New Delhi/Washington: A US count of Pakistan’s F-16 fighter jets has found that none of them are missing, contradicting India’s claim that one of its war planes downed a Pakistani F-16 during an aerial dogfight on February 27, a leading American magazine reported, even as the IAF on Friday stuck to its stand and said it had conclusive proof.
Two senior US defense officials with direct knowledge of the situation told the Foreign Policy magazine that American personnel recently counted Islamabad’s F-16s and found none of the planes missing.
“The findings directly contradict the account of Indian Air Force officials, who said that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman managed to shoot down a Pakistani F-16 before his own plane was downed by a Pakistani missile,” the report said.
“It is possible that in the heat of combat, Varthaman, flying a vintage MiG-21 Bison, got a lock on the Pakistani F-16, fired, and genuinely believed he scored a hit,” the report said.
The report said that evidence also suggests that Pakistan’s F-16s were involved in the aerial battle with the Indian Air Force and only the F-16 can shoot a US-made AIM-120 air-to-air missile.
Reacting to the report, The Indian Air Force asserted that it had shot down an F-16 aircraft of the Pakistan Air Force on February 27 during aerial combat. In a statement in New Delhi, the IAF said, “during the aerial engagement, one MiG 21 Bison of the IAF shot down an F-16 in Nowshera sector.”
IAF sources also said it has conclusive “circumstantial evidence” including wireless intercepts, signals and graphic captures from airborne warning and control system (AWACS) and electronic signatures to conclude that the F-16 jet was shot down during the aerial combat. Sources said electronic signals from the F-16 aircraft which was engaged by an Mig 21 Bison ended abruptly, confirming that it crashed after being hit.
IAF sources said radio intercepts showed that two pilots had ejected after the aerial engagement and one of them was admitted to a Pakistani hospital. When the incident occurred, India asked the US government to investigate whether Pakistan’s use of the F-16 against India violated the terms of the foreign military sale agreements.
The IAF on February 28 displayed pieces of the AMRAAM missile, fired by a Pakistani F-16, as evidence to “conclusively” prove that Pakistan deployed US-manufactured F-16 fighter jets during an aerial raid targeting Indian military installations in Kashmir.
In Islamabad, the Pakistani military Friday called on India to “speak the truth” about the “actual losses” in an aerial dogfight between the air forces of the two countries.