“In the early hours of June 13, 1999, at the height of the Kargil War, Indian Air Force fighter pilots were minutes away from launching a full-fledged air attack deep inside Pakistan. Targets had been assigned, route maps finalised; personal revolvers to be carried by pilots had been loaded with ammunition and Pakistani currency collected, for use if pilots had to eject on the other side of the Line of Control and orchestrate an escape,” the NDTV reported.
This attack was planned in response to the failed dialogue between the then Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Sartaj Aziz.
“On a mission to negotiate the end of the war to Delhi, Mr Aziz had been given clear terms – withdraw Pakistani intruders from the Kargil mountains, abandon the demand for redrawing the Line of Control or de factor border in Kashmir, urgently restore the status quo by accepting the Line of Control as it had been defined for decades, and punish those who tortured six Indian soldiers, including Captain Saurabh Kalia, whose mutilated body had been returned with the bodies of the jawans he was leading in an operation in North Kashmir when they were captured by Pakistani soldiers,” the report states.
After the failed dialogue, all pilots were called and were given Command Air Tasking Orders for a pre-emptive strike at dawn on 13 June, as recorded in the Squadron diary of the Air Force’s 17 Squadron, the “Golden Arrows”.
The diary further elaborated that the air force was supposed to carry out a four-aircraft bombing mission in Azad Kashmir and Bomb Damage Assessment of Chakala (a major Pakistani Air Force airbase in Rawalpindi), reports NDTV.
The pilots were then asked to prepare for the mission, calculate routes, load bullets into revolvers and collect Pakistani currency. But on the morning of 13 June, even as the pilots reported to the squadron, execution orders had not yet been received, and after a few hours, the mission was abandoned.
The “Golden Arrows” were not the only squadron on the verge of flying into Pakistan in June 1999. A former MiG pilot, deployed in the region, in an interview to NDTV, confirmed receiving orders to fly across the Line Of Control.
Four MiG-21s were to be a part of an attack mission,along with four MiG-29s air superiority fighters, which were to act as cover for an Indian “strike package” that had been ordered to carry out attacks at the Chaklala airbase.
16 fighter jets in all were to be deployed across the border in this massive attack,o ne of the first in a wave of missions. This mission too however was called off at about 12 am. The pilots at the squadron, received `No Go’ orders at 3 am.
The mission in retrospect was seen as fraught with danger, as not only could Pakistan’s premier F-16 fighters, intercept any Indian strike mission, but Pakistan, armed with surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), with a range of 10 kilometres, could destroy incoming Indian aircraft within seconds. Though the reasons for India’s eventual decision abandon the mission remain a closely guarded secret.
This article was originally posted by NDTV.