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DATE=5/29/99 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT NUMBER=5-43532 TITLE=KASHMIR FLYING BYLINE=JIM TEEPLE DATELINE=NEW DELHI CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: IT IS ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES ON EARTH -- AND ONE OF THE MOST DANGEROUS. KASHMIR, DIVIDED BY INDIA AND PAKISTAN, HAS LUSH MOUNTAIN VALLEYS AND SOME OF THE TALLEST MOUNTAINS IN THE WORLD. THOSE MOUNTAIN VALLEYS ARE NOW THE SCENE OF HEAVY COMBAT, AS INDIAN AIR FORCE JETS STRAFE MOUNTAIN RIDGES AND ARMY TROOPS ENGAGE IN FIERCE FIGHTS WITH GUERRILLAS THEY SAY HAVE CROSSED THE BORDER FROM PAKISTAN. SEPARATING THE TWO SIDES IS THE "LINE OF CONTROL," WHICH SNAKES DOWN FROM THE HIGH GLACIERS INTO THE HEART OF THE KASHMIR VALLEY. FOR PILOTS ENGAGED IN COMBAT MISSIONS, NAVIGATING THROUGH THE VALLEY IS A MATTER OF SPLIT-SECOND TIMING. TWO INDIAN PLANES WERE LOST IN THE FIRST DAYS OF FIGHTING IN KASHMIR. INDIAN COMMANDERS SAY CONDITIONS IN THE VALLEY COULD HAVE PLAYED A PART. V-O-A'S JIM TEEPLE HAS MORE ON WHY KASHMIR IS POSSIBLY THE WORLD'S MOST-DANGEROUS PLACE TO FLY. TEXT: THOSE WHO HAVE DONE IT SAY FLYING COMBAT MISSIONS IN KASHMIR REQUIRES TOTAL CONCENTRATION. INDIAN VICE-AIR MARSHALL S-K MALIK, SAYS PILOTS WHO FLY IN THE REGION HAVE TO BE PREPARED. // MALIK ACTUALITY // WE ARE TALKING ABOUT THE HIMALAYAS, WHERE YOUR HILLTOPS ARE BETWEEN 15 AND 20 THOUSAND FEET (SIX THOUSAND METERS). THERE ARE VALLEYS FULL OF ROCKS AND INHOSPITABLE AREAS. THE VALLEYS ARE VERY NARROW. WHEN YOU FLY IN THESE AREAS, SOME ARE SNOW PEAKED AND SOME ARE BARREN ROCKY AREAS WITH SHADOWS IN THE HILLS. // END ACTUALITY // PILOTS ALSO HAVE TO CONTEND WITH WEATHER THAT CAN CHANGE DRAMATICALLY WITHIN A FEW HUNDRED METERS, WHICH AIR MARSHALL MALIK SAYS CAN MAKE THE GROUND EVEN MORE OBSCURE. THE AIR FORCE OFFICER SAYS THE DIFFICULT FLYING TAKES ITS TOLL ON AIRCRAFT, AS WELL AS PILOTS. // MALIK ACTUALITY // FLYING THERE IS DIFFICULT BECAUSE YOUR AIRCRAFT, ITSELF, IS OPERATING AT HIGH ALTITUDES AND, DUE TO THE DROP IN DENSITY IN THE ATMOSPHERE, THE AIRCRAFT PERFORMANCE IS ITSELF DEGRADED AND, THEREFORE, THE HANDLING BECOMES EVEN MORE CRITICAL AND MORE DEMANDING FOR THE PILOT. HE HAS TO BE VERY CAUTIOUS WHILE HE EXECUTING VARIOUS MANEUVERS. // END ACTUALITY // AIR MARSHALL MALIK SAYS, UNDER SUCH CIRCUMSTANCES, FINDING TARGETS IS EXTREMELY DIFFICULT. HE SAYS IDENTIFYING TARGETS IN THE BEST OF CIRCUMSTANCES TAKES TIME -- SOMETHING THAT NO PILOT FLYING AT A SPEED OF ONE THOUSAND KILOMETERS HAS MUCH OF. THE SENIOR AIR COMMANDER SAYS, EVEN WHEN A PILOT FINDS HIS TARGET, HITTING IT IS NOT EASY. // MALIK ACTUALITY // IN THE ATTACK, ITSELF -- SINCE IT IS AT HIGH ALTITUDES -- HIS FIRING PARAMETERS HAVE TO BE SO ADAPTED THAT HE CLEARS THE SURROUNDING FEATURES WITH A SUFFICIENT MARGIN OF SAFETY. THIS IS THE KIND OF DIFFICULT TERRAIN THAT OBVIATES THAT. // END ACTUALITY // // OPT // IF A PILOT DEVELOPS AN ENGINE PROBLEM,. AS HAPPENED WITH ONE INDIAN MIG FIGHTER RECENTLY, HE HAS ONE OPTION -- TO DESCEND AND TRY AND AVOID CRASHING INTO THE STEEP SNOW-CAPPED HIMALAYAN RIDGES WHICH RING THE VALLEYS. INDIAN COMMANDERS HAVE CONCEDED ONE OF THEIR PLANES DID CRASH IN PAKISTANI TERRITORY, EARLIER THIS WEEK. VICE AIR MARSHALL MALIK BELIEVES THE PLANE CROSSED INTO PAKISTANI TERRITORY, AFTER THE PILOT EJECTED. // OPTIONAL MALIK ACTUALITY // FLYING AT SPEEDS OF ONE THOUSAND KILOMETERS -- COVERING TWO OR THREE KILOMETERS IS JUST A MATTER OF SECONDS. AND, REMEMBER, EVEN WHEN A PILOT EJECTS FROM HIS AIRCRAFT -- AFTER HE HAS ABANDONED IT -- THE AIRCRAFT, WHICH IS TRIMMED, WILL CONTINUE TO FLY AND IT MAY ACTUALLY CRASH SEVERAL MILES AHEAD OF WHERE THE PILOT HAS EJECTED. // END OPTIONAL ACTUALITY // PILOTS SAY FLYING BETWEEN THE TWO OPPOSING FORCES RANGED AGAINST EACH OTHER IN KASHMIR ACROSS THE "LINE OF CONTROL" TAKES ABOUT 30 SECONDS. DETERMINING WHERE THE LINE IS AT HIGH SPEEDS AND HIGH ALTITUDES THEY SAY IS VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE, WHICH IS ONE OF THE THINGS THAT MAKES KASHMIR A VERY DANGEROUS PLACE TO FLY. (SIGNED) NEB / JLT / WD / WD 29-May-99 6:53 AM EDT (1053 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .