India didn't shoot down Pakistan's F-16, US magazine says

Pakistan calls for 'truth' from India on aerial dogfight

Media wing of the Pakistan armed forces, the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) on Friday exposed the Indian Air Force (IAF)'s claim of hitting F-16 by their Mig 21, ARY News reported.

There are no official figures from Pakistan on how many F-16s it has but reported estimates place the number between 70 and 80. "The two sightings were at places separated by at least 8-10 km", it said.

The clarification came after American magazine Foreign Policy cited unnamed United States officials to claim that the F-16 fleet of PAF was counted and no jet was found to be missing.

IAF officials told ET that a Pakistani fighter aircraft of a particular "call sign" went missing after IAF's Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman shot it down using his MiG-21 Bison jet during the dogfight with the PAF that day.

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 news report has come at a time when India has taken up the use of F-16 by Pakistan in the 27 February dogfight. The IAF says that proves the F-16 was shot down, but there is no way of verifying this.

Besides the initial video of locals who said two pilots were caught, the sighting by the Indian army and videos showing two parachutes all indicate that a Pakistan jet was shot down. Pakistan had officially announced about two aircraft going down but later retracted, saying only one (the Indian) jet was hit.

The report said the remnants of a US-made AIM-120 air-to-air missile was found near the site; out of all the aircraft involved, only the F-16 can shoot such a weapon.

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The IAF's statement came a day after a report in the Foreign Policy magazine, citing two unidentified USA senior defence officials, claimed that India's assertion about shooting down the Pakistani aircraft was untrue.

IAF sources also confirmed that the Pakistanis had carried out a three-pronged attack on the Indian military targets when the Indian Air Force responded from Srinagar and other adjoining air bases.

The reaction from Pakistan was tweeted by Asif Ghafoor, spokesman for the Pakisatni military.

The count had now been completed and all aircraft "were present and accounted for", the official was quoted as saying. However, India was unable to present any physical evidence to back up its claim of having downed an F-16. In the same press conference, Ghafoor denied any F-16 had been shot down and stated that "No F-16s had taken part in this engagement".

When the incident occurred, India asked the usa government to investigate whether Pakistan's use of the F-16 against India violated the terms of the foreign military sale agreements.

Tensions between India and Pakistan spiralled in the wake of the 14 February suicide attack in Kashmir's Pulwama region, in which a convoy carrying Indian paramilitary personnel was targeted by a suicide bomber.

The report about India's preparation for another strike on Pakistan comes days ahead of the general elections in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party are looking for a return to power.

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