“An Avenger’s last fall”

A detailed account of Operation Swiftretort and evidence regarding the shootdown of Su30 (Avenger1) by PAF

Credit: Mobahila Tariq Bajwa (email: mobahila.bella@gmail.com)

As the 2nd anniversary of a historic PAF operation “swift retort” is around the corner, so here is a 10 minute read to recall the events which resulted in IAF losses of 2 fighters jets (Mig21, Su30) and a Heli in the form of Mi17 fratricide. This piece will debunk all types of fake Indian Propaganda.

It all began on 14th Feb 2019 when more than 40 Indian CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) personal got killed as a result of a suicide bomb attack in Pulwama district of Indian Occupied Kashmir. Soon after the attack, the blame game started from the Indian side without any solid evidence of Pakistani soil being used in the planning or support of that attack. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan offered Indian authorities full support in the investigation of that incident. The warmongering Indian media started using the event as an opportunity of taking lead from each other in TRP. The testimony of this is the recently leaked WhatsApp chat of a Primetime Indian news Anchor Arnab Ghoswami where he termed the “ Pulwama incident” as a crazy win. The Indian government ordered their Airforce to carry out action inside Pakistan while hoping to cash it in their upcoming election campaign.

26th February:

Despite the incongruous weather condition, the mission was carried out on the night of 26th Feb 2019. As per the account of Indian PM Narendra Modi, he was the one who advised the action in such type of weather condition to take advantage of Clouds in order to avoid Pakistani radars.

On 26th Feb 2019 in the early hours multiple Indian formations closed in on different sectors along the Pakistani border. The PAF radars immediately detected enemy movement in the sectors of fazilka, Sircreek, Rahim Yar Khan and along LOC. The relevant PAF formations comprising of JF17 and F16 were directed to those locations. The 12 Indian Mirage 2000 fighter jets (from wolfpack squadron in Gwalior) escorted by 8 Su30 MKI from 15th squadron (Flying Lancer) having tail no.s SB155, SB164 and others approached LOC. Out of 12 mirages 2000, six jets violated Pakistani airspace along LOC by 3–4 nautical miles. Each of these 6 Mirage jets were equipped with Rafael Spice 2000 SOW to target a religious seminary in the village of Jabba (Balakot). These Mirages could only launch 4/6 bombs in the direction of target which fell few hundred meters away from madrassah building. The target elevation picked up by the weapon’s GPS didn’t match the orthometric height which resulted in a miss. The satellite images have also shown that all the bombs overshoot their target by similar distances. A detailed analysis in this regard is provided by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in a piece titled “ Balakot a very Precise miss"

Link: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/indias-strike-on-balakot-a-very-precise-miss/

The insight on satellite images of that area is being provide by “Great Game India" where they even matched the carters with spice ammunition to confirm the pictures posted by Dg ISPR. It can be accessed here:

https://www.voltairenet.org/article204302.html#:~:text=Using%20open-source%20evidence%20and,and%20firmly%20within%20Pakistani%20territory.&text=Satellite%20imagery%20did%20not%20suggest,was%20inflicted%20to%20nearby%20buildings

It has been almost 2 years and IAF couldn’t provide even an iota of evidence to back their claims about Balakot.

27Th February:

Now it was PAF turn to deliver the punch. On the intervening night of 26–27th Feb IAF remained on the highest state of alert anticipating a retaliation from PAF. When dawn came IAF made a mistake of lowering their alert level believing PAF won’t dare to carry out any action in broad daylight. Meanwhile, PAF strike package comprising of four Mirage 5PA and dual seat Mirage IIIDAs from 15th squadron along with 2 JF17 from 16th sqdn headed towards LOC. The Mirages and JF17 were piloted by:

  1. JF17 (tail no. 236) piloted by W/C Adnan Mehmood (Tamgha e Basalat)
  2. JF17 (tail no. 246) pilot by S/L Sibtain Akhtar (Merit Certificate)
  3. Mirage 5PA (tail no. 417) piloted by S/L Waqas Saleem (Merit Certificate)
  4. Mirage 5PA (tail no. 420) piloted by S/L Fahad Babar (Merit certificate)
  5. Mirage IIIDA dual seat(tail no. 601) piloted by GP Faheem (Tamgha-e-Jurat) and F/L Awais Rauf (Merit Certificate)
  6. Mirage IIIDA dual seat (tail no. 612) piloted by W/C Rashid Sulheri (Merit Certificate) and S/L Faisal Hassan (Merit Certificate).

