The Indian Air Force on Monday released radar images to rebut Pakistan’s claim that it hadn’t lost a US-manufactured F-16 fighter jet in the February 27 dogfight. The IAF said there was more credible evidence available to establish that Pakistan Air Force had lost one F-16 in the air action. But the IAF is restricting the information being shared in public domain due to security and confidentiality concerns, Air Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor, Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Operations) said.Officials said the Air Force also had evidence in the form of radio-telephony intercepts of the Pakistan Air Force F-16 strike package and ground wireless intercepts but would not place this evidence in public domain due to security and confidentiality concerns.The fact is that the IAF had achieved its objectives of successfully striking the Balakot camp and thwarting the retaliatory PAF attack against Indian military installations that followed on February 27, Air Vice Marshal Kapoor said.The AWACS radar image of the engagement area west of the Line of Control opposite Jhangar clearly establishes that there were a bunch of F-16s opposite Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. In a second image taken 10 seconds later, one of the F-16s disappeared.“That’s the F-16 the PAF lost,” the IAF officer said.It is believed to have been the first ever kill of an F-16 by a MiG-21 Bison, fighter jets of two different generations.Also Read | ‘Over in 90 seconds’: Officers detail India, Pakistan air duel along borderPakistan had, however, insisted that the PAF did not lose any fighter jet in the engagement over the skies of Nowshera in Rajouri district of Jammu Province, the first aerial dogfight between the two air forces since the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. Islamabad had also insisted that it did not use the US-made F-16 combat jets in the February 27 air action.Last week, however, there was a shift in Islamabad’s stand when Pakistan military said it had the right to use any aircraft for its self-defence. Prior to this statement, Islamabad had claimed that it had only used JF-17 Thunder jets, developed jointly with China, in the February 27 engagement with India and that its aircraft had shot down two Indian Air Force jets. India contested both points, saying it lost only one MiG-21 and that an F-16 was shot down.In the new statement, Pakistan military arm’s media wing said it was “immaterial” whether F-16s or JF-17s were used. It described the events of February 27 as “part of history now” and said no Pakistani F-16 “was hit by the Indian Air Force”.A report in the Foreign Policy magazine, however, waded into the row last week when it claimed that US defence personnel had recently conducted a physical count of Pakistan’s F-16s and found none missing. The US defence ministry spokesperson, however, told Hindustan Times that the department wasn’t “aware of any investigation like that”.
First Published:
Apr 08, 2019 18:03 IST

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