New Delhi: Indian Air Force Friday said that an F-16 of the Pakistan Air Force was shot down by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman during the 27 February air battle in the Nowshera sector and that they have electronic signatures confirming it.
“During the aerial engagement that followed, one MiG-21 Bison of the IAF shot down one F-16 in Nowshera sector,” Air Vice Marshal R.G.K. Kapoor, assistant chief of air staff (Operations) said.
He added the Indian army confirmed two sightings of ejections at two different places that day.
“The two sightings were at places separated by at least 8-10 km. One was an IAF MiG-21 Bison and the other a PAF aircraft. Electronic signatures gathered by us indicate that the PAF aircraft was F-16,” he said.
The statement by the IAF came hours after prominent American magazine Foreign Policy said that a US count of Pakistan’s F-16s reportedly found none of the jets “missing”, and all were “present and accounted for”.
The finding by the US “directly contradicts” India’s claim that the IAF shot down a Pakistan F-16 during the dogfight over Jammu and Kashmir.
On February 28, in a rare tri-service press conference, Air Vice Marshal Kapoor had told reporters that some parts of the engines and drop tanks shown by Pakistan didn’t belong to India’s downed MiG-21, which confirmed that an F-16 was hit.
Showing the operation chart made by the Air Borne Warning and Control System (AWACS), top IAF sources said there were only F-16s in the sector where Wing Commander Abhinandan was operating.
One of the pictures shows a MiG-21 Bison having crossed the Line of Control. At the time, the aircraft was in hot pursuit of Pakistan F-16s, and four blips showing four PAF aircraft were visible.
Eight to ten seconds later, one of the PAF aircraft is no longer visible on the chart. “This indicates that the PAF aircraft went down,” a source said.
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).
In an intercept at 1242 hours on 27 February, a soldier of 127 Northern Light Infantry, Tandar, can be heard saying soldiers from 658 (Mujahid battlation) picked up a second pilot. The soldiers already had one pilot in custody at the time.
At 1520 hours, another intercept says that while one pilot is in custody, another has been sent to the military hospital.
“This clearly shows that a second pilot was also in their custody as mentioned by the ISPR chief and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. So if one was Abhinandan, then who was the second?” a source said.
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.
While the first parachute was seen in General Area Sabzkot, the second parachute was spotted in General Area Tandar. The distance between the two is about 5-6 kms, a source said.
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