United States media report says all of Pakistans F-16s intact; IAF rebuts

Pakistan calls for 'truth' from India on aerial dogfight

In her scoop in foreignpolicy.com, she has attributed to USA officials a statement that they have counted the number of Pakistan Air Force F-16s in service and can say that none were lost to the Indian Air Force on Feb 27 this year.

The Air Force said it had intercepted a "large force" of Pakistani aircraft and during the ensuing aerial engagement, one of its MiG-21 Bisons had shot down an F-16 in Nowshera, Jammu and Kashmir. The two sightings were at places separated by at least 8-10 km. Pakistan had officially announced about two aircraft going down but later retracted, saying only one (the Indian) jet was hit.

According to ANI, IAF sources stated that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman had shot down a PAF F-16 during the aerial engagement when a complement of PAF fighter jets tried to bomb Indian military installations.

Sources also gave details of the radio transmission picked up by the Indian military, which clearly shows Pakistan soldiers talking about two 'parinda' (aircraft) and two 'parinde wale' (pilots).

The insistence came after Foreign Policy magazine reported on Thursday that Pakistan had invited United States media to count its F16s - all supplied by the United States - and none of them were missing.

In response to a query on USA media reports that questioned IAF version of Pakistan F-16 shot down by IAF MIG 21 Bison, IAF sources said that Wg Cdr Varthaman shot down Pakistan Air Force F-16 aircraft 7-8 km inside Pakistan Occupied Area in Sabzkot area.

IAF's assertion comes in the wake of US-based Foreign Policy magazine's report that cited USA government officials saying that Pakistan's F-16 combat jets "have all been accounted for".

On February 28, in a rare tri-service press conference, Air Vice Marshal Kapoor had told reporters that some parts of the engines and drop tanks shown by Pakistan didn't belong to India's downed MiG-21, which confirmed that an F-16 was hit. But that, by itself, does not offer any clues on whether Abhinandan Varthaman had shot down a Pakistan Air Force F-16, as has been repeatedly claimed by the government and the IAF.

He was captured by the Pakistani army and released days later in an effort to de-escalate the crisis.

Pakistan had rubbished the Indian reports, making a counter-claim that two aircraft did indeed go down, but both belonged to India.

But now the count has been completed, and "all aircraft were present and accounted for", the official said.

"This is what Pakistan has been saying all along, the truth", said Pakistani military spokesperson Major-General Asif Ghafoor on Friday. The F-16s are manufactured by Lockheed Martin and an end-user agreement requires the buyer country to allow for regular inspections to ensure they are accounted for.

Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated after the 49 CRPF personnel were killed in Pulwama district on February 14.

However, Pakistan appeared determined to answer in kind to a violation of its airspace and sovereignty by its eastern neighbour and the very next day avowedly first locked on to Indian military and administration targets before firing on uninhabited ground in IHK. However, India was unable to present any physical evidence to back up its claim of having downed an F-16.

The news comes ahead of India's general elections in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking reelection.

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