IAF asserts Abhinandan shot down Pak F-16

IAF said it has enough evidence including ESM signatures, radio transcripts and visual sighting to prove that two planes were hit on that day and one of them was F-16. ANI file photo

The Indian Air Force on Friday once again asserted that its MiG-21 Bison, piloted by Wg Cdr Abhinandan Varthaman, shot down a Pakistan Air Force's F-16 fighter jet in the February 27 aerial combat.

The IAF said it was in possession of enough evidence including electronic signatures gathered by airborne radars; radio transcripts of the communications behind the enemy lines and visual sightings of two parachutes to confirm that two planes took the hit on that day and one of them was a Pakistan Air Force's F-16.

IAF sources shared some of the evidence to reaffirm its claim of shooting down a modern F-16 with a vintage MiG-21 Bison within hours of the publication of a report in a reputed US magazine (Foreign Policy), doubting such a claim.

The two parachutes, purportedly belonging to Wg Cdr Abhinandan and the PAF pilot, landed at the general area of Sabz Kot and Tandar in Pakistan, separated by a distance of 8-10 km. The chutes were seen by the Indian forces deployed at the Line of Control.

There are also images from India's Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) to show sudden disappearance of the F-16 from the screen within seconds.

The PAF 24 aircraft package that flew on that day included 11 F-16 and the area where Wg Cdr Abhinandan was flying, there were only F-16s in the sky.

Multiple radio intercepts picked up by Indian security agencies on that day have references to “do parinde” (two pigeons meaning two aircraft) and “do parindewale” (two pilots).

While one of them was picked up by 7 Northern Light Infantry of Pakistan, the other one was picked up by 658 Battalion (a Mujaheed unit).

The Pakistan Army establishment also initially spoke about two pilots for few hours and revised its statements only later in the day.

“The Indian forces have confirmed sighting ejections at two different places on that day. The two sightings were at places separated by almost 8-10 km. One was an IAF MiG-21 Bison and the other a PAF aircraft. Electronic signatures gathered by us indicate that the PAF aircraft was an F-16,” IAF said in a statement.

The fresh Indian assertion counters the Foreign Policy report in which unnamed senior US defence officials were quoted to suggest no Pakistan F-16 jets were hit in the combat.

The US officials reportedly had knowledge of an F-16 counting exercise undertaken after India complained about the use of such fighters in violation of the sales conditions.

The count has been completed and all aircraft were present and accounted for, the report says quoting the official. A second senior officer has also confirmed that US authorities on the ground found that no F-16 was missing.

IAF officials said they have more radio transcripts on the F-16 loss that were confidential and could not be shared. But even the publicly available photographs of the aircraft debris from the Pakistan side clearly showed it was not a MiG-21, said a source.

“We know for certain that one F-16 with a particular call sign didn't return to its base. But unfortunately we don't have the wreckage as it fell on the other side,” said an official.

Read More: India's downed F-16 claim: Report raises doubt

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IAF asserts Abhinandan shot down Pak F-16

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