Su-30 MKI in Ladakh
PC : India Today

Pakistan is marking on Saturday the second anniversary of its air force’s operation ‘Swift Retort’, the retaliatory action against India’s strike on Balakot on February 26, 2019.

In Operation Swift Retort, a group of Pakistan Air Force fighters launched bombs on an Indian Army base in Jammu and Kashmir, while an Indian Air Force MiG-21 was shot down in an aerial skirmish. India claims a Pakistani F-16 was downed by the MiG-21 before it was shot down.

Immediately after the incident, Pakistan vehemently denied the use of the F-16 in the operation; the F-16s are subject to stringent US monitoring. The Pakistan Air Force and government have repeatedly claimed Operation Swift Retort was meant to be a measured response to the attack on Balakot and hence it caused negligible damage.

On #27Feb2019 0950-1015h 2 x Su30MKI of No15 Sqn @IAF_MCC C/S #Avenger duelled with 8 x F16MLU of CCS/No9 Sqn PAF during #OpSwiftRetort . Evidence shows that PAF launched 4+ AMRAAMs against the Sukhois during this engagement. What is less known is how the MKIs counterattacked 1/n— Sameer Joshi (@joe_sameer) February 27, 2021

On Saturday, Sameer Joshi, a retired Indian Air Force Mirage 2000 pilot and veteran of the Kargil conflict, analysed Operation Swift Retort in a series of tweets. Joshi has earned a reputation as an expert on satellite imagery analysis. He has discussed the Balakot attack and Operation Swift Retort frequently, including analysis of evidence to prove a Pakistani F-16 was indeed shot down on February 27, 2019.

On Saturday, Joshi tweeted that on February 27, 2019, two Su-30MKI fighters of the Indian Air Force faced off against eight F-16 fighters of the Pakistan Air Force as they approached Jammu and Kashmir. Until the induction of the Rafale last year, the Russian-origin Sukhoi-30MKI was the most advanced fighter in the Indian Air Force. Pakistan claims it shot down an Su-30MKI during the skirmish, but has presented little evidence on the claim.

“Evidence shows that PAF launched 4+ AMRAAMs against the Sukhois during this engagement. What is less known is how the MKIs counterattacked,” Joshi tweeted.

Joshi said one group of four F-16s fired a total of three Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs) against the Su-30MKI fighters and all missed. After the attack, the Indian Air Force presented wreckage of the AMRAAM to show Islamabad had indeed deployed the F-16 as the US-made jet is the only aircraft in Pakistan’s arsenal equipped to fire the weapon.

Joshi wrote the two Su-30MKI jets pushed back. Using maps to plot the location of the aircraft, the Sukhoi fighters “counterattacked ignoring the high density BVR (beyond-visual range) threat from the F-16s…” Joshi said one of the Sukhoi jets managed to evade a fourth AMRAAM.

Joshi wrote that as a consequence of the response by the Indian Air Force Su-30MKIs, “At least 10 outta (out of) 12 payloads (ground-attack weapons) launched by the PAF fell well outta range of their intended targets. It is exactly for this reason that PAF nvr showed more films of their attks (attacks).”

Joshi opined, “It is highly possible that these payloads were dropped out of their desired envelope. Did these hurried drops by PAF were due to the dash of the Avenger formation towards the LoC?”

“… Inspite of precise timing and numerical superiority of #SwiftRetort, not everything went PAF’s way as fighter pilots fm both sides tested their mettle in the sky that day,” Joshi argued.

In another tweet, Joshi wrote, “The PAF jets clinically kept themselves safe fm the IAF AAMs and their known engagement envelopes. The dash of the Sukhois was something which may have taken the PAF by surprise.”

Interestingly, Kaiser Tufail, a retired Pakistan Air Force officer and aviation historian, wrote about the Pakistan Air Force’s attack formation during Swift Retort. Tufail claimed Pakistan used vintage French built Mirage-V jets (different from the Indian Air Force’s Mirage 2000s) and the Sino-Pakistani JF-17s. Tufail wrote the Mirage-Vs were equipped with the ‘H-4’ glide-bomb, a weapon purportedly developed with South African assistance. The JF-17s carried bombs equipped with a range-extension kit.

“Two vintage—but still quite capable—Mirage 5PA, each armed with one H-4 stand-off bomb, along with two JF-17, each armed with two Mk-83 Range Extension Kit (REK) bombs, headed towards their respective targets in southern-western –Indian-Held Kashmir (IHK)…,” Tufail wrote in his blog on Friday.