Straying Air France Airbus Triggers Security Alarm

On its toes to prevent a 9/11 like strike in the country, the Indian Air Force on Thursday morning scrambled two fighter jets to intercept an “unidentified aircraft” over Amritsar after it strayed into Indian airspace from Pakistan on Thursday morning.

The suspicious aircraft was an Air France passenger airliner en-route to Bangkok from Paris, with a wrong IFF code switched on, the code helps ground radars automatically differentiate between friendly and enemy planes.

The aircraft was first picked up by IAF air defence radars at around 0610 hours on Thursday when the craft was noticed at an altitude of 37,000 feet southeast of Amritsar.

“The aircraft, which entered Indian airspace at the established border entry point on the ATS route, was not in communication and also the secondary radar response IFF code, or the `squawk’ code, was not correct,” an official was quoted as saying.

Identifying the aircraft as “unknown” two MiG-29 air defence fighters were scrambled from the IAF Pathankot airbase to intercept and investigate the identity of the aorcraft.

The MiG-29s were later directed to break off and return to base, after the aircraft started transmitting the correct secondary radar response code. It was then identified as a civil airliner (Airbus A-343) of Air France (AFR-164), the official added.

The Indian Cabinet Committee on Security in August 2005 approved an anti-hijack policy allowing for a “hostile” plane to be shot down if evidence conclusively proved its use as a “missile” to hit “strategic targets”.

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