The Admiral has given me the go ahead. With him giving top cover I think i will be safe. So here goes..
Interviewer: We are here with ex Chief of the IAF to talk about the retaliatory action taken by the IAF within 12 days of the pulwama attack, by undertaking a large attack destroying the facilities of the Jaish-e-Mohammad
Interviewer: Sir what is your first reaction on hearing about this action taken by the IAF?
Ex ACM Tipnis: (laughs) Absolutely delighted and I said to myself that the IAF has proved itself to be true to its motto - Nabhaḥ Spr̥śaṁ Dīptam – Touch the Sky with Glory. And really they did it yesterday, sorry today. They have really done, in a way deserving of highest praises, what I had told your channel around 16th Feb in my interview, that I did not know what exactly they will do but I knew very well what all capabilities they had. And not just in the services, but even the common people in India had their blood boiling regarding the terrorist attack in Pulwama. Everyone had the feeling that we needed to do something and could no longer take this quietly and just let them go scot-free. Not just watch them quietly and give them warnings but actually do something to punish them. At that time I had also said that we definitely need to take action but not in haste. Act only after making preparations with full planning. Further do so immediately but only after having actionable intelligence. If not then wait. Take time. Take stock of the situation, collect intelligence and after that look at your options.. what all ways and means you have at your disposal, attack methods.. not just methods but the mode – attack using ground forces, or conduct aerial attacks etc is the most important to evaluate in your final choice and it needs to be done first and foremost
Interviewer (interrupting): For airstrike as the choice of method they would have also taken into account the climate (weather) conditions?
Ex ACM Tipnis: (nods) One thing is Stealth. By stealth I am referring to secrecy (element of surprise). If you have chosen a surprise aerial attack the enemy should not know where you are coming from. You might have 12 dozen.. a dozen or more Air Force stations from where your aircraft can take off. After that they can go anywhere. You can keep changing your routine flights. You can do feints. Feints means to show something else than what you intend to do. For example you walk in one direction and then suddenly you change your track mid-walk. These type of flexibilities are inherent capabilities of our AF. Our AF can do mid air corrections. Not just this but other things. They can do mid-air changes. Designate this is primary target, secondary target and even a tertiary target and even they can be changed/corrected mid-air.
Interviewer (interrupting): And even the targets or their order can be changed?
Ex ACM Tipnis: Yes, they can be changed. To start with they are all fed in the computer in pre-planning. Everyone now knows what computers do nowadays, for eg take google maps. It shows the different routes. It tells you this route will take 20 mins, another route will take 25 mins etc. Now while doing the planning for such mission we take into account where all are their radar sites, what are their watch hours (operational periods)… radars are not kept on 24 by 7 days. They have to be shut for maintenance, repairing etc. They also get heated up. So if you have say 10 radars they operate on time sharing. We have listening watches at our end which know which radar is on at which time. We take all of these under appreciation and think what the courses of action that we can take. And then we decide ok this is the best course of action and once we do that then we move into the planning. After that the basic thing is that we don’t attack directly. For example you might have seen that there is some building construction going on in front of my house. And you tell us to hit it, then we can certainly do that. Even if you tell us hit only on the right side corner then we can also do that
Interviewer (interrupting): Specific precision attacks?
Ex ACM Tipnis: But what is the use of attacking that specific spot.. what does it contain? Does it contain arms? ammunition? People? What type of people.. civilians? While planning all these must be carefully considered. Why… because we sympathize with the ordinary Pakistanis. Who do we have no sympathy for.. the terrorists, the Pakistani military, because they are the ones who are conducting operations against us. This is the thing which your type (the media?) calls ‘lateral damage’.. that was not the intent, rather unintended damage which was done, then the optics of that, the visibility of that is not to our advantage. All that has to be factored in your final choice of what action is to be taken and how. The most important part of this was who did this attack – J-e-M, Then if you have knowledge and intelligence on the J-e-M and we attack and destroy only them then the operation will be considered as maximum success. Because we hit that entity which hit us. But suppose that there is no intelligence, then take alternates, take L-e-T, take D-u-M (?), other terrorist organizations are there.
