WASHINGTON: Six Indian Air Force MIG23BN and MIG27M squadrons armed with nuclear weapons will be operational by mid1989, a defense journal has report quoting top level sources in London saying “this is the first confirmation of an Indian military nuclear capacity” although the IAF has been conducting toss bombing exercises over the years known to be intended for nuclear delivery.

The Indian Official spokesman in Washington told Asian News International that the report was baseless and mischievous. “In fact it is motivated garbage,” he said.

The Washington based Defense and Foreign Affairs Weekly quoted unnamed London sources detailing the process by which India progressed to having decided in principle and initiating the process of tactical N-weapons deployment. However, enraged Indian Officials regard the story as hogwash.

Indian Officials told UNI in New Delhi. “The report has no meaning at all. The highly sensational story broken by the London bureau of the weekly was disinformation.”

Indian officials call it a “propaganda campaign” by vested interest groups. Highly placed and informed sources were ascetical of the volley of recent reports “emanating from Europe” referring to the “shelving of Indian light combat aircraft (LCA) program” the most ambitious project now in its final phase.

“The pattern of disinformation in the last three months is obviously a motivated reaction to India’s strides in defense, particularly the LCA” sources told ANIs Delhi bureau.

According to the London weekly, by early 1989 the IAF would have applied the final touches to its tactical nuclear bomb delivery techniques and by mid1989 six squadrons of nuclear delivery aircraft would become operational in Jodhpur, Halwara and Hindon, It further said Air Chief Marshal, S.K. Mehra had formed a special cell, reporting to him directly and combining various operational planning and scientific disciplines.

In an exclusive interview with ANI, Air Chief Marshal S.K. Mehra dismissed the report saying “there is no such thing as referred to in the story. I have formed no special group (cell).

The weekly says that the IAF has 40 Mirage200 fighters entering service and this type is equipped in French Air Force use for tactical nuclear delivery. The IAF software is reportedly similar to that of the French Air Force. But analysts, quoted by the weekly, believe that the mirage 20000 will not be used at this stage for tactical or strategic nuclear delivery because it is needed in an air defense/air combat mission to protect Indian assets against a possible nuclear strike by Pakistan Air Force F16 planes. No other aircraft can handle this air combat mission adequately against the F16 except the Mirage 2000,” the analysts told the weekly.

Privately Indian officials see a “larger move” behind the report. That the IAF or the DRDO would not have undertaken to use the Mirage for the MIG 23/27 tasks, as suggested to maintain availability in the event of a Pakistani attack, is “suggestive” of the attempts being made by certain “interests” against India officials say.

An Indian defense official told ANI “We have no plans to modify planes to suit the N-weapons delivery needs.”

“The Indian Air Force is well equipped to handle any incursions from across the western border with adequate capabilities, and Mirage 2000s are just one such type,” he added.

Article extracted from this publication >> October 21, 1988