Indian Air Force officials show portions of the Amraam missile as evidence of Pakistan’s attack on India in Kashmir at their presser in New Delhi on February 28, 2019. Amraam Missiles can only be fired from an F-16 fighter jet
The dubious report in Foreign Policy magazine claimed that no F-16 fighter jet from Pakistan was shot down by India. Magazine said the US audit found all F-16s intact with Pakistan. This suspicious Foreign Policy report fell flat on its face when Pentagon flatly denied that it was not aware of any such audit that was carried out to determine the number of F-16s in Pakistan.
Whereas Islamabad is going gaga over the FP report as it vindicates its stand that the PAF didn’t lose any F-16 fighter jet in a dogfight with IAF (Indian Air Force) on February 27, but suspicions that India’s claim to the contrary may be true still persists due to certain major inconsistencies in Pakistan’s Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) narrative. Even though the versions given by India and Pakistan regarding what happened on February 27 appear to be in complete variation, there is complete unanimity on the issue that two fighter aircrafts were shot down on that day. India has claimed that the IAF shot down one F-16 and accepted losing a MIG 21. Similarly, even though Director General (DG) ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor denied that the PAF had lost any aircraft, he too tweeted that two IAF aircrafts were shot down on February 27. So, although there may be a controversy regarding the identity of one downed aircraft, both the Indian and Pakistani accounts accept that two fighter jets were shot down in the dogfight on the day after the Balakot airstrike by IAF.The second common issue in both versions is that three pilots had bailed out. India has claimed that after an F-16 of PAF was hit, two parachutes were seen descending in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) airspace. It also accepted that IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman had parachuted and landed in PoK after his MIG 21 was hit (making it a total of three bailouts). Maj Gen Ghafoor also tweeted that while one IAF pilot who had ejected was in the custody of Pakistan Army, two others were “in the area” (PoK). An hour later, DG ISPR confirmed to the media that the pilot of the second IAF aircraft ‘shot down’ who had bailed out was also in Pakistan Army’s custody but couldn’t be presented before the media since he was being treated in a Combined Military Hospital (CMH) for injuries sustained during ejection. So, Maj Gen Ghafoor also confirmed that three pilots had bailed out and landed in PoK. But hours later, he surprised everyone by announcing that Pakistan had only one IAF pilot in its custody. Why ISPR hasn’t revealed the identity of the second pilot who it claimed belonged to IAF and was admitted on February 27 in an army hospital for treatment of injuries sustained while ejecting from an aircraft is indeed intriguing!It is from here that the ISPR version of February 27 events start falling apart. Luckily, Foreign Policy journalist Lara Seligman’s claim that “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” comes as a big relief for ISPR. Seligman has also mentioned that it was Pakistan that had invited the US to physically count its fleet of F-16 planes after the incident as part of an end-user agreement of this sale. By requesting the US to carry out a count of F-16s does indicate that Islamabad is telling the truth as it has nothing to hide. But just like the ambiguity surrounding the hospitalised second pilot who vanished into thin air without any trace, by shifting his stand on use of F-16s in the February 27 dogfight, DG ISPR has once again attracted suspicion.