The US defence department on Friday said it was “not aware” of any investigation involving its officials on the status of the F-16 jets that were handed to Pakistan. The statement comes a day after a US-based magazine quoted two senior US officials who contradicted India's claim of having shot down a Pakistani F-16 jet on February 27 during a dogfight along the LoC.
According to Foreign Policy magazine, US defence personnel recently visited Pakistan to inspect the status of its F-16 jets and found all of them intact. Following the report, Pakistan military spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor had said it was time India came clean on the "false claims" including the second aircraft shot down by Pakistan.
But the US defence department on Saturday told the Hindustan Times that they were unaware of their men carrying out any investigation on the F-16s. “As a matter of policy, the Department does not publicly comment on details of government-to-government agreements on end-use monitoring of US-origin defence articles,” a US Department of State spokesperson added. The US government's security assistance to Pakistan remains suspended since January 2018, the official reaffirmed.
During the aerial confrontation, a MiG-21 fighter of the Indian Air Force was downed by Pakistan and the pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was captured by Pakistan. He was later handed over to India on March 1 in an effort to de-escalate the crisis. India had claimed that Abhinandan was able to shoot down a F-16 fighter before being hit by a missile.
The IAF has rubbished the magazine article, saying that Indian forces have confirmed sighting ejections at two different places on that day. "The two sightings were at places separated by at least 8-10 km and 6-7 km inside Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. One was an IAF MiG-21 Bison and the other a PAF aircraft,” Air Vice Marshal and Assistant Chief of Air Staff RGK Kapoor had said in a statement.
According to the IAF, a large force of PAF F-16s, JF 17s and Mirage III and Mirage V were picked up by IAF radars. They were intercepted by IAF SU 30MKI, Mirage- 2000 and MiG-21 Bison fighter jets guided by ground radars and AWACS.
Attempts by PAF to attack Indian targets were successfully thwarted and during the aerial engagement that followed, one MiG 21 Bison of the IAF shot down one F-16 in the Nowshera sector, the IAF added.
Highly placed IAF sources said they have clinching electronic evidence that there were 11 PAF 16s and one of them was shot down.
“AWACS picked up the F-16 flying 8-10 km from our MiG-21 flown by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman and it went off the radar picture in 8 to 10 seconds, which means once Abhinandan saw the PAF fighter, he locked it and shot it down with a R-73 air-to-air missile before he went down,” said an IAF source.
(With ENS inputs)