Indian Air Force scrambled to intercept a… weather balloon

Another boring Identified Flying Object that sparked a moment of panic and then a “D’Oh!” moment.

UFO near IB, IAF scrambles Sukhoi-30MKI.

The Indian Air Force scrambled a Su-30MKI after its radars detected a slow moving unidentified flying object coming towards India from the International Border with Pakistan and in the process, it came close to two civilian flights operating in that area.

Later on, the Su-30MKI identified that the object was a weather balloon which was flying with the wind towards the border and it returned from there after being airborne for around 20 minutes, they said.

Reports suggested that two civilian planes of Thai Airways and another foreign operator were flying around 10 nautical miles away from the IAF aircraft.

The IAF denied that there was any “near-miss incident” involving its aircraft as it was under positive radar coverage and was cleared for operating in that area.

Nothing to see here. Just a weather balloon. OR IS IT?! Yes, it is. But this does make me a bit leary about the quality of observation in Indian airspace. Obviously, the location of this incident, the border with Pakistan was key in the overreaction. But there are so many man-made things in the sky today, how can you assume it’s aliens, ever?

  4 comments for “Indian Air Force scrambled to intercept a… weather balloon

  1. Blargh
    February 25, 2014 at 11:37 AM

    Honestly? If the article is correct, this all played out just the way it should.
    An unidentified flying object (i.e. a “bogey”) was spotted nearing their airspace, and in a corridor used by civilian air traffic. Fighters were scrambled. The contact was identified as a harmless weather balloon, and the fighters could be called off.
    This is just how it’s supposed to go down! The same thing would happen in any country with an air force and any kind of readiness.

  2. February 25, 2014 at 11:45 AM

    How could they not be aware of weather balloons? It sounds like TERRIBLE procedure. A waste of a lot of fuel over nothing.

  3. Blargh
    February 25, 2014 at 12:21 PM

    Identifying things on radar isn’t as easy as it is in movies and video games. There’s a reason airplanes are equipped with transponders and IFF systems – something simple weather balloons lack.
    My guess? Someone messed up by releasing the balloon without notifying ATC*, or there was a mixup somewhere in the Pakistani-Indian communication.

    * you don’t just release a weather balloon without warning. Check out the FAA’s regulations (paragraphs 101.37 and 101.39) to see just how much you have to do to keep ATC informed.

  4. John Nowak
    February 25, 2014 at 1:56 PM

    If it were the US / Canadian border, “that’s probably the weather balloon that was launched this morning” might get a pass.

    But an unidentified contact between India and Pakistan? One of the hottest, most contested borders on the planet? I’d think long and hard before passing that one off as a weather balloon that might be out there somewhere. Scrambling a fighter (singular) seems like a reasonable precaution to me.

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