So, the key takeaways from the Balakot/Feb27th campaign.
- IAF officers led from the front, command crews. This is a big deal even for the western AF who are more and more used to their senior guys flying desks.
- The pilots strike training was excellent, they flew exactly as they were meant to, with zero deviations, with munitions they had only simulated and delivered them exactly as they were meant to. Compare & contrast to Paki use of H4 Raptors and AMRAAMs.
- On Feb 27th, A2A pilots showed equal elan, avoiding multiple AMRAAM launches without panic & continuing to stay in the fight against much higher odds. The PAF in contrast *refused* to take on the IAF strike package headed to Balakot.
- IAF fighter pilots are aggressive, have zero qualms in going for the kill and are the decider. A MiG-21 pilot taking on, let alone shooting down a F-16 would be unheard of, yet WingCo Abhinandan did exactly that. This pysche reflects the IAF pilots skills, self confidence and morale.
- Netra used in wartime mission to lead the opening strike, an incredible vote of confidence for a local made system.
- Quality of intel was excellent, allowing the IAF to make a strike in 3 hrs if similar quality is available in the future
- IAF Spice integration & Crystal Maze worked out at wartime. Only 1 fighter had INS drift, a 35 yr old legacy aircraft means a non upgraded Mirage. Again, a non issue more or less, because the Mirages are being upgraded and the FOC config retains the Crystal Maze and SPICE integration
IAF: Things to improve
-The key thing here is to have HAL and Dassault speed up the Mirage 2000 upgrade, the slow rate of upgrade is literally unacceptable. The MiG-29 Upg is much further along.
-IAF AWACS numbers are an issue. This will particularly be a challenge if IAF takes the fight deep into Pakistan.
- IAF needs more aircraft on QRA, the delay in building hangers etc due to the budget limitations needs to be fixed.
-IAF wants tech asymmetry for A2A and cites AMRAAMs as an issue. Also notes S-400 and Rafales will help. Eitherways, this is a good time to push the GOI to move forward on the Su-30 upgrade, whichever Govt comes in and add new generation missiles to it, and also push the Astra NG project.
-Other low hanging fruit are the Tejas Mk1A orders, SDRs, and EW (accelerate the new RWR and lightweight SPJs for the Su-30s to enable more coverage for strike missions).
- SDR issue is the simplest example of pointless delay.
- BDA being done by Crystal Maze is an amazing example of how rapidly the IAF has moved up the tech. ladder, but at the same time depending on a friendly country for BDA images is not acceptable. Clearly we didn't have enough sats available for round the clock coverage and repositioning one would have meant a loss of sat available life (fuel etc). We need more investments here.
- Additional EW aids like Comjam & ELINT aircraft (IAF business jet plan) needs to be refocused to include jamming of A2A radars as well. This can have disproportionate dividends in a conflict.
- Indian Army AD needs to drastically improve. Its a real issue that the PAF PGMs were able to come close to important formation HQs without being intercepted, the Akash order/deliveries for IA, MRSAM orders need to be accelerate.
- PGMs are the future. Irrespective of how good the Litening & dumb bomb accuracy is, if you use airpower and wish to avoid the propaganda of airframe losses, you need to have a heavy inventory of PGMs. Stuff for the IAF to think about, as it has tended to prioritize airframe numbers & run after *all procurements* like the C-295 instead of focusing first & foremost on the combat heavy elements.
What've learnt about the PAF
- Psyche, the PAF was forced to respond with a haphazard plan on Feb 27th, they have to be seen to respond to the IAF asap. Internal political pressures plus public perception.
- Were able to coordinate a large force strike reasonably well, but let down badly due to risk avoidance of fighter crew, poor BVR tactics and equipment limitations.
- F-16 remains their one stop shop for A2A and strike. The only aircraft thanks to AMRAAM able to face off against IAF jets. Also, explains why despite larger numbers, were not used effectively to close to the IAF planes in merge, because the PAF is simply unwilling to lose these aircraft.
- PAF F-16s were unable to deter the IAF Su-30s despite having larger numbers in play, firing first. This shows the quality of the IAF crew but also the wartime fit of the F-16s could not block the Su-30 WCS. Somewhere, the Russians and all the IAF/DRDO guys who worked on the Su-30 were vindicated. Note, the IAF specifications for the Su-30 WCS were demanding enough that it took till 2012 for the final version to see service.
- PAF's elite picked for a strike, were unable to take down the IAF's squadron standard aircrew despite overwhelming numbers. This is a resounding vote of confidence for the investment in IAF training methodology.
- The much vaunted JF-17s were a complete joke due to their inability to take on even 2 Mirage 2000s despite outnumbering them 4:1 and even more. The PAF didn't even bother deploying the JF-17 against the Su-30.
-JF-17 radars were not up to the task. Refusal of PAF to deploy PRC ZDK-03 over land & order of more Erieyes confirms this issue.
- PAF's haphazard modernization of different fighter classes with different munition types didn't pay off. The F-16 LGBs and Mirage 3/5 Raptors were both man-in-loop systems and hence couldn't be guided in as PAF fighters broke off attacks too quickly
- PAF's BVR & otherwise training has lacunae and is built around risk avoidance. Launching multiple BVR from RMax and expecting success
-They simply wouldn't close in to score kills despite outnumbering the IAF significantly. The IAF took on multiple PAF bogies despite being outnumbered. The PAF on Feb 26th, refused to.
- Implies PAF will now revert to GPS guided bombs from F-16 and JF-17 in the future. We need to invest in GPS jammers. This *is* going to be the PAF response henceforth.
-PAFs investment in Erieyes and own C3I enables it to do more with less. We need to take anti access systems against AEW&C into account, beyond the Meteor. Having Meteor on Rafales, Mirages and RVV-BD on Su-30s (apart from S-400) can be a real dampener for the PAF.
-PAF will seek more and more with China, irrespective of the JF-17 and ZDK-03 flop show. They have no other options, lacking domestic capability. Also expect orders to Turkey, Europe for EW aids and as 2nd line of supply. We need to take this into account.