Interviewer: In today’s raid Mirage 2000 aircraft were used. What are their specialties. What is the reason that they were the choice?
Ex ACM Tipnis: Mirage, see first you need the range. This aircraft which we have is what we call a multi-purpose aircraft, multi-capability aircraft.
Interviewer (interrupting): (not clear)
Ex ACM Tipnis: You can do air to ground attack, it can do air to air, it can do reconnaissance, so it can change as you wish. Today this, tomorrow that. Now in ground attacks with what are older type aircraft with dumb weapons you need to have good targeting capabilities for your cannon, bombs, rockets etc. If the aircrafts targeting capabilities are not accurate enough then it will not be effective. But with the new smart weapons even If your aircrafts targeting capabilities are not very accurate, even then you can do mid-air correction for them after launching because they are tracked all the way to the target. In the same way you have Fire-and-Forget. You take them for example, you select your targets, light them up with laser (lase the targets) and then launch them. I think we might have used laser guided bombs in this case. I remember during Kargil , we had attacked their positions on Tiger hill with laser guided bombs. So the pilot launches a laser guided bomb. He has a TV monitor, just like you have TV monitors
Interviewer (interrupting): What are the important characteristics of this monitor, Sir?
Ex ACM Tipnis: The important characteristic of this is that even if you turn before the actual bomb launching, unlike earlier times when you needed to keep going in the direction of the target prior to launch, the camera and the laser designator is continually locked on to your selected target. Meaning that even if your plane has turned 120 degrees and is going away from the target, the bomb is still going on its way to the target as it is continually being painted, what we refer to as illumination, by the laser designator. So the target is still being illuminated. Now the dumb weapons typically have much lesser range or about 2 kms or so. Now these smart bombs can be used at ranges like 8, 10 or even 15 kms, of course depending on the speed and altitude of your aircraft. So these are all variables. And they will reach their targets accurately. Now for targets in POK I feel that they would have surely crossed the line of control.
Interviewer: This count of 12 Mirage 2000 aircraft used in this entire operation.. could you tell us the importance of this particular formation or this specific count?
Ex ACM Tipnis: First of all, and this is what I only have heard so far, I don’t have the complete details. We will have to wait for the reports to come in. And even then some reports will not be disclosed. Now the targets, whether there were two, three or four targets. And the aircraft which you send. Even if they are all Mirage aircraft , they may not be all attack aircraft. The weapon load which you have put, they may not be all attack oriented, some may be for air defense. In case someone is sent up against them. There is our AWACS up top which is keeping watch. It is there because of the possibility that there is some hostile action likely to come up. They do tracking and analysis of the time they will take to reach your aircraft, the time your aircraft will take to reach the target. If favorable for you then go on, complete your task and then break off. If otherwise they calculate that your aircraft will be intercepted before you reach the target then they warn you & suggest to return back immediately. Now they (the Pakistanis) might also be tracking your on their radars despite your attempts at maximum stealth. Now we have the advantage of monitoring from the air looking down versus them based on the ground looking up. And secondly they do not know if this is a regular exercise or an operation. Still as a practice we do have escort aircraft. Now what do these escort aircraft do? The attack aircrafts single focus task is to bomb the target, they do still carry air to air missiles but they are clearly told to leave the aerial threat security management to the escort aircraft. This is what we call a combined or combination of attack and escort aircrafts. Some will be doing attack, some will be for defense, some will even be electronic counter warfare. They will be engaged in jamming the enemy radar so that they do not know anything. Like you sometimes see your tv screens go blank, but in your case it might be some technical problem but here what has happened is it is a created blankness. So there are a whole lot of things, tactics – how to use them, when to use them. It is a great science and uses high skill levels. It is one upsmanship
Interviewer: Sir, During the Kargil war you had lead the IAF. Now about this operation, it is being said for the IAF to conduct operations across the border during peace time, puts it on a different level altogether. How do you see it and how important is this aspect according to you?
