There’s hectic flying activity on both sides, including in the night. India has maintained high operational alertness. No draw down after Balakot strike as ops continue; air force to get replenishment

by Manu Pubby

NEW DELHI: The Air Force has asked the government to urgently purchase fresh ammunition for its fighters amid continuing tensions after Pakistan brought all its F-16s upfront on the Indian border and moved terror camps out of IAF reach to the far west in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

ET has gathered that there’s hectic flying activity on both sides, including in the night. India has continued to maintain high operational alertness, having to fly several additional sorties of its fighters, fully loaded with their respective missiles which inevitably reduces the ammunition’s shelf life.

“These missiles have a certain life. While stored in a canister, this is counted in terms of the age of the system in years but when fighters are operationally deployed, the life of the missile depends on the number of sorties being undertaken. So we need fresh replenishment,” top government sources explained.

The ammunition required are mainly air-to-air missiles that jets on patrol have been carrying to counter the Pakistani air force.

What has irked the Indian side even more is that despite all the hectic consultations with the US after the Balakot strikes, the Pakistan Air Force has deployed its F-16s at forward bases all along the border with India. Pakistani airspace has also not been fully opened for civilian traffic even though normal flying has resumed on the Indian side, sources pointed out.

While the Balakot strike came as a surprise to Pakistan, which was anticipating a hit at the Jaish-e-Mohammad headquarters at Bahawalpur, intelligence inputs suggest that post the “non-military” attack, terror camps have been moved to the FATA region, to take them out of the range of Indians fighter jets operating from near the Line of Control (LoC).

“The F-16s have been distributed all across Pakistani airbases and are still trained at us. They are continuing to undertake night flying and have their air defence network on alert,” sources told ET, adding that Indian jets too remain in position to deter any misadventure.

On the Indian side, frontline jets, including the Su-30MKIs and Mirage-2000s, remain placed for quick reaction and fighter strength has been increased at air bases in Jammu and Kashmir.

Post the surgical strikes in 2016 too, the Indian Army had moved emergency purchases to stock-up ammunition as the risk of full blown conflict with Pakistan had gone up. This included ammunition and other supplies for the special forces that had been deployed for the mission.