India counters US media report on Pak F-16 shot down by IAF

April 6, 2019
NEW DELHI: The US has reportedly stated that in an official count it conducted none of the American fighter F-16s Pakistan had purchased was found missing. This apparently nails Indian claim and supports Pakistan's version on shooting down of an F-16 as claimed by India duing the dogfight of February 27 last, according to a privately owned American magazine, 'Foreign Policy', which has claimed it has accessed the information from Pentagon officials.

However, later on Friday, Pentagon officials told the Hindustan Times in Washington that they are not aware of any counting investigation done by the US on F-16 fleet in Pakistan.

"India’s claim that one of its fighter pilots shot down a Pakistani F-16 fighter jet in an aerial battle between the two nuclear powers in February appears to be wrong. Two senior US defense officials (Pentagon) with direct knowledge of the situation told Foreign Policy that US personnel recently counted Islamabad’s F-16s and found none missing," the magazine had said.

The magazine article also 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.

However, this corroborates the charge that Pakistan used F-16 in the aerial fight against India in violation of the terms of purchase agreement. India had at that point of time brought the matter to the notice of the US Government about violations of norms of F-16 deployments.

The aerial engagements by the two air forces had followed an Indian attack on terrorist camps in Balakot inside Pakistan, beyond Pak-Occupied Kashmir, which was a rertaliation to the Pulwama terrorist bomb attack on a CRPF convoy of 70 vehicles moving from Jammu to Srinagar for redeployment, killing 40 personnel, on February 14. Masood Azhar's Jaish- e-Mohammed (JEM) had claimed responsibility for the Pulwama bomb attack.

The Indian Air Force had claimed said that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman shot down a Pakistani F-16 before his MiG-21 was downed by a Pakistani missile. Abhinandan landed in Pakistani territory and was taken into custody by Pakistani army.

The US inquiry has led to speculation that Indian authorities may have misled the international community to gain advantage of popular support on the eve of parliamentary elections.

The IAF had said a group of Pakistani jets entered its airspace in response to the Indian air raid on the terror camp in Pakistani territory. It said India scrambled its jets and an aerial battle ensued. Varthaman took a missile hit and ejected safely into Pakistani territory. He was captured by the Pakistani army and released days later in an effort to de-escalate the crisis.

As proof of intrusion by F-16, India produced wreckage of AMRAAM missiles that were targeted against Indian military establishments in Kashmir.

It is also reported it took several weeks for the US to undertake the counting process.

Pakistan had been consistently denying that it ever used F-16 fighter jets. But it has since taken a stand that it has the right to use "anything and everything" to defend itself.

Now, reacting to the Foreign Policy magazine's revelation, the IAF clarified that the “electronic signatures” indicate that the downed fighter was F-16.

During the aerial engagement that followed, one MiG 21 Bison of the IAF shot down one F-16, according to the Air force.

The Indian Forces have confirmed ejections at two different places on that day. These were separated by at least 8-10 kms. One was an IAF MiG 21 Bison and the other a PAF aircraft, an official said.

“After the IAF attack on the terrorists camp at Balakot on 26 Feb 19, PAF attempted a riposte on 27 Feb 19. A large force of PAF F-16s, JD 17s and Mirage III/V aircraft were picked up by IAF radars,” he said.

Su30-MKI, Mirage-2000 and MiG-21 Bison fighters, ground radars and AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) were used to thwart Pak aerial incursions.

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