Sunday, 28 May 2017

S400 , A Stone Walled Deterrent Against Foreign Aggressor: A War Fiction

Today 1st January 2025 is the day of reckoning for the India Govt. as POK( Pak Occupied Kashmir ) has been reinstated under Indian administration by mutual agreement of India and Pakistan and thus marks an end to the long ongoing proxy war waged by Pakistan against by India for nearly 35 years. The foundation to this achievement was laid by an incident exactly five years back after which the military developments owing to the aftermath of the incident forced the major powers of the world including China to unanimously act against Pakistan's ambition of forceful annexation of Jammu and Kashmir to her territory in the wake of an impending nuclear war which was at the verge of being commenced at the backdrop of military build-up and covert operations by Indian forces against Pakistani military installations across LOC over land and air to get back the territory of PoK. As a retaliatory measure Pakistan had readied her nuclear capable missiles armed with nuclear warheads to be launched on Indian cities in case PoK had to be lost to India by the militarily way. India's continuous provisioning of proof against Pakistani atrocities on her soil had cornered Pakistan in the world stage and Chinese support for Pakistan had been rendered ineffective as a two front war against India after the shelving of the 'No First use Policy' of nuclear weapons almost ensured a nuclear holocaust as India with her capabilities could never recede her boundaries further to foreign aggression but could only get back her lost territories.

The nuclear holocaust could have affected the entire atmospheric blanket of the earth leading to predictable and unknown harmful results for the world population for unknown period of time span. The description of that incident is stated in brief as follows:

There was a belief that radicals inside Pakistan and Pakistani defence had been
carrying out terror related activities against India was largely emboldened by the projected prophecy of 'Ghazwa-e-Hind' i.e. Islam's prophetic war against India before conquering the rest of the world. As a retaliation towards this continuous support and effort to bleed Indian citizens by carrying out terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and rest of India, in October 2017 Indian Government had re-initiated Tulbul project to control the release of water of the river Jhelum which is key to agriculture of Pakistan and this particular effort had given rise to the fear of bringing drought and flood for Pakistan at the will of the India Govt. in the minds of Pakistani administration which apart from the elected Govt. also consists its military and military planners.

Severe protest by Pakistan at World Bank and UNSC did not materialize into any effective measure stopping India from continuing the construction of the dam . In the context of the importance of controlling the water share flowing into Pakistan as a tool to dissuade Pakistan from aiding and harbouring terrorism against Indian citizens ,the construction had been ordered to be completed on war footing. The dam was completed in November 2019 and was releasing water into the Jhelum river in a steady flow after its storage from the large water body at the dam at the behest of  Indian Govt .

Although a tool to persuade Pakistan away from terrorism by controlling the release of water into the river Jhelum that flowed into Pakistan , Indian Govt. did not have any intent of punishing the population of Pakistan by depriving water for agriculture and her other life sustaining usage, but , to control the flow sufficiently to shake up the Pakistani administration in the event of any atrocious activity on Indian soil that could be traced back to Pakistan.

After India being armed with the tool to control the flow of water of Jhelum and Pakistan's citizens being aware of the consequences of the sudden stoppage of water or sudden flooding release from the dam ,courtesy largely to the regular crying of Pakistani Govt. against the construction of the dam of Tulbul and through news media and international lobbying by India against so called state sponsored terrorism aimed at India by Pakistan , brewed a possible uprising among the general population of Pakistan and POK against the Pakistani Govt.. Pakistan Govt. being well aware of the devastating result of the control of water of Jhelum by India , Tulbul dam sat like a tight noose around the neck of the top brass of Pakistani administration.

By the end of 2019 Pakistan with Chinese help was able to fortify her airbases , army and nuclear bases with missile defence systems. With ever growing induction of JF 17 fighter jets and additional fighter jets in the form of F16 obtained from Turkey , Pakistan looked confident to shield itself against an Indian aerial aggression and even felt an air of confidence to intrude Indian airspace to carry out sharp aerial operations. The confidence had gained ground due to the prolonged delay in acquisition of modern fighter jets by Indian Govt. resulting a below par squadron strength of IAF by the end of 2019 mainly due to retiring of a large number of MiG 21 , air craft , about 162 of them, which were not fully replaced instantly resulting in an alarming squadron deficit. The delivery of all of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft ordered from France by India was slated to complete by 2022 . These were the only fighter jets contracted to be acquired during this period.

