What happens if a Pakistani fighter jet accidentally flies into Indian airspace?

During all the turmoil and chaos in 1999 during the Kargil operation, a Pakistani naval aircraft was shot down by Mig-21s after it entered Indian airspace.with 16 people on board, was shot down by the Indian Air Force for violating Indian airspace. The episode took place in the Rann of Kutch on 10 August 1999, just a month after the Kargil War, aggravating already tense relations between India and Pakistan.

On 10 Aug 99 at 10:51 hrs IST an IAF ground radar picked up an aircraft track inside Sind region of Pakistan near Badin, approaching the Indo-Pakistan international border (IB) on a South-Easterly course. The track was moving at a speed of 370 kmph maintaining a height of 3000-3500 feet. It first touched the international border (at point 68 degree 48 min E, 24 degrees 18 min North) at 10:54 hrs. For the next 17-18 minutes it carried out a series of manoueveres over this area. (In this process, the track stayed within or close to 10 km of the boundary.

The 1991 air agreement between India and Pakistan requires all aircraft (other than helicopters) of the two countries to maintain a minimum distance of 10 km from the border; on two occasions the PN Atlantique actually violated Indian airspace at two points.

Two MiG-21 fighter interceptors of No.45 Squadron, which were on operational readiness at the IAF base at Naliya in Kutch, were brought to a higher state of scramble alert as the track approached the IB. When the track crossed the international border the first time at approximately 10:57 hrs, both the interceptors were scrambled, getting airborne

Upon requesting the Pakistani plane to land immediately or return back, it turned away in a dangerous manner. The plane was carrying torpedoes and was unresponsive.

The Migs immediately retaliated back and the plane was shot down with an Air-to-Air missile.

Claims and counterclaims

The event immediately sparked claims and counter-claims by both nations. Pakistan claimed that the plane was unarmed and the debris was found on Pakistan’s side of the border, and there was no violation of Indian airspace. According to the official Pakistan version of events, the plane was on a routine training mission inside Pakistan air space. The Pakistani Prime Minister stated during the funeral service of the airmen that the shooting was a barbaric act.

The Indian Air force claimed that the aeroplane did not respond to international protocol and that it acted in a “hostile” manner, adding that the debris of a downed aircraft could fall over a wide radius. Indian sources also stated that Pakistan’s Information Minister, Mushahid Hussein, was initially quoted as saying that the aircraft was on a surveillance mission. India also alleged that the plane violated a bilateral agreement, signed by India and Pakistan in 1991, under which no military aircraft were to come within 10 km of the border (although Pakistan claimed the Atlantic was not a combat aircraft). Indian experts also questioned why a training mission was being carried out so close to the border, when all air forces conduct training flights in clearly demarcated training areas located well away from international boundaries. According to them, the Pakistani claim was untenable since the primary role of the Atlantic is for operations over the sea and that to carry out a training flight over land deep inside foreign territory was an indication of its use in a surveillance role. India displayed part of the wreckage of the Pakistani naval aircraft at New Delhi airport the next day. Pakistan stated that the wreckage was removed from its side of the border by Indian helicopters.

While Pakistan said that the plane was unarmed and the debris was within Pakistani territory, India maintained that warnings had been given to the Atlantic and that its flight trajectory meant it could have fallen on either side of the border. According to the Indian version of events, the MiGs tried to escort it to a nearby Indian base, when the Pakistani aircraft turned abruptly and tried to make a dash for the border; it was only then that it was fired upon. India claimed that the debris was found in a radius of 2 km on either side of the border and that the intrusion took place 10 km inside the Kori Creek, which is Indian territory. Pakistan requested that the matter be taken up in the UN. Indian officials claimed that there had been previous violations in the area and pointed out that in the previous year a Pakistani unmanned surveillance aircraft had intruded 150 km inside the Indian border, coming close to the Bhuj air base before the IAF spotted it and brought it down with several missiles.

Indian analysts state “flare-ups” in the Rann of Kutch region were routine, and despite bilateral agreements, both India and Pakistan had conducted air intrusions in the past. Thus, the fact that the Atlantic was shot down, despite coming close to the Indian border, came as a surprise. Indian officials add that Pakistan military aircraft had violated Indian airspace at least 50 times since January 1999, showing videotapes of Pakistani Atlantics “buzzing”, or flying provocatively near the Indian Navy’s warships in the Indian Ocean. Some Indian analysts stated that the Atlantic was nearly destroyed in 1983 on a similar encounter and noted other close encounters and violations from Pakistani naval planes.

Some experts stated that the Atlantic was probably conducting a “probe” on India’s air defence system, mainly the radar equipment in the border area; they advised that it was not part of any planned aggressive military action by Pakistan. Foreign diplomats who visited the crash site noted that the plane “may have strayed into restricted space”, and that Islamabad was unable to explain why it was flying so close to the border; they added that India’s reaction to the incident was not justified. Many countries, the G8, the permanent members of the UN Security Council, as well as the western media questioned the wisdom behind Pakistan’s decision to fly military aircraft so close to the Indian border.

This incident occurred immediately after the 1999 conflict and hence was even blown out of proportions. It is famously called as the ‘Atlantique Incident’.


This has been taken from Quora and was written by Alcatraz Dey.



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