Hundreds of Fidayeen and their trainers were shifted from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir to a five-star, resort style camp in a hilltop forest in Balakot after the Pulwama attack, providing Indian forces with "a sitting duck target" when they carried out an air strike early Tuesday, killing up to 350 terrorists, sources said.
They said at least 325 terrorists and 25 to 27 trainers were at the camp, the biggest operated by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad group, which had claimed responsibility for the February 14 suicide attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama, Kashmir that killed 40 jawans.
Full details of the surgical strike 2.0:
On February 15: A day after the Pulwama terror attack, all three defence chiefs and the chief of Integrated Defence Staff presented their military options to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the National Security Adviser Ajit Doval to target terror bases in Pakistan after receiving instructions from the NSA that the target should only be terror bases (training or launch pads) and not Pakistan military bases.
February 16: After their respective presentations Army's options of a bigger surgical strike and capturing some of the posts of Pakistan (and few more options) were ruled out because of lack of surprise element in it. but the army was tasked to keep Pakistan engaged in heavy shelling including initiating CFVS from the India side.
The Indian Navy was tasked to deploy submarines closer to Karachi and Gwadar in an attempt to create decoy and confuse Pakistanis of a maritime attack from India.
The IAF was tasked to carry out strike. IAF’s DG air operations (offensive) sought 10 day-time to prepare precision strikes. The NSA granted it with the instruction of zero collateral damage to men and aircraft.
The point of insertion of the IAF was identified as Muzzafarabad (Pak's low air defence in that sector). The IAF DG operations instructed to not go too deep into Pakistan air space, not more than 10-15 miles, as instruction from the PM and the NSA was clear to not have any collateral damage.
February 17: The Army and the IAF drones were deployed to check the Pakistan radar and deployment. On ground, intelligence from the RAW in Pakistan was very handy.
February 18: Military advisor to the NSA, the IB chief, the RAW chief gave five target options to the IAF, three were chosen considering operational aspects in mind.
Exercise Vayushakti in Pokharan on February 16 was quickly modified to check the Pakistan radars. it was found that they were extremely sensitive during operation air show, especially with IAF bases near LoC and the International Border. Hence, Gwalior was chosen as the base to launch air strikes.
February 19: The IAF received detailed and the exact operation clearance/approved by the PM and the NSA.
They were given these instructions:
February 26 early morning: Air strikes on joint training camps of Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahiddin in Balakot, Muzaffarabad and Chakoti.
Time: Between 0300 and 0330 hours (lowest resistance from Pak Air Force).
Planned presence in Pakistan airspace: Not beyond 20 minutes considering Pakistan reaction time (finished in 17 minutes).
1 EMB AEW- 145 took off from Bhatinda air base around 0100 hours.
1 IL-78 mid-air refueller took off from Agra air base around 0200 hours.
Mirage 2000s: IAF's 1 (tiger), 7 (battle axes) and 9 (wolf packs) squadrons from Gwalior air base with Mirage 2000s were tasked to carry out precision strikes using Israeli laser pods.
6 Mirage 2000s from above three squadrons took off from Gwalior air base in batches/ multiple layers around 2am.
Out of all the above 6 (in 3 pairs) were given the tasked to drop bombs on the terror training camps (not launch pads as they were very few terrorists left on launch pads... based on latest the IB, the RAW, the DIA inputs received until February 18.
4 Su-30mkis took off from Sirsa air base around 0300 hours.
Pechora missiles at all IAF bases situated near the LoC and the IB (air defence on standby) to counter Pakistan aircraft in case they come into Indian air space chasing Mirage2000s while returning.
All IAF bases were alerted around 3c am to deploy ground assets (recovery teams) in case crash happens in Indian air space (while going or returning).
The full operation was done by the central and western air command and monitored by air Headquarters, New Delhi through IACCS- integrated air command and control system.
The IAF did not go more than approx. 10 miles into Pakistan air space.
The IAF is currently at the highest level of defence and ready to launch second layer of attack in case.