On the occasion of the 18th ‘Kargil Vijay Diwas’ celebrations, NewsX in an exclusive conversation with Indian Air Force (IAF) Chief BS Dhanoa discussed the role of Indian Air Force during the Kargil War and how the Air Force helped in destroying the enemy and other issues. 

BS Dhanoa was a Wing Commander during the Kargil war. He was leading a squadron of fighter jets against the intruders from Pakistan.

Here are the excerpts of IAF Chief BS Dhanoa’s interview to NewsX:

NewsX: As the Indian Air Force chief, what is your message on the 18th Kargil Vijay Diwas celebration to all the air warriors, to all the men in uniform and to all the fellow citizens on this special occasion?

BS Dhanoa: My main message to all the air warriors has been that Kargil was a surprise and from surprise we went to victory … So our aim is that we must not get surprised, we must be prepared for any operation at a very short notice with whatever you have got. So if something is not available as per plans, you’ve got to have plan B, as to how will I do it now and I think that is the main message … Nobody expected Kargil … so you have to be prepared for the operations at a very short notice.

NewsX: You are now the Indian Air Force chief but back then during the Kargil war, you were the Wing Commander, can you please share your memories of the Kargil war. What was it like serving the Air Force and participating in a war?

BS Dhanoa: Basically when you are commanding a unit, it is a dream come true. Throughout the tenure, you are preparing for it, your are being inspected for your work preparedness and if time comes for you to deliver, it is something that all of us look forward to that we get employed in the battle.

Before the training culminated, we put our best foot forward. We had to change our bombing tactics, we had started bombing at night, which MiG-21 had not done for quite some time. We were doing night bombings in the mountains that has never been done by a class of a MiG-21 aircraft. So we could come out with these innovations at a very short notice and that was the highest point of the air force operation in the Kargil.

NewsX: Indian Army launched operation Vijay, but Indian Air Force launched ‘Operation Safed Sagar’. What was the role of the Indian Air Force?

BS Dhanoa: Indian Air Force was initially called in even before the Air operation started. We started doing recce, we did few recces … the MiG-21 that I was commanding was in the recce zone … basically to see the limit of the intrusion that had taken place and thereafter once the actual action started, then we went into bombing zone.

In this operation, air power alone cannot win wars, this was a joint operation and in joint operation what you do is you start bombing them day and night. We started GPS bombing because their defenses were static and they were not mobile. We could do GPS bombing on them which affected their morale, their ability to resist. In the mountains, the enemy has to run away, you can’t bomb them out of every strong point that they have got but if you affect their morale and they feel that they have lost, the will to resist and fight that I think was the greatest achievement of air power. We inducted for the first time in the history of the Indian Air Force the use of lazer-guided bombs in the Mirage 2000.

Highlights of Indian Air Force Chief BS Dhanoa’s interview to NewsX 

  • Kargil victory is a result of joint operation
  • Commanding a unit during Kargil was a dream come true
  • Kargil is a story of courage and valour
  • Kargil brought to light the valour of young soldiers
  • IAF initially carried out recce to gauge extent of intrusion
  • Night bombings by IAF were extremely risky but were successful
  • IAF took it as a challenge; were dependent on moonlight on snow-clad peaks
  • Valour of army is well-documented

(For the full interview please watch the video)