NEW DELHI: The Indian Air Force today shot down a Pakistani Navy spy plane as it intruded 10 km into Indian airspace over Gujarat, with Islamabad saying all the 16 personnel on board were killed in the action, following which Indias armed forces were put on high alert.
The four-engine French-built Atlantique Aircraft, used for anti-submarine warfare and reconnaissance was brought down at 1115 hours by an air-to-air missile fired by an IAF MiG-21 fighter jet over Kori creek in Kutch.
India said the wreckage had fallen two kms inside its territory while in Karachi,Pakistani Navy claimed that it had been located within their area near Badin, around 300 km north-east of Karachi and all 16 on board had been killed.
Defence Minister George Fernandes said armed forces have been put on state of alert in the entire western sector following the downing of the Pakistani aircraft.
According to Defence Ministry, the intruding Pakistani aircraft was detected by IAF ground radars at 1057 hours and was immediately intercepted by two MiG-21 fighters, which took off from Naliya air base, 10 kms south of the Indo-Pak border.
When the IAF jets closed in to identify and signalled the Pakistani aircraft to land at an Indian base, the intruding jet, instead of maintaining course, took a turn towards the MiG-21s, challenging them in a hostile manner.
The moment this happened the IAF fighter fired an air-to-air missile hitting one of the engines of the intruding Pakistani plane, Fernandes told reporters here giving details of the incident.
Fernandes said three Pakistani helicopters had attempted to approach the area carrying what Islamabad described as international observers but turned back after the IAF warned them their action would be treated as a hostile act and they would be shot down.
He said he had no idea of the number of personnel on board the Pakistani aircraft since the wreckage was yet to be retrieved from the marshy area.
Fernandes said efforts were on to find out the motive behind the Pakistani intrusion but obviously, it had not come in with good intentions.
After the incident, Director General of Military Operation Lt Gen N C Vij informed his Pakistani counterpart Lt Gen Tauquir Ziaabout the incident and was told that Pakistan was aware that its aircraft had been shot down.
In Islamabad, Pakistan Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz claimed that the Pakistani plane was shot down by India inside Pakistani territory and the wreckage is lying two kms inside their area.
Describing the shooting down as a cowardly act, he told reporters Pakistan reserves the right to make an appropriate response in self defence.
Indian High Commissioner G Parthasarthy was summoned to the foreign office and strong protest was lodged with him over the unprovoked shooting down of unarmed aircraft on a routine training flight.
It was, he said a flagrant violation of international norms as well as bilateral agreement which would vitiate the atmosphere.
Meanwhile, the Pakistani VBrehueguet Atlantique Aircraft, which was shot down by an IAF combat jet over Gujarat, is a French-made high-performance surveillance plane and can carry deadly anti-submarine Exocet missiles.
Atlantique, four of which were purchased by Pakistan, can fly at a speed of 658 kms per hour and at a maximum height of 33,000 feet.
It has an operational range of 9,000 kms which is enough to give long-range maritime reconnaissance and airborne and warning cover to the Pakistan Air Force in the Arabian sea, an Air Force official said.
Pakistan had initially bought one such long-range plane and upgraded it in 1992-93 and later acquired three more in 1994 along with spares.
Besides two AS 12 or AM 39 Exocet missiles, the plane has got special sensors, Thompson-CSF Ocean Master radars, Sonobuoys,signal processors and other surveillance equipment.
The aircraft, which can be used in active combat and anti-submarine operations during wartime, can carry weapons like nine MK-46 torpedoes, MK-11 depth bombs, anti-ship missiles and mines. (PTI)
Return to the 1999 Index
This Archives is Maintained by Md. Sadiq, 1998