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Balakot Airstrikes – One of the Deadliest Operations Ever

According to realist thinkers, strength creates deterrence and power is a prerequisite for peace. It is these notions which make the case for existence of armed forces. The armed forces have been a significant pillar of a nation-state right through history as well as today.

The militaries or special forces around the world have fought many wars or battles but only some of them are remembered for their unprecedented daredevilry.

Although, history has noted many special operations, based on some common characteristics, one can separate three distinctive operations from the rest.

In this article, we bring to readers the three operations based on those common characteristics.

The Three Operations
  1. Balakot Airstrikes – By India
  2. Operation Neptune Spear – By USA
  3. Operation Thunderbolt – By Israel
Common Characteristics
  1. They were done behind the enemy lines or in the territory of the enemy nation.
  2. They were launched not during the war times but in the hour of crisis.
  3. They didn’t last more than 2 hours and had the precision of finding a needle in the haystack.
  4. They were all conducted during the night or early morning hours.
  5. The intelligence inputs behind all three operations were very precise.
  6. They all achieved their desired objectives.


Here are the brief details about them.

Balakot Airstrikes (2019)

India conducted one of its deadliest airstrikes deep inside Pakistan’s territory in February 2019 to neutralise the top handlers and terrorists belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). JeM, a terrorist group which operates from Pakistan, had attacked a CRPF envoy in Pulwama, in the Indian state of J&K. This attack had reportedly killed more than 40 Indian soldiers.

Indian intelligence agencies in less than two weeks’ time had provided the Indian Armed Forces with accurate and precise inputs about a JeM facility at Balakot, an isolated outpost in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

India’s planning was commendable especially in light of the fact that Pakistan was already on high alert due to a possible Indian retaliation to Pulwama attack. Importantly, India had also faced the possibility of an immediate nuclear reprisal from Pakistan.

India, thus, planned an airstrike on the main facility of JeM at Balakot. According to reports, twelve Indian fighter aircraft Mirage 2000 took off from different locations across India and entered Pakistan airspace at lightning speed. After entering Pakistan’s airspace, they divided themselves into three separate groups in order to mislead Pakistan’s air force. One group advanced towards Balakot, bombed the facility with smart and precision-guided SPICE 2000 bombs reportedly killing about 300 terrorists. The entire operation is believed to have been completed in 20-30 minutes.

As India Todays in its detailed story has reported, “As the aircraft approached Pakistani air space, they flew in formation with one lot seemingly headed to Bahawalpur. Thinking that the IAF intended to strike the Jaish headquarters, Pakistan scrambled its fighters to take on the oncoming Indian jets. That distraction allowed the accompanying low-flying formation of Mirage 2000s to head in the direction of Balakot. By the time they showed up on Pakistani radars, they were 150 km away from the jets that had been scrambled to stop them. The Mirages then acquired the targets in the camps and dropped the SPICE bombs they were carrying.”

Representational Image of Balakot Airstrikes

Source: India Defence Review

Operation Neptune Spear (2011)

This was a strike executed by US special forces to eliminate Osama Bin Laden responsible for carrying out one of the most gruesome attacks on US soil in September 2001, widely known as 9/11. USA, since then, has been mobilising its intelligence to avenge the killing of many US citizens on its soil.

After years of planning and intelligence, CIA, the US intelligence agency, spotted one house in Abbottabad, Pakistan where they believed that Osama Bin Laden was in hiding. In the year 2011, US forces launched one of its most daring operations. During a night raid, the commandos of SEAL Team Six among others landed near the house and had reportedly killed Bin Laden. This operation has been unofficially named as Operation Geronimo. The operation had lasted for only 40 minutes.

According to CBS News, “It was also the riskiest option — American commandos operating without permission deep inside Pakistani territory. The operation was such a tightly held secret that when the SEALs began training on a mockup of the compound, they were not told whom the real target was.”

Former US President Barack Obama among others watching the operation live

Source: Wikipedia

Operation Thunderbolt (1976)

It was a counter-terrorist hostage rescue mission. It was carried out by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) at Entebbe Airport in Uganda. According to reports, an Air France plane was hijacked by the Palestinian rebels with many Israeli passengers onboard. The objective of this hijacking was to free Palestinians who were imprisoned in Israel. The flight which took off from Israel and was bound for Paris was diverted by the hijackers and taken to Entebbe airport in Uganda where they had the support of the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. The operation, which was conducted at night, didn’t last more than 99 minutes. The Israeli commandos landed at Entebbe, killed all the hijackers, rescued the hostages and flew back to Israel.

The Guardian had then reported, “Israeli estimates of casualties and damage in the 36-minute battle at Entebbe were three hostages and the Israeli officer commanding the assault force killed, five civilians and four soldiers wounded, seven terrorists (two Germans and five Arabs) killed, about 20 Ugandan soldiers fighting alongside the terrorists also killed, and between six and 10 Soviet-manufactured MiG fighters destroyed.”

Operation Entebbe remains one of the deadliest operations in the annals of history not only for the intelligence but also for the valor of the armed forces.

Israeli Forces celebrating their success of Op. Thunderbolt

Source: CIJA

Thus, these three operations remain the deadliest where the special forces themselves carried the risk of getting killed in minutes without even reaching closer to their targets. These operations had not only required the highest level of skills, but a surgical precision rarely seen before. On the lines of the other two globally-acclaimed operations of daredevilry and precision, the successful conduct of the airstrikes has made Balakot a top-league operation.