On the morning of February 27, 24 fighter jets took off from Pakistan and flew towards India. The group of jets included ten US-made F-16 Fighting Falcons. At exactly 10am, the jets entered Indian airspace, where waiting Indian Air Force fighter jets engaged them in a dogfight.
The fierce fight over Jammu and Kashmir ended up with an Indian MiG-21 Bison shooting down an F-16. However, that MiG too suffered a hit and crashed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Its pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, was captured by Pakistan Army. He was released two days later.
The developments of February 27 morning lasted 16 minutes, from the time the Pakistani jets took off to the time Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was hit. India Today TV has accessed minute-by-minute details of the intense dogfight.
9:52 AM: Indian Air Force’s Netra surveillance drone and the Northern Air Command detect 10 F-16s taking off three airbases in Pakistan. The F-16s fly in three separate formations. They merge into a single formation after entering Paksitan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
9:54 AM: Indian Air Force swings into action. IAF’s MiG 21 Bisons, Sukhoi Su-30MKIs and Mirage 2000s are scrambled to intercept the incoming Pakistani fighter jets.
9.58 AM: India sounds an alert and sends out a message to the Pakistani fighters asking them to go back.
9.59 AM: As per protocol, India sounds second alert and sends another message asking the Pakistani jets to go back.
10:00 AM: The Pakistan Air Force fighter jets enter Indian airspace.
10:01 AM: Indian Air Force jets respond with full force and engage the F-16s. The F-16s are also targetted by surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). The response forces nine PAF F-16s to return after intruding just a kilometre into Indian territory.
10:02 AM: One F-16 manages to enter deep inside Indian territory. The jet targets an oil depot and an ammunition point in a military zone and tries to attack an Indian Army brigade headquarters.
10:03 AM: One Indian Air Force Sukhoi Su-30 and one MiG-21 Bison engage this F-16 in a dogfight manoeuvre called “defensive split”. The two Indian jets trap the Pakistani jet in between them — the MiG 21 flies in front while the Su-30 chases the F-16 from behind, firing at it. The F-16 is forced to flee using a dog fight manoeuvre called “wingover”.
10:04 AM: The Su-16 stops chasing the F-16 and hovers around the oil field in order to guard it. The MiG-21 Bison, being flown by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, gives the F-16 chase. The F-16 is flying out of territory and Wing Commander Abhinandan ‘locks’ F-16 with an R-73 air-to-air missile.
10:08 AM: Wing Commander Abhinandan fires his R73 missile and successfully hits the F-16, bringing it down. Abhinandan performs a dangerous manoeuvre called “high-g barrel roll”. He is in the range of Pakistani surface to air artillery and surface to air missiles (SAM). Either a SAM or air artillery hits the MiG-21. Abhinandan ejects.