Originally posted by R Sukumar:
Vishnu, after explaining the package concept, I had the following question:
....the IAF/PAF have never used "packages" in previous wars. Usually they have done piecemeal commitment of flights of aircraft (or even loners) and in a very tactical fashion. If the IAF is beginning to use "packages" thats a good thing. Perhaps you can clarify if they indeed are or do they still think of sending in a quad of 21s or 27s to take out a target ??
There are many larger unresolved questions around the stories on exercise GARUDA (valuable and interesting as the info that's coming out is), so I don't necessarily want this to become another lengthy discussion point -- but it's not quite accurate to say that the IAF/PAF have never used "packages" in previous wars. They may not have used the term "package", but there were plenty of cases on both sides of, eg, four aircraft configured and tasked for strike, accompanied by two other aircraft configured and tasked for escort. Sometimes they would be immediately followed by an aircraft tasked to carry out BDA. And don't forget the use of MiG-21s for radio relay in '71. This doesn't add up to what the USAF would call a package, but it's not appropriate for the IAF to reproduce that in all respects anyway.
Currently (and during Kargil), my understanding is that the IAF has practised the use of strike packages (or something approaching packages) of up to sixteen aircraft for strikes, with several others in escort, recce, ECM and other support roles. (Sorry, no url to confirm this; but there's plenty of inferences to be drawn from what's in published sources.) And that's without AWACS or AAR.
I agree that the IAF tended in '65 and '71 to use formations that would be considered small by the standards of NATO planning for all-out conflict in Central Europe, and indeed those of Desert Storm (DS represented circumstances that are probably nearly unique, anyway). But given the distances, the dispersion of aircraft and airbases in the India-Pakistan theatre, the tasks that had to be shouldered by stations with just one or two squadrons on strength, the state of radar coverage on the Pakistani side at the time, and the lack of ECM capability on ours, the use of small formations was probably both inevitable and tactically correct. The formation strengths were not out of line with those in many other conflicts, other than NATO Central Europe and DS.
And finally, even in '65 and '71, I don't think the IAF actually planned
for the use of single aircraft for missions into hostile airspace. The occasions when single IAF aircraft did penetrate into enemy territory on their own were usually cases when one aircraft of a planned pair had to drop out, for serviceability or similar reasons. In most such cases, it took a heckuva lot for the single pilot left to continue with the mission on his own -- please let's not make even implicit comparisons with Desert Storm; I think that kind of comparison under-values
what our people really did. Our people, both on the ground and in the air, were up against completely different circumstances; and did what they had to do with what they had in hand at the time.