There’s been a lot of noise about what happened in Balakot on 26th Feb 2019 and on LoC on 27th Feb. There were lots of claims from both sides but nothing definite. Indian officials were tight lipped and issued only terse statements , while Pakistanis released one statement after another. Media reports from both sides were as usual quite trashy and more noise than substance. In all this noise, there were some recordings, witness statements and less publicised events which provide some hints about what actually happened. There is some new information  coming out almost every day and it’s a difficult task to do detailed fact checks and connect all the dots. Following is an attempt to find some answers based upon some of the facts which are seemingly true.  This part covers just the Balakot strikes on 26th Feb. If I have some time, I’ll write something about events of next day.

26th Feb. 2:55 am  : A Indian Air Force strike team consisting solely of  Mirage 2000 fighter jets attacked a JeM terrorist training camp in Balakot in Khyber Phaktunwa province across international border. There were reports of 2 other targets, Chakoti and Muzaffarabad in Pakistan being hit, but no confirmations from either side. But both sides are in agreement that Balakot was bombed.  

India announced the attacks later in the day via an official statement made by Vijay Gokhale, Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs

Pakistani Claims:

Pakistanis on the other hand made a number of mutually contradictory claims.

  1. “Pakistani National Security Committee strongly rejected Indian claim of targeting an alleged terrorist camp near Balakot and the claim of heavy casualties. Once again Indian government has resorted to a self-serving, reckless and fictitious claim,” 1* 2*
  2. Pakistan foreign minister Qureshi said “multi-dimensional intrusion” had been attempted by the Indian fighter jets early on Tuesday. “But the intervention by Pakistani jets forced them to return back within minutes,” he said. The minister dismissed the notion that Pakistan Air Force jets were late in responding to the Indian attack, saying the planes were “ready” and “air-borne”. 2*
  3. Director-general of Pakistan’s Inter Services Public Relations, Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, said India had “attempted” to send its combat air patrols (CAPs) “first from the Lahore-Sialkot sector” and they were “challenged” by Pakistani CAP. “They tried to enter from Bahawalpur-Okara and were forced to go back,” he said. According to Ghafoor, “the third (Indian) CAP which was bigger in number made it from Muzaffarabad and they were challenged and were forced to return”. 2*
  4. Pakistani Army confirmed attack on Twitter with pictures of craters outside the terrorist training facility. They claimed that bombs missed target and damaged only one civilian who suffered a gash on his forehead and a few trees.  “Payload of hastily escaping Indian aircrafts fell in open. pic.twitter.com/8drYtNGMsm”

  5. This video shows house of a local “civilian” close to the terrorist camp. It is a bit odd as it shows a small crater about 25-30 meters downhill and narrator claims that the whole house has been severely damaged.

Actual Proofs:

Following are some videos and pictures which tell a different story.

  1. This video was uploaded on 8th March by a Pakistani media outlet. It shows a senior Pakistani army officer in a village meeting consoling family members of some (200) dead people. Some roughly translated lines below:

Whoever fights alongside rulers of land in name of jihad is fighting for jihad.

Yesterday 200 people died. It was written in their fate, not ours.

Your father is not dead, he is alive. We don’t call him dead,

So this Pakistani army man is definitely admitting that 200 or more “good jihadis” got killed in one go.

2. Indian government and armed forces have release very little information till now. Maybe it’ll change later as it did with Uri strikes. But as of now, one major statement made is that Indian intelligence had detected around 300 mobile phone signals in the terrorist camp. 4*

3. Following interview with some locals deflate official Pakistani claims

a. Access to whole area has been completely blocked off for outsiders as well as locals.

b. Pakistani authorities are prohibiting any information leaks. For this, they’ve blocked internet, enforced no go zones and are actively warning people against talking to anyone.

