No Pak F-16 shot down by IAF, claims US magazine

US count of PAF F-16 fleet under End User Agreement finds "none missing", according to the report

April 5, 2019 By Vishal Thapar Photo(s): By Pakistan Air Force
The report in the US magazine Foreign Policy not just contradicts the Indian version of shooting down a Pakistani jet but also makes it more difficult for India to establish that Pakistan used the American-supplied F-16 in its air attack on February 27 in violation of US terms for its sale

Weeks after India asked the US to take action against Pakistan for violating the terms of the sale of F-16 fighter aircraft by using these in an attack on India on February 27, a report in a US magazine contradicted the Indian claim that a Pakistani F-16 fighter was shot down in the dogfight over the Line of Control (LoC).

The report published on the website of the Foreign Policy magazine on April 4 claims that a US count of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) F-16 fleet has found none of the fighters missing.

It attributes this information to "two senior US defense officials with direct knowledge of the situation". The reporter, Lara Seligman, is the Pentagon correspondent of the Foreign Policy magazine. Although there is no official endorsement of this report by the US Administration, an American dismissal of the claim of the shooting down of a PAF F-16 will make it more difficult for India to establish that F-16s were used by Pakistan against it.

If it is established that Pakistan used the F-16 in an offensive military operation against India, the US Administration would be answerable to its Congress, and obligated to take action against Pakistan for violating the terms of the sale.

After initial denials, Pakistan has made conflicting claims about the F-16 . India has produced parts of a US-made AMRAAM missile recovered from its territory to substantiate its claim that Pakistan used the F-16, the most potent aircraft in its fleet. The only PAF aircraft that can fire an AMRAAM is an F-16, which has been sold to Pakistan with the condition that it will be used only for purposes of counter-terrorism.

If it is established that Pakistan used the F-16 in an offensive military operation against India, the US Administration would be answerable to its Congress, and obligated to take action against Pakistan for violating the terms of the sale.

India has maintained that in the process of thwarting a PAF attack across the LoC spearheaded by F-16s on February 27, an Indian Air Force (IAF) MiG-21Bison piloted by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman shot down a PAF F-16 with an R-73 air-to-air missile before itself being brought down by Pakistani missile. Wing Commander Varthaman ejected and landed on the Pakistani side of the LoC, was taken into custody by the Pakistan Army, and handed back to India on March 1.

"One of the senior U.S. defense officials with direct knowledge of the count said that Pakistan invited the United States to physically count its F-16 planes after the incident as part of an end-user agreement signed when the foreign military sale was finalized," according to the Foreign Policy report.

"It is possible that in the heat of combat, Varthaman, flying a vintage MiG-21 Bison, got a lock on the Pakistani F-16, fired, and genuinely believed he scored a hit. But the count, conducted by U.S. authorities on the ground in Pakistan, sheds doubt on New Delhi's version of events, suggesting that Indian authorities may have misled the international community about what happened that day," the Foreign Policy report states.

Pakistan's military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor quickly took to Twitter to hail the report and claim vindication. "Allah be praised, truth always prevails. Time for India to speak truth about false claims and losses on their side including the second aircraft shot down by Pakistan," he stated, asking India to introspect over Kashmir. Pakistan has given multiple, conflicting accounts of the aerial skirmish.

"Some of the aircraft were not immediately available for inspection due to the conflict, so it took U.S. personnel several weeks to account for all of the jets. But now the count has been completed, and all aircraft were present and accounted for," the report stated, quoting an unnamed official.

"One of the senior U.S. defense officials with direct knowledge of the count said that Pakistan invited the United States to physically count its F-16 planes after the incident as part of an end-user agreement signed when the foreign military sale was finalized. Generally in such agreements, the United States requires the receiving country to allow U.S. officials to inspect the equipment regularly to ensure it is accounted for and protected.

"Some of the aircraft were not immediately available for inspection due to the conflict, so it took U.S. personnel several weeks to account for all of the jets. But now the count has been completed, and all aircraft were present and accounted for," the report stated, quoting an unnamed official.