Group Captain (Retd) Ashwani Bhakoo was involved in leading a number of missions during the Kargil conflict; spearheading intelligence gathering efforts to determine the positions of enemy infiltrators.
“I was commanding fighter squadron 14 in May-June-July 1999 at Ambala flying Jaguars. It is still fresh in my mind that we had a threat,” the recipient of Vishishta Seva Medal says. He further narrates, “We did 80 odd missions but our task was bomb damage. We used to take photographs and bring them back. The role of the squadron was bombing and photo reconnissance in those turbulent times“.
The Jaguar aircraft of the unit which were specialised in low level reconnaissance at around 200 feet above ground level were fitted with sensitive high resolution cameras that could be put on video mode while flying at a speed of 1000 kmph.
The Kargil Hero says, “Every mission had cent percent success. Not a single aircraft was pulled down. My pilots were amazing. My engineering team was fantastic,” he took a pause to feel the pride as then Wing commander. Continuing the story he said, “It does not get us angry. We are trained to be patient. We have a threat and I need to get my country out of the danger. That was all in my mind.”
The Army was already moving forward when the cabinet committee decided the Indian Air Force to take action against the infiltrators.
Describing the weather conditions at that point he says, “Normal person can’t even walk in such a place where soldier climbed and defended the country. The hills are 18000 feet high, there’s so rare oxygen.”
“I am honoured that I could contribute to protect my nation. How many people get an opportunity to fight for their nation. Kargil memories are still fresh” Bhakoo smiles.