IAF's Balakot airstrikes: How 'Operation Bandar' surprised Pakistan

 | Updated: Feb 26, 2021, 12:10 PM IST

India officials revealed after the airstrikes on Balakot in Pakistan that Israeli-made SPICE "smart bombs" were used to strike JeM targets on February 26th, 2019.

Balakot aerial strikes

The Indian Air Force on February 26, 2019 targeted the Balakot-based Jaish-e-Mohammad(JeM) terror camp in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan and was also used by the Hizbul Mujahideen terror group.

The Balakot camp was an important training centre for the JeM and other terror organisations and it had several structures to accommodate terrorist trainees and facilities to train them.

Situated on the Kunhar river, the Balakot camp offered possibility of aquatic training to terrorists and housed hundreds of terrorists.

The camp, 20 kms from the Balakot town, was used for "battle inoculation" and its trainers were ex-officers of the Pakistan Army. Several "inspirational lectures" were delivered by JeM founder and terror mastermind Masood Azhar and other terrorist leaders on several occasions.


SPICE bombs

India officials had revealed after the air strikes on Balakot in Pakistan that Israeli-made "smart bomb" was used to strike JeM targets on February 26th. The missiles were called Spice 2000. 

The Israeli "Spice bomb" was pre-fed with the GPS coordinates on JeM terror camps in Balakot. The bombs are precision-guided, one that can automatically match the target and destroy it. 

In fact, during the Kargil war in 1999, Israel was the first country to extend military assistance to India, Tel Aviv had supplied the Indian troops with ammunition and mortar.

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.


Balakot strikes

The success of Balakot air strikes displayed India's strong will to act against terrorism, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Friday.

"On the anniversary of Balakot Air Strikes, I salute the exceptional courage and diligence of the Indian Air Force. The success of Balakot strikes has shown India's strong will to act against terrorism. We are proud of our Armed Forces who keep India safe and secure," Singh tweeted.

The Balakot airstrike marked a paradigm shift in India's defence policy. This was the strongest ever response by India to Pakistan sponsored terror.


Abhinandan Varthaman arriving at the Wagah border.

The JeM had claimed responsibility of a deadly terror attack on February 14 in Pulwama, killing more than 40 CRPF personnel.

A day after Balakot airstrikes, the IAF foiled Pakistan Air Force retaliation in which India's Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, while piloting a MiG 21, shot down Pakistan's F-16.

In the aerial skirmish that followed PAF's failed attack, an F-16 of Pakistan was shot down by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman of IAF who was piloting a MiG-21 aircraft.


balakot air strike

When the Air Force sent its package of 12 Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft to attack the Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist camp in Balakot on February 26, it code-named it 'Operation Bandar (Monkey)', to maintain secrecy.

Twelve Mirage fighter aircrafts had taken off from multiple air bases two year ago and crossed over into the Pakistani air space and carried out missile attacks on Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camp in Balakot town of Khyber Pakhtunwa province.

The attacks were carried out at 3.30am and within a few minutes after dropping the bombs on their designated targets, the Indian Air Force planes returned to their bases.


Balakot airstrikes

As per the Air Force briefings to the government, 80 per cent of the bombs had been dropped successfully on their targets and had carried out the requisite damage to the enemy locations. 

The operations were ably supported by the indigenous Airborne Early Warning and Control systems (AEW&C) plane Netra.

The Indian Air Force had also kept its team of Garud commandos on stand-by for any kind of operations that may have been required due to any kind of emergency there.



The Pakistani Air Force tried to carry out a similar attack against Indian military targets but failed to do so. The Pakistani fighter planes had taken off from different bases on February 27 and started gathering over Pakistan occupied Kashmir and their Northern Areas before they turned around to launch attacks on Indian military targets.

The most advanced Pakistani fighter F-16s were used for launching the air-to-air missiles against Indian fighter jets defending air space while the Mirage IIIs were used for launching air to ground missiles in the attacks. It was during this aggression that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman shot down an F-16 plane using his R-73 air-to-air missile fired from his MiG-21 plane.

Indian Su-30MKIs flying in air defence roles used Chaffs, a tactic of offloading flares to dodge missiles and deft flying manoeuvres to dodge the AIM-20 AMRAAMs fired by the F-16s. 


Balakot air strikes

Balakot, a town in Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, is about 50km from the Line of Control(LoC) and known among the intelligence agencies as "epicentre of jihad". It has been on the radar of American forces for a long time and is 50km from Abbottabad where al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden was killed by US forces.

The camp was led by Maulana Yusuf Azhar alias Ustad Ghauri, brother-in-law of JeM chief Masood Azhar. The target was identified around February 20 and 21 with the Army and Air Force doing the air surveillance along the LoC.

Drones were also used. Overall, two Mirage squadrons with 12 jets were selected for operation.