On 26 February 2019, India announced that it had conducted a precision airstrike against what it called a Jaish-e-Mohammed camp in Balakot, a district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan.
Besides involving 12 Dassault Mirage 2000H multi-role fighters of the Indian Air Force (IAF), the airstrike’s marquee aspect was the IAF’s use of a stand-off range weapon (SOW), the Rafael SPICE (i.e. Smart, Precise, Impact, Cost-Effective). The IAF attack unit deployed its payload from within India.
The SPICE is a precision-guided bomb (PGB) kit meant for extending the range and improving the accuracy of general purpose bombs (GPB), such as the Mk-80-series. It combines a satellite-aided inertial navigation system (GPS/INS) with an electro-optical (EO) seeker. The SPICE reportedly has a range of 100 km.
India claimed that it had killed 300 militants in its airstrike, but Pakistan disputes the casualty claim as well as India’s claim that the attack hit its intended targets. In fact, Reuters interviewed nearby locals, and one said: “No one died. Only some pine trees died, they were cut down. A crow also died.”
Reuters also asked the Middlebury Institute of International Studies’ East Asia Non-Proliferation Project director, Jeffrey Lewis, who said: “The high-resolution images don’t show any evidence of bomb damage.”
The IAF has reportedly given its own satellite images of the area to prove that it had struck its targets, but to the Indian government. In other words, this information is not yet openly verifiable.
Without doubt, this specific encounter triggered an air battle between the IAF and the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), which had resulted in the confirmed loss of one IAF MiG-21bis. Both the IAF and PAF are claiming additional kills for their respective forces, see Quwa’s earlier article for more details.
However, it will be worth seeing how the encounter alters skirmishes of these two countries.
A New Challenge to Managing Tensions
Starting with the point of India using a SOW and Pakistan seemingly using a BVRAAM, the nature of these weapons is such that, in theory, neither side needs to cross the Line-of-Control (LoC) to fire at the other…
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