We hit target, can’t answer on casualties: IAF chief

Indian Air Force (IAF) chief B S Dhanoa on Monday reiterated that his force “hit our target” in the Balakot air strikes deep inside Pakistan last week but refused to give the number of casualties saying it is for the Government to count them.

“That statement will be made by the government. Air Force is not a position to clarify how many people were inside (the camp).  We don’t count human casualties, we count what targets we have hit or not hit. The bomb damage assessment that is done post a mission calculates the targets that you have been able to hit or not able to hit. We can't count how many people have died. That depends on how many people were there," Dhanoa told a press conference at the Sulur Air Base near Coimbatore, 500 km from here, in response to a question on how many terrorists were killed in the operation. 

Addressing a press conference at Coimbatore, Dhanoa also the MIG-21 Bison aircraft which was involved in the “dogfight” last Wednesday was “upgraded” and has better a radar, air-to-air missiles, and better weapons system.

The Air Chief Marshal also said medical reports will decide whether Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was in Pakistani captivity for two days, will be eligible to fly again.

His comments assume significance in the wake of BJP chief Amit Shah maintaining that 250 terrorists were dead in the operation conducted by IAF. Also, several foreign media have been casting doubts on whether the strikes achieved its motive by striking the target.

On the capability of the MiG-21 aircraft, Dhanoa said when an adversary carries out a strike on the country, the force uses every available aircraft irrespective of its make. “All aircraft are capable of fighting the enemy…The MiG-21 Bison is a capable aircraft, it has been upgraded and it has better radar, air-to-air missiles and better weapon system,” the Air Chief Marshal said.

Dhanoa’s comments also blunt Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s criticism that the country would have had better results if Rafale jets were with the IAF.

“The country is feeling the absence of Rafale. The entire country is saying in one voice today, what all could have happened if we had Rafale. The country has suffered a lot due to selfish interests earlier and now politics over Rafale," Modi had said in his address at the India Today conclave on Saturday.

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We hit target, can’t answer on casualties: IAF chief

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