Fact Check: Did PM Modi use his cloud theory to convince experts to go ahead with planned Balakot strike?

Posted on 2019-05-15 12:28:04 by Neel Kamal


PM Modi didn't push for the Balakot air strikes against Pakistan despite overcast conditions as he felt that the cloud cover would impact the accuracy of the Pakistani radars. The primary reason was the secrecy of the strike.

His raw wisdom was not entirely off the mark as even though radars are capable of detecting objects through clouds, it is a scientifically acknowledged fact that their efficiency is better when the skies are clear.

The performance of the kill system or missile (probably RBS 70) used to bring down the intruder also gets affected due to rain and cloud.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently created a storm after claiming in a TV interview that he pushed for the Balakot air strike, despite cloud cover, as he felt the adverse weather would prevent Pakistani radar from picking up Indian aircraft movement.

This is how The Print quoted Prime Minister Modi's statement.

First Post also reported that PM Modi used his "raw wisdom" to dispel doubts of defense experts who wanted the air strike to be deferred due to bad weather.

PM Modi was mocked heavily on social media for his comments. Dhurv Rathee who is himself a relentless purveyor of misinformation used abusive words for PM Modi and tweeted that Modi considers most Indians as idiots and will happily lie about India's national security if it benefits him personally.

Did PM Modi give go ahead because of the cloud?

Let's listen to what PM Modi said. You can watch the video from 26:26 minutes onwards:

Here is the rough translation of what he said:

At 12′o clock, we did review again (bore this he reviewed at around 9pm) and we faced a problem that weather got worse. It rained that night. I am surprised that many pandits who abuse me but their mind doesn't work here.

At 12′o clock, this is I am telling for the first time , and also I do not know what is felt by those officers around me . At a time it came to our mind that what we will do in this whether. Clouds are there.Whether we could go or not. So the opinion of the experts came that what if the date is changed.

In my mind two subjects came. First one is secrecy. Till now it has been secret and if the date is changed , the secrecy is difficult to maintain. If the secrecy is loosened, then we have to abort this project altogether.

And the second one. I am not saying that I am a scientist but I said that so much rain is there and so many clouds are there, there is one benefit that we can escape from radars. I said this is my raw vision that the clouds can benefit also. Everybody were in complexity what to do.

Ultimately I told whether clouds are there or not we have to move forward. 

Now, if you go through his statement, he didn't say that go ahead with the plan because the cloud is there. He gave go ahead because he didn't want to change the date. His main concern is not clouds or rain. His main concern is secrecy. He does not want to postpone it otherwise, the secrecy is hampered and the plan itself may have to be aborted.

The discussion about cloud and rain was secondary and certainly, he didn't use this logic to convince the experts and bypass their opinion.

Note: Someone can say interpret the last line differently as "PM Modi saying there is a cloud..so let's go ahead". But it doesn't make sense because the strike was planned beforehand and unlikely weather turned bad. It wasn't like we will attack only when there is a cloud. And he simply gave his point that the presence of cloud can benefit us so we will not abort our plan.

It must be noted that PM Modi clearly said that if the plan would have failed I would have taken the full responsibility.

Can the cloud affect Radar's efficiency?

R. Prasad who is a science editor at The Hindu and has done Ph.D from IIT Bombay mocked PM Modi and tweeted "Many countries have wasted millions of dollars on Stealth Technology to make fighter aircraft invisible to radars. They overlooked Modi’s Cloud Cover Technology"

However, as per the report published in News18, AVM (retd) Pethiya, who fought the 1971 war as a fighter pilot, has justified the PM’s statement. He said rain and clouds have always been challenging to fly planes.

When Hindustan Times contacted senior Indian Air Force officer, a fighter pilot involved in Balakot strikes planning, he said : “The radars, most probably Swedish Giraffe, used by Pakistanis can see through the cloud cover, but the kill system or missile (probably RBS 70) used to bring down the intruder is equipped with an infra-red homing head. It is the infra-red seeker that get degraded during cloud cover. And hence the difficulty in knocking out the intruding fighter.”

A deeper look at how radar technology works and its limitations will prove that Modi was not entirely wrong in his suggestion that the cloud could impact the accuracy of radars.

It is true that radars can detect objects through clouds, their accuracy is affected by weather conditions such as rain or clouds. According to an Encyclopaedia Britannica entry on radar technology, "rain and other forms of precipitation can cause echo signals that mask the desired target echoes".

Radar systems work in a wide band of transmitted frequencies. The higher the frequency of a radar system, the more it is affected by weather conditions such as rain or clouds. But the higher the transmitted frequency, the better is the accuracy of the radar system, explains a post on Radar Tutorial.

Conclusion: Radars are capable of detecting objects through clouds. However, it is a scientifically acknowledged fact that their efficiency is better when the skies are clear.

Credit: First Post

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