New Delhi: The role of the army during the Kargil war of 1999 was worth praising. But the role of the Indian Air Force during Operation Vijay cannot be ignored. They provided significant support to the Indian Army in pushing back the intruders from the high altitudes of Drass, Batalik, Kargil sectors.
Employing the Indian Air Force in the 1999 Kargil War was an audacious decision of the Indian Government taken on May 25, 1999. Air Strikes began on May 26, 1999 over the icy heights of Kargil sector. The decision yielded unprecedented rewards by paving way for the ultimate victory in operation ‘Safed Sagar’ which continued for 60 days. The conditions were tough both with respect to the terrain of the battlefield at a height of 18,000 ft as well as the operational limitations coupled with the short notice on which IAF was pressed into this warfare.
IAF gave the close battlefield and logistic support in addition to evacuations playing a crucial role in ‘Operation Vijay’ to clear the otherwise desolate and deserted Kargil sector of the Pakistani infiltrators who were none other than the Pak soldiers.
IAF created a history by engaging the ground targets at high altitudes of Kargil peaks and these targets were all well shielded by Pakistan’s Air Defence Weapons. There were orders from the government not to cross the LoC which were difficult to abide by since the area of intrusion; the target area was just 5-12 kms from LoC. However, the IAF followed all instructions to the core pressing its fleets of MiG 21, MiG 23, MiG 25, MiG 27, MiG-29 Fulcrum armed with Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles, Jaguars and Mirage 2000Hs armed with day and night laser-guided bombs and MI-17 helicopters.
IAF’s MiG 21s operated without the modern navigation equipments and managed with handheld GPS gazettes. IAF even reportedly selected weapon impact points which would snowball into landslides or avalanches over intruded snowy peaks. IAF and Army worked in close coordination while the air power not only inflicted heavy damages to intruders, equipment and their administrative bases but also brought down the casualties on ground while wiping off the enemy from Dog Hill and the Tiger Hills.