- Air Force scrambled two Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jets
- Pakistan responded by sending two of its American-made F-16 jets
- A Pakistani drone was seen flying near the border in Punjab
The Air Force today scrambled two Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jets after the Army detected a Pakistani drone flying close to the border in Punjab's Khemkaran sector some hours before dawn on Monday, sources said. The neighbouring country responded by sending two of its American-made F-16 jets. The Pakistani jets soon turned back, sources said.
Several Pakistan drones have been shot down by the Air Force in the last two months along the border in Rajasthan and Gujarat, after tensions rose following a precision air strike on a camp of the terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed in Balakot in Pakistan on February 26.
Drones are commonly used at border areas by the armed forces of both India and Pakistan to spy on each other as they are lightweight, easy to operate and relatively inexpensive.
On March 4, a Pakistani surveillance drone was shot down by a Sukhoi-30MKI in Rajasthan's Bikaner. A week before that, an Israeli-designed SPYDER surface-to-air missile system downed another drone in the Kutch region of Gujarat.
Pakistan had also used the F-16s it got from the US in a skirmish with Indian fighter jets. A MiG-21 Bison of the IAF piloted by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman downed the much advanced F-16 fighter jet before his MiG-21 also fell to enemy fire. He was captured by Pakistani forces and released later.
Last month, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa had indicated that the forces remain in full preparedness even after India and Pakistan pulled back from the brink.
India bombed the Jaish camp in response to a suicide bombing attack on a highway in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama that killed 40 paramilitary soldiers in mid-February. Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed had claimed responsibility. India and other friendly nations including the US, Britain and France are trying to get JeM chief Masood Azhar banned and designated as a global terrorists by the UN, a move that China has repeatedly blocked.