IAF refutes U.S. report saying no F-16 was shot down

IAF refutes U.S. report saying no F-16 was shot down

The Indian Foreign Ministry's spokesperson said during a questions and answers session today that the use of F-16s by Pakistan in an aerial clash on 27 February, which led to a downing of at least one Indian Air Force (IAF) jet, is a solid fact.

He, however, said that Pakistani military had "more truth" to share in order to debunk Indian claims of downing a Pakistani F-16 fighter.

The dogfight between the two nations occurred on February 27, when India says a group of Pakistani jets entered its airspace in response to the first Indian air raid on Pakistani territory since a 1971 war. The IAF reiterated that a MiG-21 Bison had shot down the Pakistani F-16 jet in the Nowshera sector. U.S. officials did a count of Islamabad's F-16 jets recently and found that none was missing, contradicting India's claim that it shot down a Pakistani fighter jet, according to a report published on the Foreign Policy magazine's website on Thursday.

A USA count of Pakistan's F-16 jets revealed none to be missing, the US officials told Foreign Policy, undercutting India's position that its air force shot down a Pakistan Air Force jet in a clash that also led to the loss of a Soviet-era Indian Air Force MiG-21 Bison.

The F-16 aircraft are manufactured by U.S. weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin, and have formed the backbone of Pakistan's air force for decades.

Showing the operation chart made by the Air Borne Warning and Control System (AWACS), top IAF sources said there were only F-16s in the sector where Wing Commander Abhinandan was operating.

One possibility, Lara Seligman wrote, is that Vardhaman may have gotten a lock on the Pakistani F-16 and fired before his own plane was shot down.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has flipped and flopped over the issue with its Prime Minister - Imran Khan - initially saying two Indian pilots had been captured on February 28.

In the dogfight Pakistan had also said it shot down two Indian planes, but India said that it lost only one aircraft.

"Electronic signatures gathered by us indicate PAF aircraft was an F-16", ANI reported citing a source.

"Pakistan invited the USA to physically count its F-16 planes after the incident as part of an end-user agreement signed when the foreign military sale was finalized", Foreign Policy quoted a U.S. defence official with direct knowledge of the count conducted on ground on Pak soil as saying Thursday.

During the aerial battle, Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman took a missile hit and ejected safely into Pakistani territory.

Even as Pakistan remains in denial mode and claims that none of its F-16 jets were mobilised against India, hard evidence points to the opposite.

In his tweet, the DG ISPR said: "Allah be praised, truth always prevails".

Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated after the 49 CRPF personnel were killed in Pulwama district on February 14. The AMRAAM can only be used by F-16s.

The recent India-Pakistan face-off is expected to boost Modi's chances of re-election in the staggered general elections beginning on April 11. The US generally requires the receiving country to allow its officials to inspect the equipment regularly to ensure it is accounted for.

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