What Happened :

Following are my guesses based upon available information:

  1. IAF Mirage 2000s did attack atleast one target at Balakot. Other two possible targets were Chakoti and Muzaffarabad. Both are near to LoC in J&K
  2. Earlier reports said that terrorist camp was hit using “1000 kg bombs”. Later it was revealed to be Spice, which is actually a guidance kit for 2000, 1000 and 500 pound bombs in Indian inventory. I believe that it was Spice 1000 used for 1000 lbs (450 kg) bombs which can have 200 kgs of high explosives. A single 1000 kg bomb will have around 450 kgs of explosives which will blow off most of hill top. Considering that avoiding collateral damage was one major mission objective, it’s unlikely that 1000 kg bombs were used.
  3. According to local witness accounts, 4-5 bombs were dropped. It should be pretty obvious that these smart bombs usually don’t miss. Even if we believe story of that single injured civilian whose house was damaged, there are still 3-4 other bombs which found their mark. Their impact points have not been made public by Pakistan and access blocked off.
  4. There have been atleast 200 causalities including some terrorists, their trainers as well as regular Pakistani army. Pakistan is doing everything in it’s power to hide it. We’ll have to wait for more information to be released by Indian government to have a reasonably accurate number and actual impact.

References:

  • 1. https://www.news18.com/news/world/pakistan-vows-to-respond-to-indian-air-strikes-at-time-and-place-of-its-choosing-2049355.html
  • 2. https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/damage-come-and-see-it-says-pakistan/cid/1685821
  • 3. https://www.indiatoday.in/world/story/jaish-e-mohammed-camp-balakot-pakistan-blocks-media-1473243-2019-03-08
  • 4. http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2019/mar/04/ntro-surveillance-of-balakot-jem-camp-before-strikes-confirmed-300-active-targets-1946650.html

Name: Mushaf Airbase. IATA Code: BHW

Type: Major Pakistan Air Force base and nuclear weapons storage site.

Location: Sargodha, Punjab, Pakistan.

Coordinates: 32°02′34″N  72°40′43″E

Comments: PAF base Mushaf in Sargodha, Punjab is one of more important military establishments for multiple reasons:

  1. It is Central air command of PAF. It also houses Combat Commanders School which has Skybolts flying Dassault Mirage 111/5 and Dashings currently flying Chengdu F.7P. These can be seen parked out in open often.
  2. Number 9 and 19 Squadrons with F-16A/B Block 15. Unlike Mirage and F7 mentioned above, F-16s spend most of their time in hardened shelters.
  3. Number 24 Squadron flying Electronic Warfare aircraft based on French Dassault Falcon 20 airframe.
  4. A large number of Pakistani nuclear warheads and missiles like M-11 are stored here.
PAF Mushaf, 176 km from IB
PAF Airbase Mushaf in Sargodha, Punjab province of Pakistan. , 176 km from IB
PAF Mushaf, old aircraft
old aircraft, probably for display
PAF Mushaf, old aircraft on display
Old aircraft on display
PAF Mushaf, PAF Mushaf, Some transport aircraft parked in open
Some transport and quite a few fighter planes are almost always visible here
Same place, Snapshot from 2008
Same place, Snapshot from 2008
Supposedly residential colony near aircraft shelters
Supposedly residential colony near aircraft shelters
Reinforced aircraft shelters
Reinforced aircraft shelters
Aircraft shelters 1
Aircraft shelters 1
Looks like reinforced storage area
Looks like reinforced storage area
Possible SAM sites
Possible SAM sites
Air defence site
Air defence site
Some hangars and possibly underground storage
Some hangars and possibly underground storage
Heavily fortified bunkers. Possible weapon storage
Heavily fortified bunkers. Possible weapon storage
PAF Mushaf, Sargodha, runways
PAF Mushaf, Sargodha, runways
Radar site
Radar site. Administrative buildings are on lower left side. Bigger complex is not visible in this picture.
Possible SAM site (2)
Possible SAM site
Pakistani PM posing with some pilots in front of a F-16 parked outside it’s hardened shelter.
Another view of the shelters.

