perform a long-range precision strike against a practice target.
The squadrons, a combined formation of upgraded Mirage-2000 and Su-30MKI, were visited by Chief of Air Staff (CAS) Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria.
On February 26, 2019, Indian Air Force fighter jets crossed the Line of Control and destroyed terror launch pads in Balakot. The strikes were undertaken days after 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed in a terror attack in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir on February 14.
The aftermath of the Balakot strikes saw an information war play out between India and Pakistan, as Islamabad denied that the strikes hit any targets while India stated that over 300 terrorists were killed in the attack. Pakistan later took global media personnel to visit the site to claim no structures were destroyed, while then Home Minister Rajnath Singh cited the National Technical Research Organisation saying 300 mobile phones had been active at the scene before the IAF action.
The Balakot strikes by India were the first on Pakistan mainland soil since 1971.
Army Chief General M.M. Naravane told THE WEEK that Pakistan had reactivated its terror camps in the civinity of Balakot, with intelligence inputs saying over 250 terrorists were camping at the Line of Control. However, he 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 took has taken an aggressive stand on the Line of Control with over 5,000 ceasefire violations by Pakistan in 2020 alone. It was only by February 25, 2021, that both sides agreed to strictly observe ceasefire along the LOC.
Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria on Saturday flew a multi-aircraft sortie with the units to commemorate the occasion along with the squadron pilots.