The Indian Air Force on Monday said it has “irrefutable proof” that Pakistan’s F-16 jet was shot down during a dogfight with the IAF on February 27.
Addressing a press conference, Air Force Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor said there is also strong evidence that a MiG-21 Bison shot down one of the F-16 aircraft, which has been identified by its electronic signature and radio transcripts. Kapoor showed Airborne Warning And Control System radar images to prove that a Pakistani aircraft was shot down.
“Certain official statements made by the director general of Inter-Service Public Relations also corroborate IAF,” Kapoor said. He said that Pakistan’s ISPR had confirmed on the same day that two pilots were captured, of which one was hospitalised. Kapoor said Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had corroborated the ISPR statement.
“All this shows that two aircraft had gone down in the area. One of them was MiG-21, the other was F-16 of the Pakistan Air Force. IAF has more credible evidence that Pakistan has lost an F-16,” Kapoor said.
However, he added, the Air Force is keeping this evidence confidential due to security reasons.
The IAF had on April 5 refuted a report by United States-based magazine Foreign Policy, which claimed that India’s assertion about shooting down the Pakistani aircraft was untrue. “US personnel recently counted Islamabad’s F-16s and found none missing,” the report had said.
In response, 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. “Electronic signatures gathered by us indicate that the PAF aircraft was an F-16,” it added.
Pakistan has consistently denied that it had deployed F-16 fighter jets and said it had used the JF-17 Thunder combat aircraft on that day.
The Indian Air Force had conducted the Balakot strikes after the February 14 Pulwama terrorist attack in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force Personnel were killed. The Balakot strike was followed by heightened tensions between the two countries, including aerial skirmishes between India and Pakistan.
On February 27, the Pakistani military claimed it had shot down two Indian Air Force jets – one had crashed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the other fell in Jammu and Kashmir. India maintained that Pakistan shot down only one MiG-21 aircraft while the Indian Air Force shot down a Pakistani F-16 jet during the dogfight.
During the same skirmish, Pakistan had captured Indian Air Force pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was released and returned home on March 1.