Ex ACM Tipnis: I think we have taken a very big step forward. Because in this case the decision was taken politically which was different from earlier times when we would show patience and restraint. Earlier whenever they would do something, we would say “OK this time, don’t do it again” How many times would you keep giving them warnings? Our people started feeling, what you would call, that we are a weak nation. It is not enough just to have the capability, more important is the will to do it. And this operation showed that not only we could do and would do but that we went and did it. This is huge. I mean it is a total game changer. Excellent operation. But the task doesn’t end here, till how much further this will go, in what direction it will go.
Interviewer (interrupting): (not clear)
Ex ACM Tipnis: How high it will go? Will it escalate step by step or go direct to the top level remains to be seen. You are probably too young to know this but this is what happens in air actions. For instance in Kargil we started with ground operations. The Army initially felt it was a small thing and didn’t inform the government. Then they called us in. They asked us for helicopters. We told them don’t take the helicopters for that area, they are vulnerable. They can be easily seen and before they go anywhere they can be destroyed. Afterwards the fighter aircrafts were used in air action and the escalation as I can see at that time was very rapid. You just can’t say ok go and fly, because the rate at which we move is far greater. So we have flexibility and we have range and we have the speed which is far greater than any other force, Navy or Army.
Interviewer: One more thing which is being discussed is that the Pulwama attacks happened on 14th Feb and we have responded within 12 days. So our Air force is totally equipped and ready to conduct any operations whenever asked to do so. And the timing of 3.30 in the night, does that have any importance?
Ex ACM Tipnis: What you need to understand that when we train our pilots we say “Train as you will fight”. It’s not like today the war starts and so we will start our operations then. Now these accidents which keep happening, people keep asking why do they happen. They need to understand the risks and other factors. If we only do take offs and landings we will get our accident rates down. But if you want to train realistically then you have to take greater risks. You know skill levels can’t come just like this. Fine you have simulators, whatever, in the end when you do it for real there is a difference. If I ask you to walk straight along this line here on the ground you will do it fairly easily. But if you have to do the same thing 50 feet of the ground you will wobble, if you are asked to do it 1000 feet above then you will surely fall due to vertigo. So we train very hard for all sorts of situations. But then we are not always at the forward bases. Now we have pilots who are highly skilled but now what has happened is that we have less number of aircraft. We have an authorized strength of 42 squadrons. When I was the chief during Kargil, I had prepared a report assessing our responsibilities which stated that we are focused only towards Pakistan whereas really our focus needs to be more towards the North. So to protect both our borders instead of 42 we need 50 squadrons. The name of my report was ‘Indian Air Force 2025’. That was 20 years ago and I was forecasting requirement for 45 years ahead. Today we are 6 years from 2025 and instead of 42 the air force says they are down to 30 but in my assessment I feel that we are actually down to about 25 squadrons. But I don’t have the real information.
Interviewer: What sort of response can we expect from Pakistan? Now we have reports that the foreign ministers of Pakistan and China have talked over the phone. In your experience what do you feel will happen next?