To deny India a controlling tool over the lifeline of Pakistan in the form of control over the flow of water of the Jhelum river , Pakistani Govt. gave affirmative nod to PAF for an operation to be carried out by staying within Pakistani airspace. The operation was to destroy Tulbul dam from a stand off distance using suitable ordnance.

Meanwhile Indian military planners foreseeing internal friction resulting from bribery allegation and indecision to obtain high-end fighter jets in the wake of ever improving technology to replace the retiring MiGs , had opted to induct S400 system to shield the Indian airspace from any foreign aggression along the borders with China and Pakistan. India had ordered six systems of S400 totaling 1536 missiles to guard the intended borders. Pakistan defence was fully aware of the acquisition of S400 by India and PAF was confident of carrying out the operation due to the complacence of having the superior capability to detect , track, and destroy their targets owing to US made avionics incorporated in F16 and significant increase of the fighter jets in PAF. After having got green signal from the Pakistani Govt. the zero hour of attack on Tulbul was only separated by the time frame to plan and execute operation.

Indian Govt. had no idea of the sinister design of Pakistan and was gloating over the defacing that Pakistan had received through international diplomatic channels with only China who voiced in favour of Pakistan but was unable to etch out a positive solution in support of Pakistan's intent to prevent construction of Tulbul dam.

India air force faced with a shortage of fighter jets had to cut their sorties for surveillance to preserve the fighter jets for war scenario but was confident of S400 to do its task of securing the Indian borders with Pakistan and China. Indian spy satellite however gave  ready intimation of Pak movements of men and war hardware across the border and any alarming movements of war assets near India border could activate Indian defence in a short notice.

Pakistan decided that Tulbul dam would be destroyed by a PAF mission carried out at the early hours during new year celebrations at 2:04 am IST on 1st January 2020. Pakistan cabinet was briefed about the operation and it gave the nod to go ahead. Flying from Sargodha air base the fighter jets had to cover a distance of 306 kilometers to destroy Tulbul and come back into Pakistani airspace. A group of twelve F16 with two drop tanks each was designated for the operation with six out of the twelve also carrying H4 stand off precision-guided glide bombs on their pylons and the rest acting as escorts with AIM 120 C5 missiles to counter any IAF interceptions the beyond visual range . The Indian political leadership was deeply involved in celebrating the new year without having a hint about the operation planned by Pakistan Govt. and its air force. IAF's vigil of the India airspace was handicapped by a lower than required squadron strength. Knowing the weakness of IAF and confident about the success the PAF F16s took off from Sargodha air base to strike Tulbul dam in the dark of the night on 01 January 2020. Operation 'Pride Salvation' got initiated at 1:30 am IST from Sargodha airbase. Destined towards Tulbul dam PAF F16s had taken to the skies by 1:37 am IST from Sargodha air force base.

Out of the six S400 systems obtained from Russia Indian Air Force had stationed four of them near the western border of India with Pakistan. One each near Transit Halt Of Indian Soldiers Enroute (to Siachen) or THOISE , Adampur , Jodhpur and Jamnagar Indian air force bases.

Each S400 system with its powerful AESA radars was capable of a detection and tracking upto 300 targets over a distance of 600 kilometers with a maximum kill range of 400 kilometers along with the capability to engage 36 targets simultaneously. Even the most stealthy of the aircraft could not evade the very well reputed detection capability of S400. This itself ensured all Pakistani air bases came under its range. Thus high value targets could be protected from aerial threat over a distance of 400 kilometers. This offensive-defence capability of S400 also ensured that IAF fighter jets did not have to undertake risky operations and intrude enemy airspace until that was sanitized.

