New Delhi: The Indian Air Force on Friday asserted that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman had shot down an F-16 Pakistani jet on February 27.
The IAF in a statement said that a day after the Balakot attack, a large force of the Pakistan Air Force, which included F-16s, JF-17s and Mirage III/V aircraft, were picked up by the IAF radars.
“They were intercepted by IAF Su-30 MKI, Mirage-2000 and MiG-21 Bison fighter guided by ground radars and AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System). All attempts of PAF to attack any targets were thwarted by the IAF. During the aerial engagement that followed, one MiG-21 Bison of the IAF shot down one F-16 in Nowshera sector,” the statement read.
Sources confirmed to News18 that the F-16 was shot down by Wing Commander Varthaman. There is enough technical evidence, they added, for the IAF to be convinced that it was indeed an F-16 that the Wing Commander engaged with and eventually shot down.
The IAF said that on February 27, there were confirmed sighting ejections at two different places separated by at least 8-10 km — one was an IAF MiG-21 Bison and the other was a PAF aircraft.
News agency ANI quoted its sources as saying that radio communication of Pakistan Air Force intercepted by IAF confirmed that one of the F-16s that attacked India on February 27 "did not return to its base".
The IAF's statement puts on precarious ground a report that appeared in a US publication, which cited US defence sources as saying that all F-16s in the PAF were accounted for. The report in American magazine ‘Foreign Policy’ claimed that a US count of the F-16s with Pakistan found that none of them are missing.
"The findings directly contradict the account of Indian Air Force officials, who said that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman managed to shoot down a Pakistani F-16 before his own plane was downed by a Pakistani missile," a leading American magazine report said on Thursday.
However, PAF spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor took to Twitter on Friday night to raise doubts over India's version of events, claiming that Pakistan has more truth to share.
IAF claim of hitting F-16 by their Mig 21 before having been shot down by PAF gets exposed. All 4 missile seeker heads recovered intact from the wreckage & held. Pakistan and its professional Armed Forces staying humble by not drum beating. We have more truth on this to share. pic.twitter.com/jOklFU7GDJ— Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor (@OfficialDGISPR) April 5, 2019
After the aerial skirmishes on February 27, India had asked the US government to investigate whether Pakistan's use of the F-16 against India violated the terms of the foreign military sale agreements.
The next day, the IAF had displayed pieces of the AMRAAM missile, fired by a Pakistani F-16, as evidence to "conclusively" prove that Pakistan deployed US-manufactured F-16 fighter jets during an aerial raid targeting Indian military installations in Kashmir.
According to the US magazine, Pakistan invited the US to physically count its F-16 planes after the incident as part of an end-user agreement signed when the foreign military sale was finalised.
Some of the aircraft were not immediately available for inspection due to the conflict, so it took US personnel several weeks to account for all of the jets, one US official said. But now the count has been completed, and "all aircraft were present and accounted for," the official said.
Earlier in the day, Islamabad latched on to the US report. Retweeting it, Ghafoor said, “Allah be praised, truth always prevails” and added that it was time for India to reveal the truth.