New Delhi: “Turn cold, turn cold”, a young woman IAF controller sitting in a secure control room in Punjab shouted repeatedly, exactly a month ago. But Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman could not hear anything inside his MiG-21 Bison.
Not realising that he had crossed the Line of Control, Abhinandan locked on to an F-16 of the Pakistan Air Force and fired his R-73 air-to-air missile seconds before his plane was shot at. In a matter of seconds, both aircraft went tumbling down into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
What the woman officer was telling the Wing Commander was to abandon and return as he had crossed over, top sources in the Indian Air Force told ThePrint.
An analysis of the dogfight of 27 February by the IAF has revealed that Abhinandan could not hear the command being given by the officer. The IAF believes this could be because of radio jamming by Pakistan.
Sources said that around 9:30 am, IAF flight controllers noticed that a large package of PAF aircraft had taken off in a matter of minutes. These aircraft, numbering about 24, included at least 11 F-16s, and got airborne in a span of 15 minutes.
Sources said more than half of them headed to the LoC, while a few remained along the international border.
While India’s Sukhoi Su-30s were on a Combat Air Patrol (CAP) in the Rajasthan sector, two Mirage 2000s were on CAP at the LoC.
The officer in question was sitting in the control room at the time, giving instructions and coordinating the response to the challenge thrown by the Pakistan Air Force. She realised that things could get difficult and immediately ordered the scampering of more Su-30s and MiG-21s, which took off from the Srinagar and Awantipur air bases.
She alerted the Indian pilots to the use of F-16s, which have better beyond visual range or BVR missiles than the Sukhois and the MiGs.
It was her alertness and instructions that allowed the Indian pilots to take preventive measures and escape the AMRAAM missiles fired by the F-16s.
According to IAF, Indian and Israeli made electronics like data link and RWR didn't work as they have to warn pilots with voice comm from CP. IAF said, that Mirage-2000, have lock on F-16 with Mica AAMs, why they didn't launch missiles on them? Why Su-30MKI didn't use their R-77 or Astra AAMs if F-16 could launch AMRAAMs on them? Mirage-2000 jets were closer to PAF formation, why PAF didn't launch missiles on Mirages? Most probably PAF launch those AMRAAMs just to keep Sukhois and Mirages on safe distance and only MiG-21 were close enough to engage and they use wrong tactics, when they have AWACS and R-77 medium range AAMs ready to use and were networked with data links.