New Delhi: Seconds before Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s MiG-21 Bison aircraft was hit Wednesday, he managed to lock on to one of Pakistan’s F-16s, firing an R-73 air-to-air missile to bring it down.
This is considered a ‘rarest of the rare’ kind of hit, since the 1960s vintage aircraft managed to lock-in on and hit one of the most modern aircraft in use by another country.
Details of the chase
Indian Air Force sources who described the chase to ThePrint said there were three F-16s, part of a larger formation of about 20 aircraft, which crossed the Line of Control and came seven kilometres on the Indian side. But the Pakistani aircraft failed to strike the four locations they were targeting.
Two MiG-21 Bisons, which were on Combat Air Patrol, immediately engaged them. Seeing the approaching Indian fighters, the Pakistan planes tried to turn back, but the MiGs remained in hot pursuit, even though they were outnumbered.
Wing Commander Abhinandan found himself sandwiched between two F-16s, and in the ensuing combat, he was shot down, IAF sources said. The pilot ejected, but due to the wind, he ended up landing on the other side of the LoC, in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
The Pakistani pilot also ejected, and fell into PoK along with his aircraft.
With India having no evidence except some grainy footage of a pilot ejecting, Pakistan was quick to claim that it did not use F-16s in the attack, and that it had lost no aircraft.
However, one of the pictures released by Pakistan showing debris of the MiG-21 Bison actually showed an engine part from an F-16.
In the past, Pakistan has tried to hide its losses, especially those of fighter aircraft. In the 1971 war too, Pakistan hid its aircraft and pilot losses from its citizens.