New Delhi: Deployment of Mirage 2000 aircraft proved to be a "game changer" for India in the Kargil conflict and turned the tide of the war in the country's favour, according to senior IAF officers.
The Mirage 2000 aircraft played a crucial role in the battles fought on the icy heights of Kargil during the nearly three-month-long conflict, and also hit enemy targets bunkered in at the Tiger Hill, besides tasting success at Muntho Dhalo in June 1999.
"The Mirage 2000 proved to be a game changer in the Kargil War as its deployment by the IAF skewed the asymmetry of the military assets in our favour," a senior IAF officer told PTI.
India's technology was "superior" and the F-16 of the adversary that time were "ill-equipped," he claimed. Pakistan was using Stinger, a Man-Portable Air-Defense System (MANPADS) that operates as an infrared homing surface-to-air missile (SAM).
"Use of Mirage-2000, carrying LGB (laser-guided bombs) took our operation out of the envelope of a Stinger, and the adversary had to change tactics and this proved to be a game changer," the officer said. The Indian Air Force (IAF) hit within the Line Of Control (LoC) on any intruders and did not cross the LoC," he said.
India on Friday commemorated 20 years of its victory over arch-rival Pakistan in the Kargil War, saluting the supreme sacrifices and valour of the fallen heroes in recapturing several mountain heights seized by Pakistani intruders in Kashmir.
It was on this day in 1999, the Indian Army had declared successful culmination of 'Operation Vijay', declaring a victory after nearly three-month-long battles in rugged terrains and difficult peaks. India had lost around 500 soldiers in the war.
The IAF had joined the operation with their 'Operation Safed Sagar', under which the IAF for the first time used high-precision bombs to target the enemy.
"LGB-equipped Mirage 2000 was a game changer in the Kargil War and made a big difference for India," said senior IAF officer Gp Capt Anupam Banerjee, who flew several sorties during the war.
Incidentally, a fleet of Spice Bomb-equipped Mirage 2000 were used by India during the Balakot air srtike in February this year in the wake of Pulwama attack in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed. The sources had then said the Mirage 2000 multi-role aircraft was chosen for the strike for its capability to hit targets with "pin-point" accuracy.
The Mirage 2000 is a French multi-role, single-engine fighter jet which is capable of dropping a range of bombs and missiles, including laser-guided bombs.
India currently has around three squadrons of Mirage 2000 fighter jets manufactured by French aerospace major Dassault Aviation. The squadrons are based in Gwalior.
A number of events were organised by the armed forces in the run-up to the Kargil Vijay Diwas, including one at the Gwalior Air Base on June 24, when the base was virtually turned into a theatre of conflict with a dramatic reenactment of some milestones of the 1999 operation.
On June 24, 1999, Mirage jets had bombed Tiger Hill using laser-guided precision bombs, and eventually recaptured the strategic position. Air Marshal B S Dhanoa, who was the commanding officer of the 17 Squadron at the time of the war, at the event, said deploying Mirage 2000 jets and air support to ground forces had turned the tide of the 1999 war in favour of India.
"Tiger Hill was also a message at that particular time that no matter how small your are, no mater how precariously you are positioned, we will be be able to get you and hit you," Dhanoa said.
-By Kunal Dutt