Despite Pakistan cracking down on extremist groups, India continues to browbeat it. Sonia Gandhi and Pranab Mukherjee, in their latest outburst declared that India is obliged to consider the entire range of options to protect its interests and people from the menace of terrorism.
India may perhaps be deterred from launching an all-out war, which leaves the option of surgical strikes, defined as a military attack upon a target which results in, was intended to result in, or is claimed only to have resulted in damage to the intended legitimate military target, and does not result in any collateral damage to surrounding structures, vehicles, buildings, etc. Surgical strikes are generally carried out by precision guided munitions and in particular by aircraft.
According to Hindustan Times, Indian military intelligence officials maintain that India has developed the ability to carry precision strikes on LeT targets inside Azad Kashmir. G. Parthasarthy, former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, confirms that a surgical strike by India is feasible, “But it would take two months of preparation. Diplomacy right now should be about preparing the ground for such action.” In other words, attack loudly, but be stealthy about it afterwards.
Let us examine whether India can actually carry out these threats. Surgical strikes would fall under the domain of its air force or cruise and guided missiles. A brief look at Indian Air Force’s Order of Battle should tell us about India’s strike capabilities
It is evident that the Indian Air Force (IAF), ground attack platforms inventory includes 282 (including 32 Trainers) 98 x MiG-27 ML, 16 x MiG-23 BN, 72 x MiG-21 M/MF, 64 x Jaguar IS and 10 x Jaguar IM. Its inventory of 321 (including 32 Trainers) multi-role aircraft comprises 48 x MiG-29, 36 x Mirage 2000H, 104 x MiG-21 Bison, 48 x Sukhoi-30 MKI, 48 x MiG-21Bis. Out of the 600 odd aircraft enumerated above, the complement of 200 MiG 21s should not be considered as the entire fleet is near obsolescence; from the remaining, too, miracles should not be expected, as it has no Guided Bomb Units (GBUs) or Precision-Guided Munitions (PGMs) worth naming and thus has little or no surgical strike capability.
Their air-to-surface weapons arsenal comprises the Kh-31A missile for its Sukhoi-30 MKI; these are anti-radiation anti-radar missiles of Russian origin, which hardly qualify for use in the surgical strike option. The 118 KG, OFAB 100-120 and 265 KG, OFAB 250-270 bombs, which are typically seen on most MiG-27s, MiG-21s and Sukhoi-30s, are in effect conventional free-fall bombs with heavier fragmentation weapons than the AO range of bombs
The Paveway Laser Guided Bomb (LGB) Kit fitted on 1000lb bombs provides greater accuracy but suffers from a number of handicaps. The first problem is designation. To ensure accurate guidance, the target must be illuminated by a laser designator and the pilot must deliver the weapon within the “weapon basket” (an imaginary zone in which the weapon seeker can observe the laser target marker and the weapon has sufficient energy to guide to the target). LGBs can be launched without the laser designator turned on, in which case it will follow a ballistic path, until such time as the seeker picks up the reflected laser signal.
This allows the aircraft to deliver an LGB using techniques such as loft or toss bombing. However, if the designator is turned off, the laser spot moved, the laser signal is blocked (for example by cloud or smoke), the weapon’s accuracy will be greatly reduced.
A particular problem with laser designation can be path length under certain environmental conditions. Laser designators operate in the Infra-Red wavebands and attenuation of the laser signal by the moisture content of the atmosphere can reduce the signal strength below the threshold of the seeker. Laser designators modulate their output on a number of discrete codes and to guide correctly the bomb and designator must be matched.
Indian Ballistic and Cruise Missile capability is still in the nascent stage. Its ballistic Missiles comprise the Agni, Prithvi, Dhanush and Sagarika while the Cruise Missile category consists of the BrahMos, Nirbhay and Avatar; the latter two are still under development.
The Indian Ballistic and Cruise missiles have such a high Circular Error of Probability (CEP) that they would cause great collateral damage rather than the precision required in a surgical strike. It can be concluded that Indian strike capability does not pose a major threat; if it dares any adventurism, it would find Pakistan prepared to give it a befitting riposte