The strike package was escorted by multiple JF17 and F16 jets in air dominance configuration. Working at the rare of PAF package were Saab Erieye AEW&C and Dassault falcon 20ECM to jam the enemy controls.

Each Mirage 5PA was armed with H4 bomb while Mirage IIIDA streamed the H4 bombs via data link. Each JF17 was armed with 2 MK 83 (454kg) indigenous range extension kits. These 6 bombs were dropped at safety distance from 4 target locations in IOK. Those 4 Target locations included: Indian Army Brigade HQ in Poonch, Indian Army Brigade HQ in Rajouri, and Narian Foward support depot. In response to Indian Propaganda PAF provided weapon video as a testimony of the fact that PAF jets intentionally avoided taking out main Buildings of Indian Military formations to avoid any human loss. Here is the link for that video:

https://youtu.be/Bj2YgRklreI

Su30 Hit:

When PAF bombs landed in Indian Army compounds, IAF jets were vectored towards PAF formations. The communications of IAF got jammed by PAF assets of 24th squadron and they were in complete disarray while being up there in the sky. PAF F16s flying in fluid four formations led by S/L Hassan Siddique (Tamgh e Jurat ) detected a pair of Su30MKI heading towards strike package. S/L Hassan who was in lead after confirming valid firing parameters fired AIM-120-C5 (AMRAAM) which managed to hit one of the Su30’s (from 221 squadron). He was flying F16BM tail no. 84606. The distance between Hassan Siddique formation and Su30 was around 30–35Km and Su30 was flying in the area around Bhimber Gali (IOK) 33°33’37"N 74°14’32"E. The puff and tadpole of Su30 after getting hit can be seen in the video recorded from Thanamandi (IOK), even the guy who shot the video validated that it was an IAF jet that came from the Indian side and got hit.

Here z the link to the video: https://youtu.be/EuBLzSlWeP8

The guy also admitted the fact that he was looking towards Bhimhber gali area (IOK) while recording the video which is in line with the positioning of Su30 on 27th Feb. Even an ex IAF guy Sameer Joshi who is considered pretty close to IAF circles validated it in the map he tweeted on his profile.

Here z link to his tweet: https://twitter.com/joe_sameer/status/1232916594478551041?s=19

IAF itself presented the evidence of Su30 hit in the form of detonated AMRAAM fired on it. Those who know the mechanism of AMRAAM action can understand how the detonated piece is solid evidence of a kill.

Here z the video of PAF spokesperson on AMRAAM detonation: https://twitter.com/swiftretort1/status/1309466563116969984?s=19

In order to cover up the loss of Su30, IAF came up with a series of blatant lies. They claimed to recover AMRAAM from Manakote Mallas Village of Chassana located 80km from Loc. This fake claim got exposed by the eyewitness accounts recorded from that area. The Projectile which fell in Chassana was not AMRAAM, as the relatives of the injured person in chassana saw those Jets which dropped the bomb(not A2A missile)circling above their head. F16 didn’t cross LOC so now the question is how can they spot F16 from 80km+ distance if it was AMRAAM. In addition to that, even the map presented by SJ also validates that AMRAAM was never fired in the direction of Chassana.

