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IAF's Searcher-II Loss on June 07, 2002

© VayuSena


In a year that saw India-Pakistan peacetime tensions soar to an all-time high, it was not unusual for the respective militaries to send Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) on spying missions into forbidden airspace. Kept away from the public eye, only some of these missions would be known to the media; and that too only if governments wished to derive some political or rhetorical mileage.

Occasionally, these drones would be detected and be defended against by all possible means. For their operators the price of intelligence was too high compared to the potential loss of a UAV. An Indian Air Force (IAF) Searcher-II [S/N 'T-2004'] was caught in such a situation on Friday June 07, 2002 and was ultimately lost over Pakistani land, and claimed by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) as a rare air-to-air kill of a drone at night.

The PAF claimed that the intruding aircraft was shot down at 2300 Hrs; its wreckage recovered at the Dogran Kalan village [01] (close Raja Jang town) south-west of Lahore [02], which is the capital of Pakistan's Punjab province. The victim had taken off from an airfield in Jammu [03].

Searcher-II has an endurance of 14 hours and venture out for 250 Km from the base; it can climb up to an altitude of 16,000 Ft (4875 m). It is not known to what degree it fulfilled its mission but the depth of interception was significant considering that Pakistan's Air Defence Net is strongest in Punjab. Neither is it known what pattern the Aircraft flew over Pakistan and for how long; but still it would be a mistake to take Dogran Kalan's straight distance from the International Border at Punjab as the measure of intrusion since the mission started from Jammu and/or the route taken could have been circuitous.

For Pakistan, the detection of the spy plane and its interception was projected as a proof of capability of their air defence network; even though the same can be viewed as a serious bungling judging by the distance it traveled into Pakistan.

At a press conference held at PAF Chakala on June 10, Then PAF Chief of Air Staff ACM Mushaff Ali Mir made wild allegations of direct involvement of Israeli personnel in the mission, based on the fact that it supposedly did not have any Indian markings. He also felt that the aircraft was inducted only a few months back in a "hurry" [04]. In any case, none of the publicly available pictures of IAF Searchers show any conventional IAF markings such as Roundels and Fin Flash, except for the serial number.

The interception was carried out by a PAF F-16 Falcon flown by Sqn Ldr Zulfiqar at 13,000 ft [04]. ACM Mir's statement; "The UAV was spotted by the mobile observation units when it crossed into Pakistani territory and was immediately gunned down" substantiates that the intruder was not detected by a radar. The wreckage photos show the remains of a AIM-9L Sidewinder AAM, probably the one which downed the UAV. AIM-9L is the more sophisticated than the AIM-9P version of the missile, which is also in service with the PAF.

The PAF went as far as to say that they would study the wreckage extensively in order to further their grasp of the technology, which would correspondingly give them a "leap of 8-10 years". [04]

Indian external affairs officials admitted losing contact with a UAV in that region, but described it as a routine matter. In a statement issued to the Indian Parliament on 18 July 2002 then Indian Raksha Mantri (Defence Minister) George Fernandes acknowledged the UAV being "shot down by a Pakistan Air Force aircraft" [05].

Revision History :

[v1.0] - [06.07.2004] - First Upload
[v1.1] - [11.07.2004] - Added Ref 05
[v1.2] - [12.06.2005] - Added remarks on AIM-9L

References :

  1. AP Photo caption
  2. "Pakistan shoots down Indian Spy Plane"
  3. The Telegraph
  4. "Spy plane an evidence of Indo-Israeli collaboration: PAF" - By Arshad Sharif
           Dawn 11.Jun.2002
  5. George Fernandes' reply to Unstarred Question No 620 in Lok Sabha on 18.07.2002 (via Jagan PVS)

Searcher-II's first public appearence in India; a flypast at Vayu Sena Diwas (Air Force Day) 2003. The undercarriage of the aircraft cannot be retracted.

File photo of a Searcher-II [T-2002] in IAF service. Compare this view to the photo of the reconstructed wreckage at the bottom.

The aircraft crashed into a Sugarcane field, with a significant portion still intact.

It is not known whether the wreckage was collected from a large area and brought to a single place for display; given the altitude at which the aircraft was claimed to be killed it is more likely to spread over a wide radius.

A PAF Officer (in green overalls) inspects the wreckage.

Badging recoevered from the wreck clearly mentions the aircraft's origins: "Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd. Electronics Division Tamam". The Pakistani Government was very proud to have shot down an aircraft from Israel.

K.M.Chaudary © AP

A trooper displays the remains of a AIM-9L Sidewinder Air-to-Air Missile (AAM).

© corbis.com

In PAF service only F-16s are known to carry the AIM-9L, while other aircraft such as F-7 and Mirage-IIIs are armed with the lesser capability AIM-9P.

© Associated Press (AP)

Remains of the AIM-9L seeker that is suspected to have downd the UAV.

A PAF Officer displays the wreckage to two curious pilots from the Chakala based No. 6 Squadron.

© corbis.com

Substantial portions of the aircraft body; the tail and port side were recovered intact. The nose wheel is visible in this photo.

© PakNews.com


Clearly visible here on the control surfaces of the aircraft is the serial number: T-2004.

© PakNews.com

Other Ops and Incidents : Wreckage photos of the PN Atlantique shot down in 1999
Other Ops and Incidents : IAF's MiG-25 Recce Incursion

bharat-rakshak.com/IAF/Images/Special/UAVs/: IAF's Searcher-II SOPs and Pictures

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