True to its character, a Pakistani newspaper announced about crashing of a private jet on the evening of March 09. The jet was reported to be used for training fell on a cold storage in Mian Channu village, Khanewal District. The pilot had reportedly ejected and was safe. PAK media reported no loss of life or injury as the location of crash had no human presence. Soon after, the army authorities cordoned off the area and cleared the civilians away from the crash site. Suspicions arose about the incident as private single seater aircraft rarely have ejection seats or jet engines.

Two days after the incident, Pakistan’s DGISPR, Major General Babar Iftikhar announced: “A supersonic flying object, most probably a missile from India travelling at 40,000 feet covered over 250 kilometers and landed inside Pakistan territory on March 9 at 6:43 pm. Speaking about the missile’s warhead, he said, “It was an “unarmed projectile that damaged civilian properties.”

Miss firing (or in this case as termed "accidental firing") of a missile is a possibility, but taking a definitive course towards an intended target is a different matter altogether. The onboard navigation receives inputs from satellite navigation input to the Inertial Navigation System. The indigenously developed sophisticated navigation system uses an Indian chip called G3OM (GPS, GLONASS, GAGAN on a Module). The system weighs around 17 grams, and gives accuracy below five metres using Indian, US and Russian navigation satellites. The system can be used in tandem with and Inertial Navigation System (INS) to provide high-accuracy targeting without using any seeker. It is noteworthy, the target is actually pre-marked before the missile is fired and the complex mechanical, electrical and software units hit the target with extreme precision.

BrahMos is technically a ramjet powered supersonic cruise missile with a solid propellant booster that can be launched from land-based canisters, submarines, ships and now aircraft. It travels at speeds of Mach 2.8 to 3.0 but is being upgraded in the future to travel at speeds faster than Mach 5.0. for the hypersonic variant.

One of its special features is its ability to fly extremely close to the ground to avoid missile defence systems. In fact, during the terminal phase, the missile can fly as low as 10 metres to the ground. In the final phase, the missile relies on active radar seeker or inertial guidance.

Failure of Pakistan’s Air Defence

The Pakistan Army is in charge of the country’s integrated air defence, having motto of ‘defence by denial’ reported DNA. It comprises AEW&C, ground-based radars, HQ-7 command-line-of-sight short range ground-to-air defence, anti-aircraft artillery, shoulder fired Surface to Air Missiles and the F-16 and Mirage 3E interceptor jets drew first line of defence. China made LY-80 or HQ-16-Low to Medium Altitude Air Defence (LOMADS) is the mainstay of Pakistan’s air defence from incoming enemy aircraft and missiles. China and Pakistan both claim the LY-80 as the best deterrent against India’s Missiles.  

Pakistan’s constitution puts the responsibility for national defence on the military unlike India where the Defence Secretary and MoD are responsible for defence of the country, with the armed forces playing a secondary but fairly important role. The incident has resulted in a huge turmoil inside the Pak defence establishment as army and the Air Force want civilian leaders and bureaucrats to be responsible for defence of the country.

Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan Niazi has chaired an emergency closed door meeting of Cabinet Committee on National Security, with Principal Military Adviser, Intelligence Advisers, Cabinet Ministers, top military leadership and bureaucrats in attendance on the projectile issue.

Initial reports suggest about a major shake-up in PAK’s air defence establishment, citing incompetency on their part. A Qatar-based international news channel reported about sacking of Pakistan’s top Air Defence Commander after the incident. In addition, the Vice Chief of the Pakistan Air Force and one more Air Marshal have been asked to put in their papers for voluntary retirement.

Fearing the missile incident being a larger plot by India and underlying fear that EW and communication resources may have been compromised, Pakistan has commenced a major audit and RF frequency change of all passive and active radar emitters as well as ECM, ECCM and allied EW measures on emergent basis.

Immediately after citing the dummy ‘flying object, PAK’s Air Defence Operations Centre jumped in to action, suspending all the military and civilian flying for almost six hours to sanitize the air space. Frontline bases were put on high alert as most strike aircraft remained on runway readiness till 1300 hours on March 14. It is believed that this was necessitated as a 'purely defensive measure' following the 'accidental' Indian missile launch, during routine maintenance and final 'landing' near Mian Channu.

The DGISPR made claims to track the missile from launching onwards. But, the actual flight path of the missile and the one claimed by the Pakistanis are different. The missile could travel for four minutes traversing 124 km inside Pakistan before crash goes to show, it was neither tracked nor intercepted. Pakistan’s defence establishment is averse to using missile defences, unless the target is GHQ. Can cash-strapped Pakistan even afford to test fire the LY-80 air defence missiles costing a whopping 6.27 million apiece?

Pakistan’s Chinese-made LY-80/HQ-16 air defence - Surface to Air Missiles batteries and IBIS-150 air defence radars didn't track or intercept India’s Balakot Air Strike on February 26, 2019 and the incoming misfired missile on March 09, 2022. If the ‘misfired’ missile had travelled for another three minutes toward west, it could have reached Bahawalpur, residence of India’s most wanted terrorist and LeT chief Hafeez Saeed, responsible for 26/11 terror attacks on Mumbai.  

Pakistan’s air defence capabilities are now being questioned by Pakistani defence establishment and civilians alike. There are multiple states equating Chinese-made LY-80 surface-to-air missile systems with "Chinese goods because of malfunctioning of systems." Reports claim, most of the LY-8- LOMADS air defence systems are out of operation even after onsite repairing by the Chinese OEM. Pakistan Army is wasting the taxpayers’ money by buying junk military hardware from China.  

In the backdrop of Chinese aggression on Taiwan, this incident might prove to be an eye-opener about effectiveness of the Indian missiles and fragility of the LY-80. Taiwan defence forces’ purchase order for missiles from India will give them an immense advantage against Chinese air defences. 

The DGISPR’s press conference on March 10th was without the normal hue and cry. No US or UN intervention in the matter was sought. Does the uneasy calm after the not so accidental missile launch invariably hint towards a huge cover-up by both the sides? The incident might have been laid to rest with Pakistan’s press conference and India’s clarification on the matter. The accidental incident might be a convenient truth for both the sides to accept. Pakistan army claimed that the site of missile crash was a cold storage. But a close analysis of the debris shows the building to be a workshop or a warehouse having motors and lathe machines. Pakistan army cordoned off the area for two days and cleared something to be hidden from general public and the world. 

Pakistan claimed there was no warhead in the missile. But visuals shared by ISPR and open source videos of the crash site reveal the extant of the damage which shattered the entire structure, collapsing the walls. A warhead burst's overpressure can only cause such widespread damage. The missile’s crater doesn’t look much deep. Did the warhead burst in air? India’s supersonic missile could have burst and passed through the walls, if the warehouse at Mian Channu was not the target, the missile would have left an entry and an exit hole while not leaving such huge devastation. Doesn’t the damage show clearly, the missile has hit the pre-designated target? 

The Surgical and Air Strikes have shown that India’s present military posture is of offensive defence. The missile missed the civilian targets nearby to target the only ‘un-inhibited’ building. Is Pakistan covering up something to hide behind the ‘accidental fire claim’ to avoid revealing a high value target?


Detractors within the country have decried that the incident casts a shadow on the standards of the storage, maintenance, the handling and even the engineering of high-technology weapon systems in India. They go on to say that the incident highlights the sorry state of bilateral mechanisms for crisis management between the two nuclear adversaries where there is a missile flight time of barely a few minutes. However, what they should come to realise is that PM Modi has sent a deliberate and devastating message to its adversary that it can strike any part of its territory at will. This well could be a very plausible and debateable scenario.