Here z the eyewitness account:

https://twitter.com/swiftretort1/status/1348679886588796928?s=19

To explain the detonation of AMRAAM, Indian defence experts came up with a theory of AMRAAM being fired at DMAX range so Su30 managed to dodge it. The fact is the max distance between different PAF F16 formations and Su30 was around 30–40km, not DMAX which is second by IAF sources as reported by ANI.

https://twitter.com/swiftretort1/status/1348679886588796928?s=19

Some of the Indian experts like Sameer Joshi claimed that Su30 managed to dodge AMRAAM through tight maneuvers. Firstly, it signifies that Jamming mechanism didn’t work properly, secondly they failed to realize that both jets were head on at 1.7 mach speed or something, or lets even assume 1.3 mach for the sake of it in 40km distance. The AMRAAM is a 5.0 mach missile, with a good kept-on lock, that thing would be extremely difficult to dodge, near impossible, as the closer you get, the harder it becomes.

There are few other ex IAF guys like Anshuman Mainkar who came up with the theory of countermeasures like Chaff to explain the detonation of AMRAAM. Again this claim doesn’t hold any ground as AMRAAM was fired after confirming parameters from AWE&C. The AIM-120 AMRAAM uses a monopulse radar and employs 4 radar receivers. It operates in HPRF (high pulse repetition frequency) mode to lock onto a target once it goes active and transitions to MPRF (medium pulse repetition frequency) mode at shorter ranges. Once an AIM-120 locks a target up in HPRF mode, neither chaff or "conventional" self-protection jamming gear will be of much use. MPRF mode, if I’m not mistaken, is even better at distinguishing chaff from the real target.

In their further desperate effort to save face, IAF claimed PAF fired 4–5 AMRAAMs but couldn’t present even a single more AMRAAM other than the detonated one which hit Su30 despite a Challenge from PAF.

The F16.com which is renowned as the most credible F16 database also validated Su30 kill.

Here z the link:

https://www.f-16.net/aircraft-database/F-16/airframe-profile/1223/

Another strong evidence of Su30 getting hit at the hands of PAF is the missing jet from the crash list of Su30. As per Indian MOD (reported by Indian media), the total number of Su30 lost by IAF stands at 12. But if one goes through IAF database it has a record of only 11 Su30 crashes instead of 12. Due to the loss of 12 Su30s (11 in crashes+1hit by PAF) Indian MOD placed an order of 12 new Su30 to keep its number at desired 272.

Here R some of the screenshots as evidence

A detailed word on this can be read from this Twitter thread:

https://twitter.com/swiftretort1/status/1309464894702522368?s=19

During IAF day parade in October 2019, 2 Su30s flew along with the Mirages which participated in Balakot mission. The Indian experts started calling one of those Su30s as the “Avenger1" which PAF claimed to shot despite the fact there was no such official claim from IAF. It was again an effort to cover up Su30 loss. The jet displayed during the parade had tail no. SB155 from 15th squadron while the one which PAF hit belonged to 221 squadron. This jet of 15th squadron was involved in Balakot mission on the night of 26th Feb in escort role not in the aerial engagement of 27th feb. The tweets made out by Ex IAF officers also validated that this jet was part of balakot Avenger formation, not the one which engaged F16 on 27th.

Another interesting point over here is the nonrecognition for so-called “ AMRAAM Dodgers”. IAF even awarded Mi17 crew which became a victim of their own missile but not even a single merit certificate was announced for the pilots of Su30 which as per IAF claim successfully dodged AMRAAM. The fact of the matter is one Su30 became the prey of AMRAAM while the other one left the area with a tail between the legs.

Mi17 and Mig21 hit:

Once Su30 got hit all hell broke loose in the Indian camp. An IAF Mi17 helicopter (from 154 Heli Unit) was sent out on Search and Rescue mission for the crew of downed Su30. There was panic among the ranks of IAF which resulted in the shooting down of their own Mi17 by Israeli-made Spyder SAM. The presence of Heli in the combat zone also second the claim of Su30 hit by PAF. In the words of Alan Warnes “ You have to ask yourself what was Mi17 doing in that area and the answer is it was on SAR mission". Even SJ during his presentation at Indian Military Festival raised the similar point that no one flies Heli in a combat zone without any specific (SAR) mission.

