Pakistani F-16 shot down, says IAF, rejects US mag report

The magazine, citing two unnamed US defence officials, had claimed that US personnel recently counted Islamabad\'s F-16s and found none missing.

New Delhi: Rubbishing claims made by an American magazine, the Indian Air Force (IAF) on Friday fielded its high ranking official Air Vice Marshal R.G.K. Kapoor, assistant chief of air staff (operations), to assert that India's MiG-21 fighter jet did shoot down a Pakistani F-16 on February 27.

According to sources, India has Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) images which show one F-16 near MiG-21 suddenly disappearing from screen, radio transmissions, missing call signal of one of the F-16, sightings by Army personnels on ground of two parachutes and initial statement by Pakistan itself to prove that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman shot down an F-16.

"During the aerial engagement, one MiG-21 Bison of the IAF shot down one F-16 in Nowshera sector," said the Air Vice Marshal. He said the Indian forces have confirmed sighting ejection at two different places on that day. He said that two sightings were at places separated by at least 8-10 kilometres.

"One was an IAF MiG-21 (flown by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman) and the other a Pakistan Air Force aircraft. Electronic signatures gathered by us indicate that the PAF aircraft was a F-16," said Air Vice Marshal Kapoor.

American magazine Foreign Policy in a story on Thursday said that India's claim that one of its fighter pilots shot down a Pakistani F-16 fighter jet in an aerial battle on February 27 appears to be wrong.

The magazine, citing two unnamed US defence officials, had claimed that US personnel recently counted Islamabad's F-16s and found none missing.

"The findings directly contradict the account of IAF 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," the report said.

The dogfight between IAF and PAF fighter planes took place on February 27, when a group of Pakistani jets entered India's airspace after Indian airstrikes on Jaish terror camp at Balakot.

Air Vice Marshal Kapoor said that a large force of PAF F-16s, JF 17s and Mirage aircraft were picked up by IAF radars on that day. "They were intercepted by IAF's Su-30, Mirage 2000 and MiG-21 fighter guided by ground radars and AWACS. All attempts of the PAF to attack any targets were thwarted by the IAF," he added.

The AWACS pictures with IAF show that MiG-21 flown by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman and F-16 were near each other, said sources. "Then there is another picture after few seconds where the F-16 is missing from the display and there is only MiG-21 left," said sources.

"The monitoring of radio transmission of the F-16 reveal that call sign of one of their aircraft was missing," said sources.

Indian ground forces also sighted two parachutes coming down at Sabi Kot and Tandar following the aerial combat on February 27, said sources.

The government also has media interview of an old tribal from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) who claims that they had captured three pilots.

Indian security forces also has intercepted transmission between Pakistan security personnel which shows that two planes were hit.

"One was our MiG. Which was the another one. It was Pakistan's F-16," said sources.

One of the intercepted message is (in Urdu) says, "Enemy ka jo tabah huwa parinda wala pakad ke hum apni unit me laye abhi. Dusra bhi 658 (Pak Army unit) waalon ne unko pakad liya. Over" (Fighter from enemy's destroyed bird has been caught and just brought in our unit. The second one has been caught by 658 (another Pak Army unit).

Another messages says, "(In Urdu) Wing commander Abhinandan MiG 21 pilot, dusra zakhami CMH transfer. Dusra ek hai zakhami wo CMH me hai." (Wing commander Abhinandan MiG-21 pilot and second one injured transferred to military hospital. There is another one who is injured and has been transferred to military hospital.)

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