Pakistan F-16 fighter jet
A Pakistani F-16 fighter jet.Representative image

The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Friday, April 6, said it had proof that a Pakistani F-16 fighter jet was shot down in the February 27 dogfight and denied the American magazine's report which directly contradicted India's claim quoting unnamed US defence officials. "Two senior US defence officials with direct knowledge of the situation told Foreign Policy that US personnel recently counted Islamabad's F-16s and found none missing," the publication says in a report.

In a statement, the Air Force said: "During the aerial engagement, one MiG 21 Bison of the IAF shot down an F-16 in Nowshera sector." The assertion came after the American news publication Foreign Policy reported on Thursday (April 4) that the US count of the F-16s with Pakistan has found that none of them is missing. The IAF, had, on February 28 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.

IAF sources also confirmed that radio communication of Pakistan Air Force intercepted by it confirmed that one of the F-16s that attacked India on February 27 did not return to its base.

Pakistan had categorically said that no F-16 fighter jets were used and denied that one of its planes had been downed by the IAF. According to the Foreign Policy magazine, Pakistan invited the United States to physically count its F-16 planes after the incident as part of an end-user agreement signed when the foreign military sale was finalised.

"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.

Pakistan Air Force (PAF) F-16
A Pakistan Air Force (PAF) F-16 aircraft taking off from an unidentified airfield.

The count of the F-16 fighter planes in Pakistan has been completed, and "all aircraft were present and accounted for," an unnamed defence official was quoted as saying by the magazine. The Department of Defence did not immediately respond to a question on its count of F-16 fighter jets in Pakistan.

"As details come out, it looks worse and worse for the Indians," MIT professor Vipin Narang told Foreign Policy magazine.

"It looks increasingly like India failed to impose significant costs on Pakistan, but lost a plane and a helicopter of its own in the process," he said.

Generally, in such agreements, the US requires the receiving country to allow its officials to inspect the equipment regularly to ensure it is accounted for and protected, the news report said.

Indo-Pak tensions

Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated after the suicide bomber of the JeM killed 40 CRPF troopers in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district on 14 February. India launched a counter-terror operation against a Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp in Balakot. The next day, Pakistan Air Force retaliated and downed a MiG-21 in aerial combat and captured its pilot, who was handed over to India on March 1.

(With agency inputs)