New Delhi: A former high-ranking Pakistan Air Force (PAF) officer has exposed the propaganda of his military, saying that it was indeed an F-16 that shot down Wing Commander Abhinandan Vathaman’s MiG-21 Bison on 27 February, a day after the Balakot air strikes by the IAF. This has also raised fresh speculation about the ‘missing’ PAF pilot.
The claim was made by Air Commodore M. Kaiser Tufail (retd) in his blog earlier this month.
“Abhinandan’s MiG-21 was hit by an AIM-120C missile launched from an F-16 flown by Wg Cdr Nauman Ali Khan, the Officer Commanding of No 29 ‘Aggressor’ Squadron, and also the overall mission leader,” Tufail wrote.
The retired officer said two JF-17s involved in the attack were each armed with two Mk-83 Range Extension Kit (REK), an air-to-surface bomb. This implies that the JF-17s could not have used this weapon to shoot down an aircraft.
Tufail’s blog is contrary to what the Pakistani military had claimed — that it was an “indigenous” JF-17 that shot down the Indian jet. It had even put out a video of one of the pilots who shot down the IAF aircraft as standing next to the China-Pakistan developed jet.
One of our superstars!
Squadron Leader Hassan Siddiqui after destroying an Indian jet this morning.💥💥🔥✌
Nation is proud of our defenders! 🇵🇰
— Zartaj Gul Wazir (@zartajgulwazir) February 27, 2019
The IAF had claimed that it had shot down an F-16 aircraft. The IAF officials have maintained that a JF-17 could not have brought down a MiG-21 Bison. Pakistan never admitted to this.
Immediately after the attack, it had claimed to have captured two Indian pilots. Varthaman was one of the two pilots. Later, Pakistan made a U-turn to say that only one pilot was in its custody, leading to speculation that the other pilot was actually a Pakistani shot down by Varthaman.
Tufail also put out a “Roll of Honour” — a list of officers who were involved in the operation — setting the cat among the pigeons.
The roll call identified only Squadron Leader Hasan Siddiqui as the pilot of F-16B, which is a twin-seater aircraft. This has led to a huge speculation within the online community in India about the fate of the second ‘missing’ pilot.
The retired Air Commodore, however, posted a few FAQs, including why names of all pilots have not been mentioned.
“The Roll of Honour only includes those who launched weapons, or controlled them post-launch. It does not include airborne reserves. Similarly, the numerous pilots performing fighter sweep or CAPs are not mentioned, as they did not get an opportunity to launch weapons. Finally, the aircrew of AEWCS and EW aircraft have not been included. The contribution of all participating aircrew has, however, been duly lauded by the PAF,” he wrote.
An IAF source, though, pointed out that that the second pilot of an F-16 has his own duties and is part of the same combat unit.
“Hence the Air Commodore not mentioning the second pilot’s name is surprising and very suspicious,” the source said.
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