Kargil strategy behind IAF chief’s tough talk: Indian media


Indian Air Force Chief NAK Browne’s assertion that India has a few strings in its bow could stem from confidence in tactics the air force developed in operations along the Line of Control (LoC) during the 1999 Kargil war.
Use of air power had never before been attempted at heights of 14,000 to 18,000 feet and IAF’s attacks by destroying supply lines and dumps gave it a lot of encouragement.
According to Indian media reports, IAF’s rapid innovation after initial setbacks to refit top-end fighters with laser-guided bombs and evolve tactics to evade deadly shoulder fired surface-to-air missiles during the two-month war waged between late May and July 1999 is now a fully fleshed doctrine.
Forced to deal with small targets, including dugout clusters barely visible against an icy black and white background, due to strict instructions not to cross the LoC resulted in IAF working out strategies without the option of targeting bases in Azad Kashmir. IAF got around tough odds by placing GPS devices in cockpits, fitting Mirage 2000 fighters with laser weapons, upgrading guidance systems bombs and taking recourse to steeper dives that tested the skills of pilots in Mig 21, 23 and 27 aircraft.
A voluminous Carnegie endowment paper published in September 2012 offers what seem like prophetic insights in the context of today’s threats and Browne’s robust response may indicate that the IAF has learnt its Kargil lessons well.
After the Kargil war, Indian experts at elite institutions like the Tactics and Air Combat Development Establishment at Jamnagar planned for scenarios dealing with limited engagements requiring a rapid and inventive response to violations along the LoC. The reports said IAF is now prepared for a “high intensity, high stakes” conflict that can run on for months, the Carnegie paper suggests, adding that India’s overwhelming conventional force preponderance is a factor that Pakistan and its backer China need to keep in mind.
The Kargil war saw India reassess implications of the nuclear deterrent possessed by both nations that did not – and may not in the future as well – make conventional war obsolete. This means proxy war is not the only scenario short of war. The reports revealed that use of air power to hit terror camps was discussed by the cabinet committee on security after the 26/11 strikes with then IAF chief Fali Homi Major favouring the option which, however, did not find favour with the political leadership.
During the Kargil war, Pak Air Force fighters did not attempt to cross the LoC to the aid of troops under IAF attacks. Although some instances of aggressive manoeuvres, even “lock-ons”, were reported, no clash that could have expanded the war’s scope happened. The possibility of Pakistan adopting a higher risk calculus or a misjudgment of the other’s threshold can lead to a wider conflict and Indian planners have kept in mind a scenario where IAF will have to battle for air dominance with its Pakistani counterpart. Not breaching the LoC in 1999 paid rich dividends but the IAF and army have both realised the need for closer meshing of tactics and strategy as they plan for conventional wars along the northern borders with Pakistan and China, the reports concluded.


  1. Destruction of Supply Lines and Dumps are a figment of Bollywood's ever-fertile imagination. The IAF never returned after the first aircraft was shot down. The Indians also refused to accept the remains of the pilot, remember. Why does our media forget these things.

  2. We Pakistani are not afraid of WAR but we like to let you know that WAR is not a bollywood style movie where Indian hero's killing ratio 1 is to 100. We Pakistani are stand shoulder to shoulder with our Army, AIrforce and Navy and waiting for their permission to join them, Bu we know the slogan and reality of Our Army " Men at there Best". And one thing more our missiles are not for show case we know well how and when to use.

    • I fully endorse your views, we will not only support our armed forces but we will also support this unpopular govt. in case of war or a border conflict

  3. Please read history. Pakistan came into existense because of
    India! No use talking about your power… Get a life …

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