As the mystery behind whether the Indian Air Force shot down a Pakistan Air Force F-16 and whether the Pakistani forces shot down at IAF Sukhoi-30MKI continues, a ‘patch war’ has erupted between the two sides to reinforce their respective versions of truth.
Squadron patches are donned by pilots during aerial operations and are considered to be a badge of honour. However, their glory notwithstanding, these patches are playing the extra role of serving as the ultimate proof in context to the aerial dogfight that took place between India and Pakistan in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack of February 14.
Now, Islamabad’s all-weather friend, China has also joined the tussle with a squadron patch available on eBay, the online retail site, which shows a Chinese built JF-17 ‘Thunder’ fighter with the slogan “JF-17 – MiG killer,” NDTV reported.
This is a reference to the shoot down of IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s MiG-21 Bison by the Pakistan Air Force on February 27, a day after the Indian Air Force struck a Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan.
According to the report, the eBay page where this patch is being sold for $16 says it is “Made in China PLA Military Factory.”
According to IAF, Wing Commander Varthaman was shot down by an AMRAAM air-to-air missile fired by a Pakistan Air Force F-16 fighter, and not by a Chinese made JF-17 ‘Thunder’ fighter as this patch claims.
It has strictly maintained that Varthaman had shot down an F-16 moments before he was intercepted himself and forced to bail out. This version of events has been depicted in a patch designed by a 21-year-old graphic designer. Surav Chordia’s patch designed for the IAF’s 51 Squadron shows an image of an IAF MiG-21 ‘Bison’ and says ‘Falcon Slayers.’ The Lockheed-Martin F-16 is referred to as ‘Falcon,’ the report said.
Similarly, several patches have surfaced across the border as well, which glorify the feat of Pakistan Air Force in the dogfight when it fired fired two AMRAAM missiles that day, which shot down one IAF fighter each.One of the patches produced says “27-02-19: Don’t mess with us: Pakistan Air Force.” A more authentic patch shows two AMRAAM missiles with the slogan “It just takes a pair. 100% kill ratio”.
On February 27, eight Indian Air Force fighters were called in to intercept up to 24 Pakistan Air Force fighters which flew close to the Line of Control as a handful of PAF F-16s breached the LoC to drop a handful of weapons at Indian Army positions.
The IAF says Wing Commander Varthaman managed to lock on and shoot down one of these F-16s as he was chasing the intruding Pakistan Air Force jets.