The aerial distance to be covered from Sargodha to Adampore was 298 kilometers. All Pakistani F16 took a low altitude subsonic flight at around 5000 meters to approach Tulbul dam in Srinagar via Islamabad maintaining a speed around 800 kilometers per hour, but, as soon as Pakistani F16 took to air 96L6E radar of S400 stationed near Adampore detected the air borne PAF fighter jets and transmitted the targets to 30K6E control post of S400. Sensing the radar lock on their radar warning receivers (RWR) F16 pilots started varying their flight altitude to evade lock-on by a missile but was always locked-on by the S400 radar . F16 had their RWR signaling constantly on but the tranche of the F16s destined for Tulbul opted to stay on their predetermined aerial path , maintaining a distance of 260 kilometers inside Pakistani airspace.

S400 was capable of simultaneously engaging maximum of 80 targets. The thrust vectoring missile 9M96E capable of engaging the targets at an altitude of 35 kilometers at the speed of mach 15 and another from the inventory of missiles of S400 system, the 48N6E3 missile that could engage targets at 250 kilometers speeding at the target at mach 14 was in the back of the PAF pilots' minds, but they were confident of evading any launch by 400 kilometer ranged 40N6E missile by staying 260 kilometers inside Pakistan territory as they had thought that the buffer created by maintaining that distance would allow them to evade the missile in time if it was launched from Indian airspace. It had often happened in the past that Pakistani F16s were detected by Indian S400 systems but were not engaged as both the countries' air forces carried out training exercises within their own territories. As always Indian operators of S400 opted to wait and watch the approach of F16s thereby trying to confirm a determined approach to intrude the Indian airspace or to cause damage from a stand off distance on India soil without penetrating India airspace. Even sudden change of directions by Pakistani F16s after radar lock on by S400 system was a normal maneuver that was attempted by F16s in the past. So the sustained flight of PAF F16s staying 260 kilometers within Pakistani airspace did not send any alarm to the operators of S400 systems. But as a standard operational procedure (SOP) all systems of S400 along with the airforce bases were alerted about the detection and sustained flight of Pakistani F16s within Pakistani airspace.

PAF F16s were constantly changing their altitude and flight pattern to evade missile lock-on from S400 and maintained a distance of 260 kilometers inside Pakistani territory till they flew around Islamabad at around 2:00 am IST and started their final dash towards Srinagar where Tulbul dam had been built.

Indian S400 operators had maintained due alertness following the flight path of PAF F16s on the screen of the radar. After S400 system at Adampore, the S400 system at THOISE detected and tracked the F16s. They noticed a certain curve in the flight path of F16s towards Pakistan's boundary with India as PAF F16s approached towards Srinagar. F16s after passing Islamabad's airspace were on a supersonic flight speeding at mach 1.3 and were approaching the boundary fast. Still no alarm was set in the minds of the S400 operators as the same was practiced in the past by Pakistani F16s.

But this time the only variation was that after passing through Islamabad's airspace the speed of F16s had escalated to supersonic speeds for a sustained period of three minutes at an altitude of 15000 meters while they approached Indo-Pakistan border. By 2:03 a.m. IST The aerial distance of 170.5 kilometers between Islamabad and Srinagar by then was covered almost by half by all twelve PAF F16s. The 96L6E radar screen of S400 system which until now showed twelve aerial targets suddenly showed 24 air bourne objects approaching towards Srinagar. Out of the 24 air bourne objects 12 objects started descending at great speed towards the earth approaching Indo-Pak border which was a clear indication of launch or ordnance but the H4 bombs were still inside Pakistani territory.

S400 operators had orders to maintain maximum restraint until an intrusion was detected into Indian airspace. That left the S400 system and the operators much less than a minute to react against an incoming threat over India airspace. The operators of S400 noticed a breach of boundary by 12 flying objects on the radar screen and commanded the launch of missiles against the PAF ordnance that had breached the international boundary and had intruded Indian airspace. S400 system had its missiles locked onto the targets and almost immediately launched 9M96E missiles towards them.

All the bombs approaching Tulbul dam were intercepted physically and destroyed at a low altitude of 2000 to 3000 meters approximately. All this time the radar data along with the launch of the missiles against the intruded targets got relayed to the air force station at THOISE and order was prompted to target the fighter jets inside Pakistani territory. The F16s were already tracked and locked on by the S400 radar; the Pakistani F16s after launching the H4 bombs had made a turn around inside Pakistan's airspace and were speeding at mach 2 with the intention of maintaining that speed until they reached safe distance from the reaches of missiles of S400 maintaining the flight path towards a landing strip at the extremity of Balochistan province bordering with Afganistan known only to PAF authorities and the pilots on the mission; By 2:04:40 a.m. IST S400 system launched eighteen 40N6E missiles capable of speeding at mach 14 towards the targets.

