The United States Department of Defense on Friday said it was “not aware” of any counting of Pakistani F-16 aircraft to ascertain if the country had lost one in an aerial fight that ensued with Indian fighters on February 27.
On Thursday, a report by Foreign Policy magazine stated that the Pentagon recently counted Pakistani F-16 fighters and found none of the jets missing, “directly contradicting” India’s claim of bringing down a Pak F-16 during the aerial dogfight.
“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 report quoted a US defense official with “direct knowledge of the count" conducted on ground on Pak soil as saying Thursday.
“US authorities on the ground found that no Pakistani F-16s were missing,” said another official.
According to a Hindustan Times report, the US defense department “was not aware of any investigation like the one doing the rounds”. The state department was quick to distance itself from the news report when they were requested to confirm or deny it. They made it clear that they did not publicly comment on details of government-to-government agreements, especially on articles related to defense.
They further went to reiterate their stand on Pakistan, citing that it was important to note that since January 2018, the United States government had suspended security assistance to that country, the HT report added.
Pakistan has long been denying India’s claims that F-16s were used in the combat.
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.
Defense Minister of India, Nirmala Sitharaman said on Saturday, “It was an F-16 which our pilot had shot down. We displayed a piece of the AM-RAAM missile as evidence. It can only be used in an F-16 aircraft.”
The Indian Air Force released a statement on Friday asserting it had shot down a Pakistan F-16 fighter aircraft on February 27, PTI reported.