Meeting the top Indian Air Force (IAF) officers for the first time since the Balakot air strikes, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman praised the IAF for the “flawless execution” of the operation.
She acknowledged the need to fill the critical requirements of the IAF as the recent air battle with Pakistan was a reminder of Indian fighter pilots taking on the Pakistani F-16s with MiG 21 Bison.
It was in one of these dogfights Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman brought down a Pakistani F-16 before his aircraft was also hit and he ejected on the Pakistani side of Line of Control (LoC) and taken in custody by Pakistan Army.
Nirmala Sitharaman was addressing the Air Force commanders in the bi-annual conference in the New Delhi on Thursday (April 11).
“Nirmala Sitharaman praised the IAF for its flawless execution of the Balakot strikes and subsequent thwarting of the Pakistani response.
“Nirmala Sitharaman said that the IAF has proved its mettle in Exercise Gagan Shakti, 2018 and Vayu Shakti, 2019 and the same reflected in the successfully conducted Balakot strikes and air action on February 27,” a Ministry of Defence (MoD) statement said.
She appreciated the training imparted to all personnel in the IAF as reflected in the actions and conduct of Wing Commander Abhinandan.
The two-day conference will also dwell upon the air strike on Balakot and the Pakistani air raid on February 27 the following day.
Discussions will also take place on enhancing operational capability in the short and long-term.
The successful Balakot strikes and air action on February 27 will also be discussed along with the latest technologies in the aviation field to make the IAF a more high-tech force.
While she stressed on a proactive role of the IAF in the Indian Ocean Region, she also asked the IAF to look into the future with the latest technologies available across the world, and those that can be developed within India in order to meet its needs.
“She added that the IAF will play a vital role in enhancing the defence manufacturing capabilities of the nation through its acquisitions in the form of Strategic Partnership Model. She added that she is aware of the critical requirements projected by the IAF and assured that as a nation we need to build those capabilities,” MoD said.
The IAF chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dharnia, while addressing the commanders, emphasised on further enhancement of the IAF’s capability in the field of space, cyber, information, artificial intelligence and drone technology.