The Indian Air Force insisted it has proof that a Pakistani F-16 was shot down during the dog fight in February, even as US publication Foreign Policy denied Indian claims.
IAF on Friday reiterated that the plane shot down in an aerial engagement by a Mig-21 in Nowshera sector on February 27 was an F-16, rejecting a claim in a report that none of the Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) US-supplied jets was found missing after a recent count.
“The Indian Forces have confirmed sighting ejections at two different places on that day. The two sightings were at places separated by at least 8-10 km. One was an IAF MiG 21 Bison and other a PAF aircraft. Electronic signatures gathered by us indicate that the PAF aircraft was a F-16,” IAF said in a statement.
The clarification came after Foreign Policy cited unnamed US officials to claim that the F-16 fleet of PAF was counted and no jet was found to be missing.
IAF sources also said that radio communication of Pakistan Air Force intercepted by it confirms that one of the F-16s that attacked India on February 27 did not return to its base.
“One of the senior US defence officials with direct knowledge of the count said that 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 finalized. Generally in such agreements, the United States requires the receiving country to allow US officials to inspect the equipment regularly to ensure it is accounted for and protected,” said the Foreign Policy report claiming the PAF F-16 fleet was intact.
The report was also used by Pakistan’s military propaganda establishment to refute Indian claim of shooting down an F-16.
But IAF categorically denied the claims made in the report saying that the Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) images show there were 11 F-16s and the electronic signatures captured by IAF clearly indicate that it was F-16 that went down.
India and Pakistan engaged in an aerial battle over the disputed region of Kashmir a day after Indian jets crossed over into Pakistan to attack a suspected camp of anti-India militants.
An Indian jet was brought down during the fight and its pilot captured when he ejected on the Pakistani side of the border.
India said it, too, had shot down a Pakistani aircraft and the air force displayed pieces of a missile that it said had been fired by a Pakistani F-16 before it went down.
Foreign Policy magazine, citing two unnamed US officials, said US personnel had done a count of Pakistan’s F-16s and found none missing.
The F-16s are made by Lockheed Martin and, under an end-user agreement, the United States required the host country to allow for regular inspections to ensure they were accounted for and protected, Foreign Policy said.