The United States (US) defense personnel recently counted Pakistani F-16 fighters and found none of the jets missing, contradicting India’s claim that it had downed a Pak F-16 during the aerial combat between the countries in February.
“Pakistan invited the US 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,” Foreign Policy quoted a US defence official with direct knowledge of the count conducted on ground on Pak soil as saying Thursday.
In such agreements, America requires the receiving country to allow its 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 US personnel several weeks. The count has been completed and all the (F-16) aircraft were present and accounted for,” the official added.
“US authorities on the ground found that no Pakistani F-16s were missing,” said another official.
According to the Indian Air Force (IAF), Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman shot down a Pakistani F-16 jet before his own plane, a MiG-21 Bison was downed by a Pak missile during the aerial battle, reported Foreign Policy.
It is possible that in the heat of combat, Varthaman got a lock on the Pakistani F-16, fired, and genuinely believed he scored a hit, the report said.
The skirmish followed a day after India carried out a surprise air strike in which an AWACS aircraft guided IAF’s 12 Mirage 2000 fighter jets bomb multiple Pakistani camps operated by a terror group after it claimed responsibility of attacking Indian soldiers on 14 February in Pulwama, martyring nearly 40 of them.
Pakistan has been denying India’s claims that F-16s were used in the combat. However in early March, a joint press conference was held by the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force where pieces of F-16 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs) were displayed before the media as the evidence that falsified Pakistani claims of not using F-16 fighters.
The US’ sale of F-16 jets in 2008 included 500 AIM-120-C5 AMRAAMS.
India asked the US government to investigate whether Pakistan’s use of the F-16 against India violated the terms of the foreign military sale agreements.
“It would be incredibly naive for us to believe that we could sell some type of equipment to Pakistan that they would not intend to use in a fight,” the second official said.
According to a report published in March by Express Tribune, Pakistan is not restricted to use F-16 fighter jets against any nation other than the United States and its NATO allies.