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Pullback over, Parakram post-mortem begins

New Delhi, Nov. 13: Commanders of the armed services have begun carrying out a post-mortem of the longest deployment of the military, now that the 10-month Operation Parakram has been practically called off. Western Air Command officers meet here from tomorrow to make assessments based on intelligence and information collated during the deployment.

The Western Air Command is the IAF’s most crucial and active operational command, covering the area from Rajasthan to Kashmir.

Analysis of intelligence carried out in the run-up to the stock-taking meet has revealed that the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had deployed more than three quarters of its assets including fighters, transporters and radar in the north, opposite north-west Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir.

Two commands of the Indian Air Force cover the border with Pakistan — apart from the Western Air Command (based in Delhi), the South Western Air Command based in Gandhinagar is the guardian of airspace over south Rajasthan and Gujarat.

To the consternation of air defence strategists, the analysis based on intelligence gathered during Operation Parakram reveals that the Western Air Command was superior to the PAF opposite it by 1:1.3. Military strategists say this is a far from satisfactory ratio to justify offensive air action. But it is credible deterrence.

The IAF is claimed to have an overall superiority of 1:3 in relation to the PAF. Indications are that the IAF would have a bulk of its force in stations under the South Western Air Command to achieve its optimum. The PAF was said to have deployed 200 of its total 252 aircraft in its active battle stations opposite the Western Air Command.

The IAF had 272 aircraft in the western command. These cover all categories of fighters such as air defence, deep strike, quick reaction and deep penetration.

In peacetime, the PAF would have 12 squadrons of aircraft — an estimated 144 planes — which was beefed up to 16 squadrons. The IAF would have 17 squadrons, or 204 aircraft. This was bolstered by five additional squadrons brought in from the central, eastern and southern theatres and operationally deployed under the Western Air Command.

Aircraft gun camera images in the Western Air Command also show IAF aircraft practising precision-bombing during Operation Parakram. The IAF exercises were often in conjunction with the army.

The sources admitted for the first time that the army had indeed sought IAF support on July 29 this year to vacate a post occupied by the Pakistani Army in north Kashmir.

In July, a Pakistan Army contingent had occupied the Loonda Post in Macchil sector of Gurez. The army unit at the place could not evict the intruders with pure infantry action. The IAF used four Mirage 2000s, backed up by eight other aircraft, to bomb the post some 3.5 to 6 km inside Indian territory from the Line of Control.

The defence ministry had staunchly denied the air action but the news was still widely reported after it was leaked from Washington.

Western Air Command sources said, at the conference tomorrow, officers will review plans for quick mobilisation to earmarked areas.

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