IAF jet targets `balloon-like' flying object in Rajasthan

The IAF scrambled a Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jet to intercept an “unidentifiable flying object“ over the border district of Barmer in Rajasthan after radars directed towards Pakistan picked it up around 10.30 am.
The incident came amid heightened security around the country for Republic Day after the terror attack on the Pathankot airbase as well as the arrest of over a dozen suspected Islamic State sympathisers.
The IAF said the Sukhoi-30MKI used its 30mm auto-cannon to shoot down the “suspicious huge balloonlike object“. “Further investigations are in progress,“ said an officer. There was panic in a few villages, with explosions being reported and metal pieces falling from the sky.
“People in Kishor Ki Dhani at Gugai village in Balotara sub-division and Panwada in Baytu, both in Barmer, heard a loud blast and rumours then spread of a bomb being dropped,“ Barmer superintendent of police P Deshmukh said.
“A police team was sent to the spot at 1 pm. Four-five cone-shaped shells were spotted and collected. We shall seek clarifications from IAF in this regard though these things don't seem like bomb parts,“ the officer added. While there was no loss of life or damage to property, four to five houses were said to have developed cracks in their walls due to the explosion in Kishor Ki Dhani, which could be heard over a 10-km distance.
Defence officials said the “shells“ could be the 30mm rounds fired by the Sukhoi-30MKI or debris from the “meteorological balloonlike object“, which was oval shaped with a five-metre diameter. The IAF also dispatched its teams, which included Garud commandos and a bomb disposal squad, to the spot to get to the bottom of the incident. “The debris and other material recovered is being examined,“ said an official, adding that it could be a big advertising balloon with an internal metal mesh.
The Sukhoi-30MKI was scrambled from the Jodhpur airbase, which is one of the frontline airbases facing Pakistan, after the 33 Signal Unit deployed there detected the “air intrusion“. All airbases usually maintain an ORP (operational readiness platform) round-the-clock.This includes two to three fighters being kept combat ready in blast pens adjoining the runway at an airbase for immediate take-off whenever an alarm is sounded.
“The pilots, by rotation, are kept on duty for the ORP.They just have to zip-up their G-suits and run to the fighters with their helmets.It is supposed to take just three-four minutes from the time the hooter goes off to the actual taxiing out of the fighters. The pilots are given their instructions once they are airborne,“ said an officer.

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