The Indian Air Force (IAF) rubbished a US media report which raised questions on India’s claim that it has shot down a Pakistani F-16 with a MiG-21 Bison fighter aircraft on 27 February.
According to ANI, IAF sources stated that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman had shot down a PAF F-16 during the aerial engagement when a complement of PAF fighter jets tried to bomb Indian military installations.
The IAF sources said that the F-16 aircraft was shot down 7-8 km inside Sabzkot in PoK.
The sources also said that intercepted radio communication of PAF revealed that one of their F-16s that was involved in the attack on India did not return to its base.
ANI reports that Indian forces have confirmed sighting ejections at two different places on 27 February at places separated by at least 8-10 km. The sources said that while one of the ejections was of an IAF MIG 21 Bison, the other was of a PAF aircraft.
“Electronic signatures gathered by us indicate PAF aircraft was an F-16,” ANI reported citing a source.
According to a report in Foreign Policy, a prominent American magazine, a US count of the F-16 jets with Pakistan has found that none of them is “missing” and all the fighter planes were “present and accounted for”.
The two unnamed officials, said to have direct knowledge of the situation, told the publication that US personnel recently counted Islamabad’s F-16s and found none missing.
The findings, the magazine said, directly contradict the account of Indian Air Force (IAF) 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.
“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. But the count, conducted by U.S. authorities on the ground in Pakistan, sheds doubt on New Delhi’s version of events, suggesting that Indian authorities may have misled the international community about what happened that day,” the magazine added.
The news report has come at a time when India has taken up the use of F-16 by Pakistan in the 27 February dogfight. To substantiate its claim, India has also displayed parts of the AAMRAM missile which could only be loaded in an F-16 aircraft and which fell in Indian territory during the aerial engagement.
One of the senior US defence officials with direct knowledge of the count said that Pakistan invited the US to physically count its F-16 planes after the incident as part of an end-user agreement signed when the foreign military sale was finalised.
“All aircraft were present and accounted for”, the official was quoted as saying by the magazine.
After denying for weeks that it had used the US-made F-16 in the aerial combat with New Delhi on February 27, Pakistan recently said that “it retains the right to use anything and everything in its legitimate self-defence”.
“…India can assume any type of their choice, even F-16. Pakistan retains the right to use anything and everything in its legitimate self-defence,” the Director-General of Pakistan’s Inter-Service Public Relations said.