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IAF Chief Bhadauria flies five aircraft mission commemorating 1st anniversary of Balakot strikes

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NEW DELHI (PTI):  On the first anniversary of Balakot air strikes, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria flew a five aircraft mission from Srinagar air base along with air warriors who were part of the operation to pound a terrorist training camp deep inside Pakistan.

Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria flew a MiG-21 Type 69 aircraft in a formation also comprising two Mirage-2000s and two Sukhoi-30 MKIs.

Commemorating the operation, the IAF said it stands shoulder-to-shoulder with other defence services in discharge of its sacred duty of defending India's sovereignty and integrity.

The IAF chief flew the five aircraft mission to commemorate the the Balakot operation when India's warplanes hit a Jaish-e-Mohammed camp in Balakot on February 26 last year to avenge killing of 40 CRPF personnel in the Pulwama terror attack.

Pakistan retaliated the next day but the IAF had foiled their plans. The attack by India and subsequent retaliation by Pakistan triggered fears of a war between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

The IAF said aircrew who were part of Wednesday's five-aircraft mission that flew from Srinagar air base had participated in the operations on February 26 and 27 last year.

"February 26 was a momentous day as it bore testimony to the professionalism and operational preparedness of men and women of the IAF who successfully executed a very complex mission and achieved their objectives under extremely challenging conditions," the IAF said in a statement.

"On this day, the IAF salutes the spirit, tenacity and sacrifice of its brave air warriors and assures the nation of its unstinted resolve," it said.

Sixteen Mirage aircraft, six armed with Spice bombs and another six with Crystal Maze missiles crossed over to Pakistan early in the morning of February 26 while four others escorted the main fleet.

Five Spice 2000 bombs hit the targets while one was not successful.

The most visible face of the confrontation was Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman whose capture by Pakistan after downing his MiG-21 fighter triggered the most serious military crisis between the two neighbours in decades.

But diplomatic outreach by major powers and India's stern warning to Islamabad led to his release after two days, averting further escalation of the conflict.

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