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Name: Lora Lai. City: Lora Lai. Airport name: Lora Lai. IATA code: LRG

Type: Airstrip and a few helipads.

Location: Balochistan, Pakistan

Coordinates: 30°21′50″N  68°36′54″E

Comments: This seems to be a pretty nondescript patch of land with only a few interesting features. Runway length is 900 m, which makes it pretty unusable for most combat aircraft. There seems to be no civilian infrastructure or civil flights. This is more like a big village or a very small town.

Only interesting thing that I was able to find that Lora Lai is one of primary training centers for Frontier Corps which is mostly involved in operations in Balochistan.

Lora Lai distance from IB 316km
Lora Lai distance from IB 316km
Lora Lai Pakistan
Lora Lai Pakistan
Lora Lai military hospital
Lora Lai military hospital
Lora Lai helipads
Lora Lai helipads
Lora Lai FC training center
Lora Lai FC training center
Lora Lai airstrip 900m
Lora Lai airstrip 900m
Lora Lai cantt
Lora Lai cantt

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Name: Chandhar Airbase

Type: Pakistan Air Force operated airfield, no civilian use.

Location: Punjab, Pakistan.

Coordinates: 32° 4’38.20″N   73°47’23.65″E

Occupants: PAF

Airstrip Length: 2.4 km

Comments: There is very little information about Chandhar airbase available in open sources. It’s about 77 km away from international border and seems to be military installation for use only during war time as a way of dispersing aircraft. There are some aircraft shelters, basic underground storage bunkers but  limited support infrastructure. It’s surrounded by farms on all sides and shows very little signs of activity, construction and changes.

 

Chandhar airbase, Distance from border 77 km

Chandhar airbase, Distance from border 77 km

 

Aircraft shelter 1

Aircraft shelters 1

Aircraft shelters 2

Aircraft shelters 2

 

Aircraft shelters 3

Aircraft shelters 3

 

Hardened bunker

Hardened bunker

 

Possible underground bunker and air defence site

Possible underground bunker and air defence site

 

Unidentified (possible AD site)

Unidentified (possible AD site)

 

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Name: Shamsi Airfield (Bhandari Airstrip)

Type: Airstrip first leased to UAE for hunting wildlife, then to USA for military operations.

Location: Washuk District, Balochistan, Pakistan.

Coordinates:   27°50’51.00″N   65° 9’35.63″E

Occupants: It was used by USA as a base for Predator drones from 2001 till 2011. Leased by UAE from 1992-2001. Now presumably controlled by Pakistan FC.

Comments: Shamsi Airfield caught my interest in particular due to the fact that no new imagery is available since after 2014. Another point of interest is it’s use by USA from 2001 till 2011 as a base for armed Predator drones which were used in counter terrorism attacks in nearby areas. USA vacated this base after frictions arising due to American raids inside Pakistani territory leading to deaths of 24 Paki armymen. This base for previously under control of UAE which used it for falconry trips.

Shamsi Airfield, 440 km from IB

Shamsi Airfield, 440 km from IB

Shamsi Airfield, airstrip length 2.3 km

Shamsi Airfield, airstrip length 2.3 km

Shamsi Airfield, airstrip length 2.3 km

Transport airplane on ground

Transport airplane on ground

Structures on way to airstrip from the main road

Structures on way to airstrip from the main road

Look like shipping containers

Look like shipping containers

3 American Predator drones in 2004

3 American Predator drones in 2004

New hangars and buildings constructed after the previous image was taken Before 2004, there was only a single small hangar

New hangars and buildings constructed after the previous image was taken Before 2004, there was only a single small hangar

Unidentified structure on right was constructed after 2007

Unidentified structure on right was constructed after 2007

A Mi-17 helicopter and Paki personnel after USA's evacuation of the base.

