Two U.S. officials have said they counted the F-16 aircraft in Pakistan and found none missing. Indian government had claimed that it had shot down an F-16 during an aerial engagement with Pakistan on February 27. The officials’ comments were made to U.S. magazine Foreign Policy.
“A US count of Pakistan’s F-16 fleet has found that all the jets are present and accounted for, a direct contradiction to India’s claim that it shot down one of the fighter jets during a February clash,” Lara Seligman of the magazine reported.
The report said that evidence also suggests that Pakistan’s F-16s were involved in the aerial battle with the Indian Air Force and only the F-16 can shoot a US-made AIM-120 air-to-air missile.
“The findings directly contradict the account of Indian Air Force 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, adding that “it is possible that in the heat of combat, Varthaman, flying a vintage MiG-21 Bison, got a lock on the Pakistani F-16, fired, and genuinely believed he scored a hit.”
The Indian Air Force on February 28 had displayed pieces of the AMRAAM missile, fired by a Pakistani F-16, as evidence to “conclusively” prove that Pakistan deployed US-manufactured F-16 fighter jets during an aerial raid targeting Indian military installations in Kashmir.
When the incident occurred, India asked the U.S. government to investigate whether Pakistan’s use of the F-16 against India violated the terms of the foreign military sale agreements.