Ex ACM Tipnis: Now look, China is very smart. What all progress they are doing – economical progress, technological progress, they do not want any obstructions in that. They don’t want any restrictions on that. And if you start fighting wars then your attention goes somewhere else. So they don’t want their economy and other programs to be hindered. So in my opinion, they will support Pakistan but will not get directly involved themselves. But there are experts here and there (in Pakistan) who monitor and analyze such things 24 by 7. What we need to see is that if the situation keeps getting escalated then till what level can we allow escalation. They clearly know that they cannot win a war against India. They still need to understand that. A lot of Pakistanis, analysts, intelligent people, sane people they keep saying that why have a war with India which we cannot win. Even the retired chief of the PAF Asghar Khan, and Nur Khan who was the chief in 1965, just like our esteemed late Marshal Arjan Singh, had both said many times that lets not have a war with India. They have taught us lessons many times and we cannot win against them and so need to find some other ways to get our objective. Now according to me it’s not just our armed forces which need to fight them. We need to fight them on all fronts. We need to Boycott them - economic boycott, sports boycott. And let me tell you this – if we do not play cricket with them, some people might ask what is the connection with cricket? Understand this, we are the number one devoted fans of cricket. If we boycott cricket with them, the world and they will know that the entire country of India is very angry with them and we are ready to sacrifice anything for it. Now these programs which are there – artistic programs – sing songs or dramas or pictures – boycott!
Interviewer (interrupting): Apply pressure from all sides
Ex ACM Tipnis: We should broadcast this to the entire world and should declare that they are a terrorist state. So you have to make them a pariah and outcast. But, I feel that, while doing this we should show affection towards the ordinary people of Pakistan. We should keep telling them that “We have the same DNA. Do you feel that this is only because of religion? We have got more muslims than your country. Why do all this. Ok if you want to stay separate then fine. But why this fights?” We have to make it reach the ordinary Pakistanis that we have no problems with them. We are ok playing cricket with them, watching their shows, that they are welcome to watch our movies, sing with us whether it is classical, semi-classical or modern popular music but we are ready to sacrifice it all for our country. And they need to understand that their government is the problem. Now by government who do I mean? Please understand that all nations have an army, with Pakistan it is the Army which has Pakistan. People in Pakistan are also intelligent just like our people. They are not fools. There are as clever people in Pakistan as we have got. A lot of them realize that it is the army which is actually running the country. They privately keep saying that lets not do this. But what can they do? They are captives of their own army. So we have to do this. They have to be told…
Interviewer (interrupting): Let me ask you another question
Ex ACM Tipnis (interrupting): Let me tell you one thing, we should do covert action also. They are opposing us saying Kashmir is theirs. We have to start saying that POK is ours. We will take back POK. We do not have discussions on it. We don’t talk about it. It’s like we have forgotten it totally. Someone said a few days back that POK should be called IOK. That idiot doesn’t even know what is POK and what is IOK. POK is Pakistan occupied Kashmir. If we take back POK then it doesn’t become IOK, it becomes just Kashmir. Period. And it is part of us. This is what should be taught in our schools and colleges. We are not being correctly taught our own history.
Interviewer (interrupting): I would like to ask you one last question. Sometime back you said that Pakistan and China are in discussion about future options. Are we ready and equipped in all ways to handle whatever situation comes in the future?
Ex ACM Tipnis: Ah. Now look here . What are the main discussions points in our country today politically. They are “Why are you buying Rafales?” “What is the cost of Rafales?” Now let me tell you kids that we are getting them at much better rates and at a much quicker pace than earlier thought of. The discussion now should not be on whether we should buy them or not. The discussion should be on why only 36 of them. There are less aircraft in the air forces now. We need 300 aircraft. So buy more. What is the requirement stated by the Air force. They have asked for 120 odd. So just go and buy them. Not 120 buy 250! Do you know why? Suppose tomorrow we have Rafales, do you know the weapons it can carry.. and it’s radar. It’s radar is multipurpose. What we call as terrain avoidance radar. With that you can anytime, night / day, all weather, the pilot can simply sit with folded hands with the plane on auto pilot mode and he will go simply and easily behind, say this hill you have here in pune, and just before the hillocks simply go (gesturing with hands) up and then down. Normal pilots are scared to do this nor do they have that quick reflexes which the planes computer does. Then they have radars weapons differences. And it’s not only the Airforce, you have the army, the navy to consider. It should not be that we say let the war start and then we will see.