It’s true. Never has an Air Force Day film created such buzz in the media. And for no reason, really. With the Indian Air Force conducting its first airstrikes on Pakistani territory this year, it was always beyond doubt that the film would highlight the mission’s achievements. But when the film was screened at incoming IAF chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria’s press conference near Delhi’s India Gate on Friday morning, several news agencies spun the story as ‘Balakot proof’ or ‘Balakot strike footage’ or ‘the Balakot video’, leading to a frenzy of politicised coverage targeting political entities that had demanded ‘proof’ of the airstrikes.
The Indian Air Force’s consternation was immediate. While the IAF usually releases such films if it screens them at a press conference, it held back and actually modified the film to include the words ‘Representational video’ on the segment depicting the Balakot operation. That’s right, just in case anyone mistook the video as ‘proof’ of the strikes like many media agencies were calling it.
The film of course contains no operational footage whatsoever from the Balakot airstrikes. Cut on highly unspecific archival stock footage, the segment on the Balakot airstrikes runs for a total of 90 seconds in the 13-minute film. While it is unclear what video footage exists of ground-level activity during the Balakot strikes, no ‘weapon cam’ footage or sensor imagery of the target during the airstrikes is known to exist.
The rest of the film depicts the IAF’s new hardware, including the Chinook, Tejas, Rafale and Apache and the usual fare on joint exercises with other countries and firepower demonstrations like Vayu Shakti earlier this year. It wraps things up with humanitarian relief operations, welfare measures and a message from the new Chief of the Air Staff.