Coimbatore: Amid political debate heating up over success of air strikes against Jaish-e-Mohammad’s terror camp in Balakot last week, Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa said Monday that Indian Air Force (IAF) doesn't calculate numbers of casualty and it is for government to provide details on the terrorists killed in the operation.
IAF chief asserted that a MiG-21 Bison indeed shot down a Pakistan Air Force F-16. He said that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman would fly a fighter jet only if he is medical fit as emergency ejection from aircraft takes a toll “on your body.” “We hit our target. The air force doesn't calculate casualty numbers, the government does that,” he said on attack on Balakot. IAF chief said that bomb damage assessment that is done post a mission only calculates the target that has been hit or not hit. “We can't count how many people have died. That depends on how many people were there. We see if we have hit the target,” he said.
IAF chief said that a statement on the number of terrorists killed will be made by the government. “...., if we plan to hit the target, we hit the target. Otherwise, why would he (Pakistan) have responded. If we had dropped bombs in the jungle there would be no need to respond,” he said.
BJP president Amit Shah had said that 250 terrorists were killed in the February 26 attack on a JeM camp in Balakot in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by Indian Air Force. Congress leaders Digvijay Singh, Kapil Sibal and Navjot Singh Sidhu sought proof of IAF’s strike destroying the biggest camp of Jaish-e-Mohammad in Balakot, Pakistan and accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of politicising terror.
Air chief Dhanoa declined to comment on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's statement that Rafale jets would have a made a difference. Mr Modi on Monday clarified that he meant that if Rafale was acquired in time it would have made a difference during the February 27 dogfight between MiG-21 Bison and F16 which had intruded into Indian airspace. “What I said was if we had Rafale at the time (of aerial dogfight), then none of our fighter jets would have gone down and none of theirs saved,” said the Prime minister while addressing a gathering in Jamnagar.
On why the MiG-21 Bison used in dog fight with Pakistan's intruding aircrafts, Air chief Dhanoa asserted the aircraft was in the IAF's inventory and when an adversary attacks you, every available aircraft goes. “The MiG 21 Bison is in our inventory, why not use it?...I will not comment on the ongoing operation because they are still ongoing. MIG-21 Bison is capable. It has been upgraded... It has got a better weapons system, better radars, better air-to-air missiles,” he said.
The Rafale jet should come into India's inventory by September, the Air Force chief said. “Yes, we have a plan for inducting new aircraft and that is why we have signed contract for 36 Rafale jets.”
The airforce chief told reporters the Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman would fly a fighter jet if he was fit. “We don't take chances with the medical fitness of a pilot,” he said. Varthaman, who ejected from his MiG 21 Bison on February 27, was captured by Pakistan and released on March 1.
“Whether he flys again or not depends upon his medical fitness. Post-ejection, he has undergone a medical check. Whatever treatment is required, we will give it to him. Once he gets the medical fitness, he will get into fighter cockpit,” he said. Air chief further said “If he is fit to fly a fighter, then he will go back soon. If he is not fit to fly, he will become a low medical category till the time he gets his currency. He will then go back when he gets his fighter currency back.”
Underlining that medical fitness is a topmost priority for the IAF, the Air Chief Marshal explained, “Ejection is something that takes a toll on your body and if you are not perfectly fit and God forbid you have to eject again, you will be spending the rest of your life in a wheelchair. We do not take a chance with the fitness of a fighter pilot.”
“When we select people at the entry-level, the medical rejection is very high. Your physical condition and curvature of spine has to be very good to take that kind of ejection injury,” he said.
Referring to Pakistan using F-16 aircraft in its offensive against India last week, Dhanoa said, “I don't knowwhat is the end-user agreement between America and Pakistan.”
If the end-user agreement was that they will not use it for offensive purposes, then I think they have violated that end-user agreement.” India, he said, has pieces of the AMRAAM missile which it displayed. “Obviously, I think they have lost a F-16 aircraft in that combat. So, obviously, they have been using that aircraft against us,” he added.