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”, according to a report in a prominent American magazine.
The reported finding directly contradicts India’s claim that F-16s were used by Pakistan during the aerial engagement with the Indian Air Force (IAF). India’s contention is that Pakistan had used AMRAAM missile during the dogfight which could only be loaded on an F-16 aircraft.
A day after Pakistan’s attempt to retaliate the Indian Air Force’s air strikes at a Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camp in Balakot, the Indian armed forces displayed parts of an AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile) fired by an F-16, which fell in Indian territory. New Delhi had also underlined that electronic signatures captured by Indian radars had established the use of F-16 for the offensive.
New Delhi had also taken up the matter with Washington, pointing out that the defence systems exported by the US for offensive action against terrorists had been misused against India.
The US State Department had announced that it was seeking more information from Pakistan on the potential use of American-made F-16 jets against India in violation of the end-user agreement.
Pakistan has so far maintained that it had used JF-17 Thunder combat aircraft jointly developed with China during the dogfight with Indian warplanes on February 27.
However, after denying for weeks that it had used the US-made F-16 in the aerial combat with New Delhi on February 27, Pakistan on Monday 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.
According to the Foreign Policy magazine, Pakistan invited the United States 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.
“A US count of Pakistan’s F-16 fleet has found that all the jets are present and accounted for, a direct contradiction to India’s claim that it shot down one of the fighter jets during a February clash,” Lara Seligman of the magazine reported on Thursday.
The count of the F-16 fighter planes in Pakistan has been completed, and “all aircraft were present and accounted for,” an unnamed defence official was quoted as saying by the magazine.
The Department of Defence did not immediately respond to a question on its count of F-16 fighter jets in Pakistan.
“As details come out, it looks worse and worse for the Indians,” MIT professor Vipin Narang told Foreign Policy magazine.
“It looks increasingly like India failed to impose significant costs on Pakistan, but lost a plane and a helicopter of its own in the process,” he said.
Generally, in such agreements, the US requires the receiving country to allow its officials to inspect the equipment regularly to ensure it is accounted for and protected, the news report said.
Tensions between the two countries escalated after the February 14 Pulwama terror attack claimed by Pakistan-based JeM, that left over 44 CRPF personnel dead.
(With PTI inputs)