Pakistan Air Force: A Tale of Valour

Pakistan Air Force made Operation Swift Retort Memorial at PAF Base Mushaf
Image Credits: ISPR

Few operations in contemporary military history have more eloquently demonstrated the vital interplay of strategy, courage, and technological prowess than the “Operation Swift Retort” by Pakistan Air Force (PAF) in February 2019. This operation, a pillar of the PAF’s splendid history, not only has exhibited Pakistan’s superior defence capabilities, but also underscored the complicated challenges of modern warfare.

As Pakistan commemorates February 27, it is pertinent to delve into the PAF’s operational excellence, deft diplomacy and restraint by top hierarchy of Pakistan in face of a significant cross-border engagement and coordinated decision making process in Pakistan, weaving together a comprehensive account of events that has left an indelible mark on regional security dynamics.

Operation Swift Retort: Wreckage from one of the Indian aircraft shot down by Pakistan Air Force [Photo: ISPR]
Operation Swift Retort: Wreckage from one of the Indian aircraft shot down by Pakistan Air Force [Photo: ISPR]

Pakistan Air Force and Operation Swift Retort

Operation Swift Retort was preceded by a significant escalation between India and Pakistan on February 26, 2019.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) attacked a location in Balakot, Pakistan, claiming it was a militant training center. The Indian Government said that the strike inflicted a serious blow to terrorist infrastructure, resulting in significant casualties and damage. Refuting those claims, Pakistan disputed the existence of any such camp at the targeted location, informing the world that the payload was dropped in a forested area with no casualties other than a dead crow, which veteran journalist Hamid Mir filmed for evidence on the spot.

Investigations by international and local media outlets later validated Pakistan’s assertions, uncovering no evidence of the alleged insurgent training center or any damages claimed by the Indian Air Force.

For Pakistan, the medallion or the combat trophy was Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan, who was shot down by PAF in his flying coffin ie. MiG21 of IAF. The officer was immediately apprehended and escorted by Pakistan Army troops.

Following the Balakot airstrike, Pakistan’s response was multifaceted, demonstrating the country’s determination to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

  • Diplomatically, Pakistan engaged the international community by describing what it called “Indian aggression” and filing an official complaint with the United Nations.
  • Politically, the Pakistani Government called an emergency session of the National Command Authority (NCA) and a joint session of Parliament, emphasizing the gravity of the intrusion.
  • Militarily, Pakistan’s response was quick and strategic, culminating in “Operation Swift Retort”, the next day. Pakistani jets crossed the Line of Control and launched airstrikes in Indian-administered Kashmir, demonstrating the PAF’s readiness and strategic depth.

Operation Swift Retort was not just a reactionary response, but a pre-meditated display of Pakistan’s military prowess. The operation, which included the capture and subsequent release of an Indian pilot, served as a powerful reminder of the PAF’s operational competence and strategic insight. It effectively undermined India’s perceived strategic dominance, which was based on modern armaments and arsenals.

Operation Swift Retort highlighted three key components of credible deterrence: capability, credibility, and communication.

Also Read: Operation Swift Retort: A Surprise Day For India

Indian pilot landed in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. — Photo: ISPR
Indian pilot landed in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. — Photo: ISPR

While India had frequently emphasized its military prowess, the events of February 27, 2019, revealed vulnerabilities in its strategic deterrence, as was evidenced by the incessant frustration and inadvertent downing of its own MI-17 helicopter, due to a misunderstanding inside its Air Defence system. On the contrary PAF, gave IAF a bloody nose by shooting down two of their aircrafts, SU-30 and MiG21, out of which wreckage of downed MiG21 along with its pilot was taken into custody by the Pakistan Armed Forces and is now displayed as a battle trophy. The wreckage of other jet that was SU-30 fell inside the Indian territory to learn needful lessons.

No doubt the PAF has a proven track record of professionalism and strategic efficacy, as was demonstrated by “Operation Swift Retort” and other missions. Recently however, it has been subjected to criticism by certain political quarters in pursuance of their nefarious designs. Such factions, through their paid lackeys and pawns are launching smear vilification campaigns to tarnish the reputation of Pakistan Armed Forces with PAF in particular.

Such time-serving or opportunist journalists, actually feed on tarnishing the image of core organs of state institutions for their vested interests and are financed by external powers. The nation condemns all such initiatives which are based on dubious intents and lack actual proof. Such unsubstantiated claims do not damage the Armed Forces legacy or weaken the faith and admiration that the Pakistan Army, Pakistan Navy or PAF enjoys among the Pakistani people.

Also Read: Revisiting Pulwama Attack

Operation Swift Retort and the events surrounding it provide important insights into the mechanics of modern warfare, the significance of credible deterrence, and the difficulties of keeping peace in a volatile region. This also serves as a reminder that the valiant PAF is decorated with a bunch of magicians with impressive and state of the art targeted surprises up their sleeves, which they unleash only when the enemy is translating the conflict into a volatile devastation.

The Pakistan Air Force, with a long history of bravery and strategic brilliance, continues to set the highest standards for military achievement. Similar accolades are offered to Pakistan Army and its valiant troops as well, who maintained heightened standards of vigil post Pulwama showdown, disallowing India any kind of misadventure. The display of defence plus diplomatic skills of top hierarchy of Pakistan both civil and military remains equally praise worthy. The nation stands committed towards and in full solidarity with its Armed Forces.

The views shared in this article reflect the author’s personal views and do not necessarily align with the institution’s official stance.

Sehr Rushmeen

Sehr Rushmeen, an Islamabad based freelance researcher, did her MPhil from National Defence University (NDU) in Strategic Studies, and her BSc from University of London (UOL) in International Relations. Her area of research interest is Strategic Nuclear Studies, Artificial Intelligence in Warfare, South China Sea and South Asian Politics. She tweets as @rushmeentweets and can be reached on

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