When one of the Indian Su30 got hit, the other one left the area with the call “Bingo" (low on fuel) only 25 minutes into the mission. The pair of Mirage 2000 also exited the active zone citing malfunctioning of air intercept radars as a reason. Meanwhile, 5 IAF Mig21 of 51 sqdn were scrambled from Srinagar AFS. Ideally, these Bison’s should have been working with more powerful NO11M Bars PESA radars of Su30, which would have allowed them to keep their radars switched off to avoid detection by PAF. But due to communication jam and Su30 exiting the active zone, Mig21 Bisons were left on their own. In this state of chaos, one of the Mig21 piloted by W/C Abhinandhan crossed LOC and became a victim of AMRAAM fired by W/C Noman Ali Khan ( Sitar e Jurat) who was flying F16A tail no. 92731.

Busting Indian F16 Propaganda:

Soon after the aerial combat, IAF came up with an absurd claim of hitting PAF F16. The Indian media started showing pictures of Mig21 wreckage provided by IAF as F16 to validate their fake claim. Here z the link for reference where Shiv Aroor accepted IAF did put its weight behind those images:

https://twitter.com/swiftretort1/status/1350834125859655680?s=19

Now there can only be 2 explanations to this, either IAF is so dumb that they couldn’t recognize the wreckage of the jet they have been operating for decades or they have mala fide intention of spreading fake narrative about F16. Out of these two, the latter seems to be the case. Building on this fake claim, Indian media came up with a number of stories and imaginary characters like W/C Shahzaz ud din to spread their propaganda. All these claims got busted with solid evidence. The story about W/C Shahzaz and lynching got exposed by their own platform news laundry: https://www.newslaundry.com/amp/story/2019%2F03%2F05%2Fwhy-claims-about-the-paf-pilots-lynching-dont-add-up

The Indian defence experts like Shiv Aroor , Vishnu Som , Sameer Joshi and others started demanding the serial no of missiles recovered from Mig21 wreckage so here are they are:

R73 left wing: 2304982122137b

R73 Right Wing: 2304982122201b

Ex IAF Chief BS Dhanoa claimed that Abhinandhan fired R73 to hit F16, but in the pictures above one can see both the R73s with intact seeker and tail section as a testament of PAF claim that they never got fired. Here z the link tothe video of ACM BS Dhanoa claim and its refute by world-renowned Defence expert Alan Warnes: https://twitter.com/swiftretort1/status/1277843547597746178?s=19

In addition, the fuel tanks of Abhinandhan Mig21 were intact which is evidence that he didn’t even take the initial step of aerial engagement that is to get light in weight by dropping fuel tanks.

When Foreign Policy Published news about F16 count by US officials, IAF started feeling pressure from the masses, so they came up with so-called Radar data to confirm F16 kill. Firstly what IAF presented was not real-time Radar data and it has been accepted by them in front of US officials

Secondly, a detailed piece has been published by Tyler Rogoway in this regard which emphasizes that they are multiple loopholes in IAF data

Link: https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/27331/indian-radar-data-that-supposedly-proves-they-downed-an-f-16-is-far-from-irrefutable

Dr. Christine fair who is renowned for her anti-Pak stance was invited to the Indian Military festival to put her view forward on Indo-Pak Aerial Engagement. She ripped apart the Indian narrative on F16.

The annual report of Indian MOD for year 2019 also didn’t mention even a single word on F16 claim which proves even the authorities in MOD were not convinced with IAF baseless claim.

Link: https://twitter.com/VishnuNDTV/status/1210590865820794881?s=19

Conclusion:

Operation Swiftretort will go down in history as one the of golden chapters of PAF. However, IAF will learn from its mistakes. IAF has already started to plug gaps. The platforms like Rafale equipped with Meteor will definitely add to the BVR capability of IAF. At the same time, it must be noted Rafale will require at least 2 years before IAF can achieve operational capability with it. On the other hand, PAF is inducting an advanced variant of a jet (JF17 Block III) already operational for a decade having full integration with the air defence system. They are mutually data-linked, alongside all AEW and ground sensors. PAF is also looking for the option of J10C to replace its aging fleet of Mirage. In the future, the major workload in PAF will rest with JF17. Despite all the modernization efforts undertaken by IAF, PAF will maintain a technical edge over its adversary.