The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) may have used Chinese origin JF-17 Thunder fighter jets and not US-made F-16s in its dogfight with Indian MiG-21 Bison aircraft which led to one of the latter being downed and its pilot captured this morning.
While an Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson in an official statement stated that Indian fighter jets chased and brought down a Pakistani aircraft which was noticed going down. The statement made no mention of the type of aircraft used by Pakistan.
Meanwhile referring to various media claims that a Pakistani F-16 had been shot down; its Inter-Services spokesperson claimed that no F-16 jet could have been hit as this type of aircraft was not used in the attack (on Indian military installations as retaliation for an Indian strike on a terrorist base inside Pakistan two days ago).
Pakistani journalists and retired defence officials have since tweeted that the aircraft which brought down the Indian jet was a JF-17 Thunder, an aircraft made by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) in collaboration with Chengdu Aircraft Corporation of China.
Various Twitter accounts emanating from Pakistan, including the official account of the PAF, identified the pilot credited with downing the Indian MiG-21 as Wing Cdr Hassan, who has been photographed sitting in the cockpit of a JF-17.
Ever since Pakistan gave up on a deal to buy 8 F-16 C/D variants in 2017 when Washington asked for the full payment of $669 Million instead of $250 million under an earlier subsidy agreement, the PAF has increasingly veered towards the JF-17 as its front-line fighter jet. It has some 50 odd older generation F-16s which have been relegated to the second rung in the PAF’s fighter jet hierarchy.
The JF-17, of which PAF has some 125, carries Chinese made air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions and is powered by a Russian origin RD-93 engine, a derivative of the RD-33 engine used in the MiG-29 fighter jets. The JF-17 has a top speed of Mach 1.6, similar to the F-16 powered by the Pratt and Whitney F100-PW-229 engine.
In 2017, Turkish firm Aselsan had signed a contract with Pakistan to integrate its ASELPOD Electro Optical Targeting System onto JF-17 fighter jets. The same year, the PAC began a program to integrate Chinese-made PL-12 Beyond Visual Range Air-to-air Missile (BVRAAM) onto the JF-17.
The PAF had claimed success in the test-firing of a BVRAAM from the JF-17 in February 2018 without mentioning the origin of the sophisticated air-to-air missile.
It is entirely possible that the JF-17 which engaged the Indian MiG-21 may have been equipped with both systems, though there is no means of confirming it.