NEW DELHI: India had registered a diplomatic protest over the sale of Swedish early warning aircraft to Pakistan and had objected strongly to the transfer of South African long range bombs, both of which were used to target military installations in India after the Balakot terror camp strike last month.
Besides F 16 fighter jets – subsidised by the US for the war on terror – Pakistan used these two critical systems to target an Indian brigade headquarter and other installations in Nowshera on February 27, government sources said, adding that it is time to consider how to deal with defence manufacturers supplying such equipment to the neighbouring country. Sources said that India had registered a diplomatic protest with Sweden after the Pakistani air force revealed that it had ordered three new Saab 2000 early warning aircraft in 2017. These aircraft, which supplemented an earlier order of four by Pakistan, were extensively used in the February 27 aerial battle to direct and control 25 fighter jets towards Indian targets.
Incidentally, three of the Saab 2000 `Erieye’ early warning aircraft were badly damaged in a terror attack on the Minhas air base in 2012, with one of them being destroyed beyond any scope of repair. The 2017 order was placed to replace the destroyed aircraft and to bring up the total number of Pakistani Swedish origin air warning systems to six.
The active participation of these aircraft in the air skirmish gave Pakistan an extensive view of the battlefield and Indian air deployment that enabled it to direct fighters to the target zone. While India operates the IL76 `Phalcon’ AWACS as well as the Embraer `Netra’ early warning aircraft, they are outnumbered by the Pakistani air force.
The other equipment used by Pakistan on February 27 were the South African origin H 4 Stand off Weapons (SOWs) – glide bombs with a range of over 100 km that were fired at Indian military installations. Sources said that in 2003, India had registered a strong protest to South Africa against the transfer of these weapons by weapons manufacturer Denel. Though not as accurate as the SPICE 2000 munitions used by India to target the terror training camp at Balakot, the H 4 SOWs have a longer range and are now believed to be produced in Pakistan.
While India had already brought up the issue of misuse of F 16 fighter jets with the US, officials said that it is time to rethink how to deal with companies who are supplying military equipment to Pakistan and want to do business with the Indian military as well. “It is time for India to use its economic strength to deter such things happening in the future,” government sources said. Swedish company Saab for example is contesting for a multi-billion dollar deal to supply 110 new fighter jets to India and was a competitor in a major deal for short range anti-aircraft missiles to the armed forces. Denel had gone to great lengths to get off an Indian corruption blacklist last year by waiving off almost $ 100 million that it would have been entitled to following arbitration proceedings. Formal orders to take Denel off the blacklist were issued in September after a request was made from the top leadership to move forward from the corruption taint and enable it to participate in upcoming Make in India military programmes.