The BJP President Mr. Amit Shah may not have been far-off the mark when he claimed that 250 terrorists were killed during the IAF’s air strike on Balakot at around 3:30 a.m. local time on February 26, 2019. However, Mr. Shah may well have put the proverbial foot in his mouth by going public with the “kills claimed” as he would never be able to provide the evidence to back his verbosity. Revealing the evidence would violate the charter of “The MOU on Geosynchronous Earth Orbit and Low Earth Orbit Optical Link” signed between Prime Ministers Modi and Netanyahu on July 5, 2017, in New Delhi. This MOU permits Indian and Israeli satellites to “talk to each other”.
Let me explain further. EL/M-2070 Tec SAR, also known as Tech SAR, Polaris and Ofek-8, is an Israeli Reconnaissance Satellite equipped with synthetic aperture radar developed by Elta Systems. It was successfully launched on 21 January 2008, by PSLV C-10, Launch Vehicle, from Sriharikota in India. This satellite is perhaps the world’s only satellite that is an indispensable system for military operations in the mountainous terrains of Central Asia that includes the Hindu Kush, Karakoram and Himalayan ranges. It is capable of imaging with a resolution of up to 10 centimetres through an X band radar system. The satellite’s maximum resolution is believed to be around 1 meter. Tec SAR was the first Israeli satellite to feature Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, which provides images day or night and under all weather conditions.
Now, RISAT-2, or Radar Imaging Satellite 2 is an Indian Radar Reconnaissance Satellite that was built by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and successfully launched aboard a PSLV-CA rocket at 01:15 GMT on April 20, 2009 from the second launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre. RISAT- 2’s main sensor is also an X band synthetic aperture radar from (IAI). It is designed to monitor India’s borders and as part of anti-infiltration and anti-terrorist operations.
Here is a possible scenario of what happened over Balakot on the night of Feb 26, 2019. The Israeli satellite Tec SAR was tasked to directly send images of heat signatures of the number of terrorists sleeping in their dormitories in the Balakot camp to RISAT-2. This exchange took place in outer space! Mind you, the dormitories were located in two separate buildings that flanked the main structure. The main structure was of no strategic or tactical interest. Having confirmed that whatever number of terrorists were in the land of nod dreaming of their individual collection of “houris” that were waiting for them, RISAT-2 transmitted this information to the designated IAF Phalcon AWACS that was controlling this attack. All of this would have happened in under 15 minutes. The Phalcon then transmitted the go- ahead to the Flight Leader of the Mirage 2000’s to launch their ordnance. While this was happening, it is presumed, because of the sensitivity involved in this virgin exercise, Site IV of the US National Command Authorities (NCA) Ground Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System (GEODSS) at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean was also patched in. Diego Garcia in turn would be directly connected to the USAF Space Command Space Defence Centre (SPADOC) at the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. This in turn would have patched in the Pentagon.
The question is that were the Mirage 2000’s using the Israeli SPICE 2000? While undoubtedly, the SPICE 2000 “operates on pre-recorded GPS coordinates,” and the weapon’s “advanced identification and processing abilities can reportedly help overcome jamming efforts, the public announcement of its usage may have been a decoy. My guess is the Mirage 2000 that fired the ordinance was armed with the Israeli Delilah Cruise Missile. Delilah is a cruise missile capable of deceiving even the much vaunted Trumpf S-400 Russian air defence system and loiter over a contested area before hitting the target. Delilah has a range of 250km and can penetrate any air defence system. This is why the Pakistani air defences were clueless as to what was hurtling through the skies towards Balakot. SPICE 2000 is nowhere in the league of Delilah. The use of Delilah would have also rattled the Chinese as they also use the S-400 system. We seem to have the weapon capable of over riding even the Chinese Air Defence shield at present, if we really do have Delilah?
But this is by no means the end of the story. A confused and perplexed Pakistani leadership was floored. Their reaction was knee jerk. The very next day, on February 27, 2019, an assorted flight of PAF aircraft attempted to invade Indian air space and launch ordnance against targets in Jammu & Kashmir. Why did they flee and why did their ordnance not reach the designated targets?
The PAF used H4 Stand Off Weapon (SOW) in this attack. It has a terminal guidance system based on an infrared homing seeker, which identifies the target during the final stage of flight. Designed to hit targets out to 120 km, the bomb may have the capability to evade radar. This is based on technology copied from the South African T-Darter BVR missile and in this particular case was susceptible to being jammed by the IAF’s IR Jammers which disabled the H4 confusing its infra-red seekers placed in the cone of the H4. Further, it is my guess that the IAF Phalcon controlling this dog fight was armed with the Rafael Sky Shield EW pod which can protect an entire fighter formation. All the AMRAAM’s fired by the PAF F16’s and similar Chinese missiles fired by the PAF’S JF-17’s, were disabled and flew harmlessly by. The entire battle will have to be broken down and diagnosed to decipher how the missile that downed Wing Commander Abhinandan’s MiG- 21 Bison was able to penetrate the Sky Shield. Thereafter, heavy pressure from all of its benefactors, excepting China, forced Pakistan to return Abhinandan.
Undoubtedly, India owes a debt to Israel. The Tec SAR, RISAT, Phalcon, SPICE, Delilah, Sky Shield and MiG 21 Bison are all Israeli products. Pakistan for the first time realised both the limitations of its own ability to “steal and copy” and the effectiveness of Chinese technology and so did their Chinese overlords. The US, Israel and India jointly collaborated for the first time in a real time encounter against Chinese technology and these two encounters will provide a lot of data for all the participants to analyse and study. This may open up further such cooperation and also with Japan.
For the Chinese, from their point of view, this was an unfair fight and they desperately needed to prop up the demoralised Pakistani morale. Both the Chinese and the Pakistani’s have got to know how India feels as they are pitted against us in choreographed synchronicity. For the first time after 1971, when the Soviets helped us with satellite imagery, another country, namely Israel, has helped us unconditionally in our time of need. The Chinese action in blocking the UN Resolution on Masood Azhar has to be seen in this light. Can Pakistan still prove to be a potent Chinese frontline weapon against India, now that India has crossed the Rubicon in terms of retaliation?
Incidentally, all of the information in this article is available on the internet and only requires the skill to join the dots!
The author holds a first-class degree in Economics from Queens’ College, Cambridge University. He is a black belt Sho Dan in Shotokan Karate-Do. He was adviser on India to Rupert Murdoch in 1993-95 and has produced over 500 hours of Television programming telecast worldwide. He lives in New Delhi with his wife Anu and their dogs and parrots.