A Mi-17 helicopter and Paki personnel after USA’s evacuation of the base.

Pakistani and American personnel near a drone

Pakistani and American personnel near a drone

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Name: Peshawar Airbase

Type: Military airbase with an adjacent civilian airport.

Location: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa., Pakistan.

Coordinates:  33°59’57.74″N   71°30’53.90″E

Occupants: No. 26 and 16 squadrons of PAF operating JF-17 fighters

Peshawar airbase. Distance from LoC 218 km

Peshawar airbase. Distance from LoC 218 km

 

Peshawar airbase. airstrip 2.65 km length

Peshawar airbase. airstrip 2.65 km length

 

Aircraft on ground 1

Aircraft on ground 1

 

Aircraft on ground 2. Possibly A-5 fighter Near hardened shelter

Aircraft on ground 2. Possibly A-5 fighter Near hardened shelter

 

Aircraft on ground 3. JF-17 on Taxiway

Aircraft on ground 3. JF-17 on Taxiway

 

Aircraft on ground 4. A-5 Near hardened shelters and helicopter (unidentified) base

Aircraft on ground 4. A-5 Near hardened shelters and helicopter (unidentified) base

Aircraft on ground 5. 3 JF-17 near shelters.

Aircraft on ground 5. 3 JF-17 near shelters.

 

Aircraft on ground 6. Possible decommissioned Shenyang F-6,

Aircraft on ground 6. Possible decommissioned Shenyang F-6,

Aircraft on ground 7 from 2014. These hardened shelters almost always have aircraft nearby

Aircraft on ground 7 from 2014. These hardened shelters almost always have aircraft nearby

 

Aircraft on ground 8. Multiple helicopters and planes including one on display

Aircraft on ground 8. Multiple helicopters and planes including one on display

 

Aircraft on ground 9. Six A5s and one helicopter in 2007

Aircraft on ground 9. Six A5s and one helicopter in 2007

 

 

Aircraft on ground 10. Multiple types of aircraft including A5, F-6, F-86 and a few unidentified aircraft , most likely decommissioned. 2012

Aircraft on ground 10. Multiple types of aircraft including A5, F-6, F-86 and a few unidentified aircraft , most likely decommissioned. 2012

Aircraft on ground 11. Same place in 2017 with lot more aircrafts

Aircraft on ground 11. Same place in 2017 with lot more aircrafts

 

Aircraft on ground 12. A-5s lined up in 2010

Aircraft on ground 12. A-5s lined up in 2010

 

Aircraft on ground 13. One JF-17, one small plane and a helicopter

Aircraft on ground 13. One JF-17, one small plane and a helicopter

 

Aircraft on ground 14. One JF-17 on runway and taxiway each

Aircraft on ground 14. One JF-17 on runway and taxiway each

 

Hardened aircraft shelters with some activity going on nearby

Hardened aircraft shelters with some activity going on nearby

 

Aircraft on ground 15. Civilian aviation terminal

Aircraft on ground 15. Civilian aviation terminal

 

Hardened underground bunkers

Hardened underground bunkers

 

Possible air defence sites

Possible air defence site

 

Aircraft on ground 16. Helicopters and a transporter plane

Aircraft on ground 16. Helicopters and a transporter plane

 

Another air defence site

Another air defence site

Unidentified. Possible underground storage, missile launch or air defence site

Unidentified. Possible underground storage, missile launch or air defence site

 

Underground fuel storage ?

Underground fuel storage ?

 

Cantonment board office

Cantonment board office

 

 

Peshawar is one of the more important bases for PAF and houses 2 squadrons of their frontline JF-17 fighters. This airbase has been the target for 2 major islamist terrorist attacks in 2007 and 2012. In 2015,  adjoining Camp Badaber also suffered an attack with 29 causalities. This base was used by the 6937th Communications Group of United States Air Force from July 17, 1959 until January 7, 1970

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