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

The US authorities are investigating whether Pakistan Air Force (PAF) used F-16 aircraft in a dogfight against Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter jets over the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir, according to a US media report. If found true, Islamabad could face punitive measures from Washington over violation of the end user agreement that governs most US arms deals, especially to countries in conflict zones, the report says.

US broadcaster CNN International said a US Department of State spokesperson told a correspondent that it was "aware of reports" that the use of F-16 jets may have been in violation of the terms of use agreement and is "looking into them".

Though the PAF has denied using the US-built fighter in the conflict, India alleges its Soviet-built MiG-21 Bison fighter jet was shot down on February 27. The Indian pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman landed on the Pakistan-administered Kashmir after successfully locking on and firing an R-73 short-range missile at an F-16 whose wreckage also landed on the Pakistani side of the LoC. PAF denies losing any aircraft. Wng Cmr Abhinandan was whisked away by Pakistani security forces while he was being manhandled by a local mob.

Pakistan has not revealed the fate of the pilot of F-16 that Indian defence personnel claim went down in a ball of fire. On March 1, Pakistan handed over the captured pilot to the Indian authorities at the Wagah border post separating Pakistani Punjab from Indian Punjab. This happened after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan declared as such in the national assembly amid mounting pressure from New Delhi and other capitals that Islamabad would hand over the pilot to the Indian authorities.

MiG-21 Bison upgrade.Rajya Sabha TV

The IAF authorities exhibited before the media the wreckage of an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile) AIM-120 of US arms maker Raytheon claiming that only US fighter jet manufacturer Lockheed Martin's F-16 uses the missile.

Air Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor revealed that IAF had got unmistakable radar signature of F-16 aircraft among the fleet that intruded into Indian air space on February 27 around 10am to target military installations a day after 12 Indian French-built Mirage-2000 fighters took part in the bombing of a terrorist training facility in Balakot in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province that Masood Azhar-led Jaish-e-Mohammed was running. India claims to have killed scores of terrorists to avenge the killing of 40 CRPF personnel in Pulwama on February 17, though Pakistan denies the jets did any damage as the bombs fell in a wooded area and an open wheat field. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had vowed revenge in a campaign rally for the May 2019 general election for the martyrs of Pulwama.

CNN says that following the 9/11 attacks and subsequent US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Pakistan became a major US ally in the Bush administration's so-called war on terror and a big recipient of American military aid.

Tension between India and Pakistan after terrorist attack.
The February 14 terror strike in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir has ratcheted up tensions between India and Pakistan leading to tit-for-tat air raids across the line of control (LoC) in Kashmir.

Arms deals with Pakistan reached $3.5 billion in 2006, making the South Asian nation the biggest purchaser of arms from the US, the report says. In its haul, Pakistan bought dozens of F-16 fighter jets as well as a variety of bombs and anti-ship missiles.

As part of the purchasing agreement, the US puts certain restrictions on how its military equipment can be used, though the CNN is not clear what restrictions were placed on the use of Pakistan's F-16 jets. The US began suspending military aid to Pakistan in 2016 over what it saw as a failure by the Pakistani government to adequately clamp down on terror groups within its borders.

Some reports say the F-16 jets that Pakistan deployed against India were from among those it bought from the Royal Jordan Air Force after the US froze the deal and promised to return the money over a period of time.