India-Pakistan Dogfight: The Little Known Role of a Woman Fighter Controller

An alert and calm woman fighter controller of the Indian Air Force (IAF) played a key role in thwarting the major Pakistan air attack on the Nowshera sector in Jammu and Kashmir on 27 February, multiple sources aware of the entire sequence of events have revealed.

The woman officer, whose name is being withheld to protect her identity, displayed exceptional presence of mind and composure under pressure when two dozen Pakistan Air Force (PAF) fighter jets attempted to intrude into Indian airspace and target military installations, including an Indian Army brigade headquarter.

The previous day, a 12-strong package of Mirage-2000 fighter planes had stunned the world and Pakistan by crossing the Line of Control (LoC) into Pakistan-Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJK) and going beyond into the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province to hit Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) training camp at Balakot. This was the first time in 48 years after the 1971 war between the two nations that India crossed the ‘Rubicon’ as it were in going deeper into sovereign Pakistan territory.

So a strong response from Pakistan was expected. And it came immediately a day after India struck at Balakot. According to available details, the events on the morning of 27 February unfolded at a furious pace.

Pakistan first closed its civilian airspace and disallowed any commercial traffic around 8.45-9 am. In any case, Indian flight controllers, sitting at a secure control room in Punjab and watching an array of inputs from multiple on ground and airborne radars, were keeping a close watch on the Pakistani airspace that morning. Around 9.30 am, the IAF flight controllers noticed at least two dozen PAF fighters getting airborne in a span of 15 minutes. Twelve of the PAF fighters appeared headed to the south of Pir Panjal range (Jammu, Poonch, Nowshera), four towards Srinagar, while four others were airborne in the area opposite Anoopgarh/Suchetgarh in Rajasthan.

The Indian fighter control centre, aware of the danger, quickly alerted four fighters—two Su-30s and two Mirage-2000s—deployed on combat air patrol (CAP) in the area south of Pir Panjal and simultaneously ordered two MiG-21 Bisons, based in Srinagar to scramble. One of the MiGs was piloted by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.

As the senior lot among the Indian fighter controllers tried to make sense of impending attack, the woman officer—relatively junior in rank and with limited experience—quietly took charge at the consoles and fired rapid instructions to the Indian pilots tasked to defend the impending attack. She kept the possibility of F-16s being part of the attack package launched by the PAF in mind and accordingly alerted the Indian pilots to take the necessary counter-measures. The F-16s, it should be noted, are armed with the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air or AMRAAM Missiles—generally considered the most advanced and sophisticated air dominance weapon.

Since the radars at the control centre are capable of seeing the big picture in the sky unlike the individual planes (which have visibility of 60 degrees or thereabouts), the directions of the on-ground flight controllers became the byword for the Indian pilots. And sure enough, as the PAF package advanced towards the LoC, momentarily it appeared that the Indians were outnumbered but the woman officer and her colleagues at the fighter control centre noticed that only three F-16s made a shallow ingress across the LoC, dropped a few laser-guided bombs on military targets close to the LoC and scrambled back without hitting their targets.

As the Pakistani fighters turned back, the Indian interceptors including Wing Cdr Abhinandan were in hot pursuit. Abhinandan reported a ‘lock’ on the F-16 and fired the R-73 short-range air-to-air missile fitted on the MiG-21 Bison. Even as he did that, the woman officer noticed the F-16s changing direction and turning back into an offensive position. Aware of the dangers posed by the AMRAAM missiles integral to the Pakistan planes, taking a split second decision, she alerted both MiG-21 Bison pilots about the impeding threat. . Wing Commander Abhinandan’s colleague took instant evasive action and initiated counter-measures and manoeuvred his way out of harm of the AMRAAM missile. Abhinandan, however, was not so lucky. Even as he fired the R-73 and hit an F-16, the AMRAAM hit his plane too. Abhinandan was forced to eject. He landed in enemy territory and was captured. Meanwhile, the F-16 also went down and two other parachutes were seen drifting inside Pakistani territory. The fate of the two Pakistani pilots is shrouded in mystery so far.

All this was happening in a time frame that was less than the time we take to read this article.

An Indian analysis has also shown that when Pakistan launched the short retaliatory strike only three or four aircraft including three F-16s crossed the LoC and came only three or four km inside Indian territory before they were challenged by the IAF interceptors. As a senior IAF officer puts it: “While three or four aircraft came into Indian territory in an offensive mode, 21 aircraft were in the total package only for support. They were all trying to protect those three F-16 aircraft.”

A post-event analysis of the air-to-air combat shows that besides the highest standard of training and disciplined displayed by the pilots, the contribution of the woman ground flight controller in Indian pilots winning the dog fight was significant. She is, sources say, likely to be conferred with a medal in the next round of awards that the IAF will announce.

  1. October 7, 2019 -

    I had recently posted a comment that the pilot ( Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman) who lost his plane, his pride and traded his uniform for a new British suit was awarded the Vir Chakra whereas the pilots who claim to have killed 300 terrorists were not even given an omelette egg. Seems this has reached the corridors of the pride of the Indian Airforce. Now they have announced a citation and NO medal for those who killed a Pakistani crow and four trees in their surgical strike at Balakot. Indian Airforce also made another cover up of this brilliant fuck up, they awarded a medal to the ground controller who got Abhinandan shot down and also the helicopter with an Su30.

    On February 27, a Mi-17 V-5 chopper of the Srinagar-based 154 Helicopter Unit crashed within 10 minutes of taking off even as a dogfight raged over 100 km away between intruding Pakistani jets and the IAF, in which Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was involved. Six IAF personnel on board and a civilian on the ground had lost their lives in the crash.

    The inquiry into the Budgam incident, in which a Mi-17 V-5 helicopter of the Indian Air Force crashed close to the Srinagar airfield on February 27, is believed to have revealed several violations of standard operating procedures and the the role of a senior officer who ordered a ground-based missile to be fired causing death of Indian Army officers and soldiers. A formal court martial should have been held in which officers, if found guilty, should face termination of service and rigorous imprisonment. The most devastating effect of this would be that the morale of the Indian Army and Air force would have fallen down to their ankles . Mr.Narendra Damodar Das Modi came up with a brilliant Idea and forcefully suggested that instead of courtmartialling the Officers for the fuckup, medals of honour be awarded to them for warding off the Pakistani airstrike and claim shooting down an F-16 also. The blunder that he made in this was that he formally complained to the Americans that their provided F-16 had shot down their plane and that IAF had shot down the F16. The Americans were no doubt concerned so they quickly and promptly carried out a stock check and confirmed that none of the Pakistani F16s had been shot down. With this the entire edifice of the Indian Air war came crashing down to earth. So did the Military ethos on which the traditions of the Indian Airforce were built. This was the second divine inspiration to Mr.Narendra Damodar Das Modi after the earlier one where he ordered the Air force much against its will to attack Balakot in the cloudy weather because Pakistani radars would not detect them !!!!!

    • May 4, 2021 -


      Puki your frustration and desperation shows through your posting. Frankly you ce from fucked up state which goes around begging for funds repay debt. The lies told by thd likes of you have no equal. Tell us how does an allegedly islamic state get into bed with a godless khinzir eating Commie state.

  2. February 9, 2020 -

    Kaiser, – He is a Pakistani fool hell built on silence. Same silence they exercised when they lost 500 army men on Kargil heights in 1999. It took six years to acknowledge the huge men and material loss in Kargil. In about six years they will acknowledge loss of F-16 and their pilot.