According to Russian doctrine related to the interception of a fighter jet two missiles targeted towards one target ensured better probability of hitting the target as against one pursuer missile. S400 being directly procured from Russia by India had that doctrinal logic built into the S400 system. F16s tried to jam the missiles as well as launched evasive measures like chaff and flare dispensers to in vain as those were rendered ineffective against 40N6E missiles.

All twelve PAF F16 pilots were under the fish bowl effect all through out the mission by being tracked by S400 radar where they could run but could not hide and now sensing the inevitable result of their respective F16 getting destroyed against 40N6E missiles they opted to eject out of their respective aircraft. All the twelve F16s were downed within 60 seconds from the launch time of 40N6E missiles. PAF lost all of their F16 fighter air crafts on mission to Indian S400 system around 2:05:40 a.m. IST. PAF's mission to destroy Tubul dam had ended in a massive failure and accounted for the loss of twelve of their top notch fighter jets. Though China had not intended any military operation against India , the deployment of two S400 systems along the China border owing to the insecurity felt by India as a result of repeated ingress by Chinese soldiers along the Indo-Chinese border and China's claim over Arunachal Pradesh, ensured that a sudden two front aerial attack could not emanate into an unmanageable warring scenario for IAF. India had by then placed an order for another S400 system to be placed along a suitable territory along the Indo-China border.

The incident of breaching of the Indian airspace by the glider bombs dropped by PAF and the subsequent destruction of PAF fighter jets was promptly reported to Indian Ministry Of Defence and PMO. The next morning Pakistan Govt. and PAF accused India of playing foul against a mutually agreed understanding of not intruding or attacking air assets while inside each others territory and stated that their fighter jets were destroyed by missiles launched from India while on a training mission inside Pakistan's territory and never crossed over to the India airspace. Indian Ministry Of Defence ordered an operation to detect the bits and pieces of the bombs dropped by PAF F16s and presented them as proof of Pakistani intention on Indian soil by the PAF F16 to Russia. Though India preserved the rights to keep the data about the incident solely to her own, since Russia was a permanent member of UNSC the radar data were provided to Russia justifying the downing of the fighter jets which were later presented at UNSC. The verified data at UNSC confirmed the intentions of PAF F16s on that particular night and Pakistan was again shamed thoroughly before the world community.

This particular incident had a telling effect on the psyche of the Pakistani Govt. and almost instantaneous loss of all twelve F16s had grievously dented the war waging morale and confidence of PAF to carry out any mission in Indian air space. Pakistan defence and Govt. went rabid to counter the capabilities of S400 but found that it would not be able to meet the financial expense to acquire enough offensive to overcome the prowess of S400.

The effect was felt upon the ill health of Pakistan's economy and the resulting strain cascaded on to the social developments which infused an unbearable agony on already frustrated Pakistani citizens whose disenchantment of Pakistani administration had great potential to lead into another debacle like the uprising for freedom by a large section of the Pakistani population alike the struggle of 1971 . So Pakistan Govt. had to sneak away from her nefarious designs into Indian landscape and concentrate on lesser spending on her defence to accommodate proper funds for social reforms for better quality of life.

The successful deterrence against Pakistani air attack has led Indian Govt. in November 2024 to opt for S500 system from Russia after completion of the orders in place for S400 systems. In addition to the capabilities of S400, the S500 system is designed to destroy hypersonic cruise missiles and other aerial targets at speeds higher than Mach 5 at an altitude of 180-200 kilometers. The S500 systems are developed to detect and track extremely stealthy aircraft at a range of 200 kilometers as well and can intercept multiple incoming ballistic missiles. India is currently in the process of procuring S500 systems from Russia to be placed along Indo-Pak and Indo-China border alongside the existing S400 systems.

It should be a matter of time when China should also hand over the landscape of Indian territory occupied by her to the Indian Govt. paving the way for a peaceful future of the Asian nations devoid of conflict against each other.

Written By Debojyoti Kumar

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