How India pulverised Skardu airbase runway in PoK in 1971 war


The main Skardu runway in 1971 had the orientation 15/33 and was only a 2,500-metre asphalt surface. The airbase bombing took place unlike previous bombings that the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had experienced.

Details of this operation such as tactics and strategy are not revealed as it might be of importance to the IAF even today. (Photo for representation: Reuters)

Weeks into the standoff with Indian forces in eastern Ladakh, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had spread rumours about Skardu airbase in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir being used by its air force.

The rumours had led to heated debates about the prospect of a “two-and-a-half front” war, implying India’s ability to deal with coordinated attacks by China and Pakistan, along with internal insurgencies.

Indian Air Force chief RKS Bhadauria had then categorically dismissed a collusive threat and claimed readiness to deal with any situation. A similar threat when posed by Pakistan during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War was dealt a body blow by IAF.

India Today OSINT team investigates the facts of 1971 through historical satellite imagery compared with latest images.

At that time, satellite imagery was not available to the IAF and Canberra aircraft were used for photo reconnaissance missions along the borders. However, they were found to be too slow to penetrate deep into Pakistan, especially for confirming bomb damage assessment (BDA).

Some of the fighter bombers were then converted for photo recce missions by fitting them with cameras. Collecting aerial pictures of Skardu airbase bombardment was one such mission carried out by IAF.

Skardu runway bombed

The main Skardu runway in 1971 had the orientation 15/33 and was only a 2,500-metre asphalt surface. The airbase bombing took place unlike previous bombings that the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had experienced.

The bombing was undertaken during daytime and from the south-eastern direction, taking PAF by surprise. Historical imagery displays the most accurate bombing by IAF of the main runway of Skardu airbase.

The airbase being located in PoK, care was exercised to ensure only the runway was bombed. There was no damage to other assets or personnel as it was purposely avoided. Details of this operation such as tactics and strategy are not revealed as it might be of importance to the IAF even today.

At least six buildings of 1971 vintage are observed even in the latest satellite image of Google Earth and Sentinel dated November 28. Latest satellite imagery indicates that the second runway being prepared by PAF is not yet operational.



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