At 8:50 am PKT (9:20 am IST), just as Khan was finishing his speech, very loud explosions were heard at Bahawalpur and Muridke. The smoke billowing out of the explosion sites could be seen for over eight kilometres. No one in Pakistan had seen anything quite like this before.
The destruction of the two terror headquarters was absolute and devastating. Satellite imagery showed more than one large crater at each of the two locations. All mobile towers and phones within a 550-600 metres radius from the epicentres of the explosions were no longer reachable. Not even a single goat or a rat had survived around the sites.
At 11:45 am PKT, thirteen of the fifteen officers who had strategized in the war room of GHQ Rawalpindi between 7th and 10th August, met again at the same location. They were in complete shock. Their early estimates suggested that more than 5,000 people had died at Bahawalpur and more than 3,000 had died at Muridke.
There were several unanswered questions. How did the attack happen two weeks before the expected dates? How was all the intelligence – collected from various different sources – so wrong? Had the Indians advanced their plans?
Where was the Indian attack force? How did they attack the two sites? There were no Indian tanks, no APCs. No Indian aircraft had crossed into Pakistani airspace. Did they fire surface-to-surface missiles from within India? Which missiles were these? And where were they fired from?
Enhanced satellite and radar imagery showed that missiles had, in fact, been used, and that these had been fired from the air – and not from the ground.
At 4:30 pm IST, the same strategic time as 4th August, there was a televised press conference in India. This time, only the army and air force chiefs were on the dais.
They announced that the Indian Air Force had used four newly acquired French-made fifth-generation RAFALE warplanes (two for each location) to destroy two terror headquarters inside Pakistan: that of Jaish-e-Mohammed at Bahawalpur, and that of Lashkar-e-Taiba at Muridke, without crossing over into Pakistan’s airspace.
The first two batches of eight Rafale jets, made by Dassault of France, had joined IAF’s ‘Golden Arrows’ 17 Squadron, based at the Ambala Air Force Station (AFS) in India’s Punjab state.
Air-to-Ground SCALP EG cruise missiles, with a range of 560-kilometres, had been used. They operate at a speed of 1000-kilometres-per-hour. Though the Indian officers did not disclose from where the Rafales had fired the missiles, the Pakistanis guessed that, for Bahawalpur, the airspace over Khajuwala could have been used, as the 110-kilometre distance would have been covered in under seven minutes; and for Muridke, the airspace over Amritsar could have been used, covering the 65-kilometre distance in under four minutes.
To identify and precisely lock the targets with ‘automatic terrain following and avoidance’ as well as ‘enroute update of target area situation’, the four Rafales used the Thales RBE2-AA active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, along with the Thales AEROS reconnaissance pod and the Damocles electro-optical laser designation pod.
This is an extract from my bestseller fiction novel SPIES, LIES & RED TAPE. Yes, I predicted back in August 2019 that India will get its first batch of RAFALEs by July 2020, and this is coming true.
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