Pakistan now indicates F-16s might have been used to hit Indian aircraft post-Balakot action
Pakistan military today stated that Islamabad had the right to use any fighter jet in its 'legitimate self-defence' and it was immaterial whether an F-16 or a JF-17 shot down two Indian aircraft.
Pakistan has changed its narrative on using US-made F-16 fighter jets against India, which it had categorically denied till now. Pakistan for the first time on Monday indicated that F-16s might have been used to hit Indian fighter jets during the aerial combat on February 27 and said Islamabad retains the right to use "anything and everything" in its self-defence.
Pakistan's military spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor issued a statement with reference to "repeated Indian claims" about shooting down of Pakistani F-16 by India and use of F-16 in the air battle on February 27. "As regard Pakistan Air Force (PAF) action for strikes across Line of Control, it was done by JF-17 from within Pakistan airspace," he said.
Later, when two Indian jets crossed the Line of Control, they were shot down by the PAF, he claimed.
"Whether it was F-16 or JF-17 which shot down 2 Indian aircraft is immaterial," he said.
He further said: "Even if F-16 have been used as at that point in time complete PAF was airborne including F16s, the fact remains that Pakistan Airforce shot down two Indian jets in self defence."
Ghafoor said that Pakistan had right to use anything for its defence.
"India can assume any type of their choice even F-16. Pakistan retains the right to use anything and everything in its legitimate self defence," he said. He also rejected that any F-16 was destroyed by Indian Air Force in the dogfight.
"The event of February 27 is part of history now. No Pakistani F-16 was hit by Indian Airforce," he said.
Last month, Ghafoor said that only JF-17 was used against India on February 27.
Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated after the February 14 attack by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed in Pulwama that killed 40 CRPF soldiers.
Amid mounting outrage, the Indian Air Force carried out a counter-terror operation, hitting what it said was a JeM training camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on February 26.
The next day, Pakistan Air Force retaliated and downed a MiG-21 in an aerial combat and captured an Indian pilot, who was handed over to India later.
The IAF on February 28 had produced the pieces of the AMRAAM Missile as evidence against Pakistan using F16. Only the F-16s use these missiles. It said Pakistan does not have any other fighters capable of firing an AMRAAM missile. The US had taken cognizance of the incident and had sought information on the possible misuse of its defence agreement.
As part of the purchasing agreement, the US had reportedly barred Pakistan from using the F-16s against any third country and it was only allowed to operate the fighter in self-defence and for anti-terror missions.
(With inputs from PTI)