ISLAMABAD: The military said on Thursday that an unarmed Indian supersonic missile had intruded into Pakistani territory, endangering several airliners during the course of its flight, and finally hit a private property near Mian Channu.

“On 9th of March, 2022, at 18.43hrs a high-speed flying object was picked up inside the Indian territory by air defence operations centre of Pakistan Air Force. From its initial course, the object suddenly manoeuvred towards Pakistani territory and violated Pakistan’s airspace, ultimately falling near Mian Channu at 18.50hrs,” said Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar at a hurriedly called media conference. Air Vice Marshal Tariq Zia of the PAF was also present.

“When it fell it damaged some civilian property. Thankfully, no loss or injury to human life was caused,” Gen Babar further said as he sought New Delhi’s explanation on the incident.

The incident was initially reported on Wednesday night, with some speculating that a trainer aircraft or a drone had crashed into a cold storage facility near Mian Channu. It was then also reported that armed forces had taken over the area and stopped media access to it.

The military spokesman said that PAF continuously monitored the flight path of the flying object from its point of origin near Sirsa in India till its point of impact and in response initiated required tactical actions in accordance with its standard operating procedures.

“We are keeping a close watch and safeguards were in place. Everyone is alert to the threat that we are facing,” he maintained while emphasising that Pakistan has the ability to counter the weapon systems possessed by India.

“It is important to highlight that flight path of this object endangered many international and domestic passenger flights both in Indian and Pakistani air space as well as human life and property on the ground,” he said.

During the course of the missile’s flight, it passed close to airliners from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and India in Indian airspace and the flight courses of two international and a domestic flight in Pakistani airspace.

“Whatever caused this incident to happen, it is for the Indians to explain. It nevertheless shows their disregard for aviation safety and reflects very poorly on their technological prowess and procedural efficiency. The incident could have resulted in a major aviation disaster as well as civilian casualties on ground,” Gen Babar emphasised.

He said that details of the incident had been provided to the Foreign Office, which would seek an explanation from India through diplomatic channels.

Gen Babar said he would not like to speculate on the cause of the incident, but was only recalling what had happened.

The military spokesman said that Pakistan strongly protests this “flagrant violation” and “cautions against recurrence of such incident in future”.

Responding to a question, Gen Babar said the missile had not been shot down and fell by itself.

AVM Tariq Zia, while sharing the technical details of the incident, said the missile had been initially picked up by Pakistani air defence systems when it was 104km inside Indian territory at an altitude of 40,000 feet and travelling at a speed in excess of Mach 2.5, ultimately reaching Mach 3.0.

He said it first headed towards south-west and after travelling 70-80km took a right turn to head north-west towards Pakistani airspace. It crossed the international border into Pakistan south of Bahawalpur and “faded out” at the time of 18:50hrs PST, near Mian Channu.

The missile, he said, travelled 124km inside Pakistani territory in three minutes and 44 seconds.

AVM Zia said that from the initial findings it appeared that it was an unarmed surface-to-surface supersonic missile.

Published in Dawn, March 11th, 2022

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