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HomeGlobal News"I Locked Onto A Pakistani F-16 For 30 Seconds": Kargil Hero's Account

“I Locked Onto A Pakistani F-16 For 30 Seconds”: Kargil Hero’s Account

'I Locked Onto A Pakistani F-16 For 30 Seconds': Kargil Hero's Account

Mirage 2000’s primary air-to-air missile at the time was the French R-530 D missile.

At the height of the Kargil war, 25 years ago, Indian Air Force Mirage 2000 jets, which were used to hit Pakistani posts, locked onto Pakistan Air Force F-16s and could have launched air to air missiles if they were threatened.

“Yes, I did lock on to a Pakistani F-16 once, probably for about 30 seconds,” says Air Marshal Raghu Nambiar (retired). “The moment we locked onto him, he turned away. This was at a distance of about 35 km.”

Air Marshal Nambiar (retd) was the first IAF pilot to drop a laser-guided bomb on Tiger Hill, obliterating a Pakistani post. That attack had a profound impact on the Indian Army ground offensive in re-capturing posts within Indian territory being held by the Pakistan Army.

“Our directions were very clear: if any aerial threat was developing on the force, [we had to] ward off the threat [by] launching an offensive on the attacker,” says Air Marshal DK Patnaik (retired), who also hit Tiger Hill in a daring night-time mission. “If he persisted, then launch.” IAF pilots were, however, told to disengage if Pakistan Air Force fighters broke off their attack. They were also instructed not to chase PAF jets in airspace well across the Line of Control.

During strike missions, IAF Mirage 2000s were armed with short-range French-built Magic II air-to-air missiles while escorting Mirage 2000s were armed with 530D missiles which could take out enemy aircraft beyond visual ranges. Escort fighters were also equipped with Remora Electronic Warfare pods meant to jam the radars of enemy aircraft.

Other Indian Air Force Mirage 2000 pilots, deployed as part of the same mission-set, also detected frequent Pakistani air activity across the Line of Control though the PAF’s F-16s stayed well away from the launch-envelope of the IAF’s air-to-air missiles which out-ranged what the PAF used to operate at the time.

All IAF veterans quoted in this report appeared on an NDTV special programme looking at the role of the IAF during Kargil. On the extreme right - Group Captain Shreepad (Tokekar). Second from the right - Air Marshal Raghu Nambiar (retired). Third from the right - Air Marshal DK Patnaik (retired).

All IAF veterans quoted in this report appeared on an NDTV special programme looking at the role of the IAF during Kargil. On the extreme right – Group Captain Shreepad Tokekar (retired). Second from the right – Air Marshal Raghu Nambiar (retired). Third from the left – Air Marshal DK Patnaik (retired).

“In the initial sorties, we did have Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) pickups of the F-16s. On our RWRs, we could sense that there were F-16s which were flying which were radiating on their radar to pick us up,” says Group Captain Shreepad Tokekar (retired), who hit a key Pakistani logistics base in Muntho Dhalo on a strike mission. “But then, if you turned towards them, they would turn away. So this happened a couple of times.”

Radar Warning Receivers fitted onto military aircraft are systems designed to detect the radio emissions of radars of enemy aircraft. RWRs issue a warning when a radar signal, believed to be a threat, is picked up. This includes emissions from the fire-control radar of fighter jets looking to complete a radar lock in order to be able to launch an air-to-air missile.

“We had our Radar Warning Receivers programmed for F-16s, so the symbol ‘F’ used to show [on our cockpit display] and when that showed, we would turn around and open up our radar and the moment we opened up our radar, he would see that and turn around.”

Clear in the mismatch in capabilities, Pakistan Air Force fighter-sweeps started reducing within a week.

“They started fading away around 8-10 days [after the Mirages appeared],” says Group Captain Tokekar (retired).

The Mirage 2000’s primary air-to-air missile at the time was the French R-530 D missile, more sophisticated than the US-built Sidewinder that Pakistan Air Force F-16s operated in 1999. ”The closest that they came to the LoC was 30 km and we had weapons which were Beyond Visual Range,” says Air Marshal DK Patnaik (retired). [Our R-530D missile] had a range of 20 km at that altitude so they never took a chance. We had a superior missile.”

In the years following the Kargil War, the Pakistan Air Force corrected the imbalance in the capabilities of their air-to-air missiles by upgrading and equipping their F-16 jets with the long-range US-built AIM-120C AMRAAM missile. These AMRAAMs were launched at Indian Force fighters during the brief air-battle fought on February 27, 2019, a day after the IAF targeted the Pakistani terror camp in Balakot.

It is believed that IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s MiG-21 was downed by an AMRAAM fired from a Pak Air Force F-16.



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