Electronic signatures confirm F-16 hit: IAF

A Pakistani F-16 fighter jet

After high-resolution imagery last week poked holes in the Modi government's assertion that it destroyed a Jaish-e-Mohammad camp in Balakot, a U.S. count of its fleet has now countered the country's claim of downing one Pakistani F-16 fighter jet in a February 27 aerial battle.

"US personnel recently counted Islamabad's F-16s and found none missing", the report said.

IAF sources said radio communication of Pakistan Air Force, intercepted by it, confirmed that one of the F-16s that attacked India on February 27 did not return to its base.

The findings directly contradict the account of Indian Air Force officials, who said Indian air force shot down a Pakistani F-16 in recent dogfight.

USA and Pakistan have an end-user agreement over the F-16s, which allows the United States to inspect the fighter jets so that they are "accounted for and protected", the report said quoting an official.

In an interview to India Today, the Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman had said: "We are definitely saying that an F-16 was knocked out by us and initially, the Pakistan Prime Minister claimed that two pilots were with them".

"During the aerial engagement that followed after Pakistani attack, one MiG-21 Bison of the Air Force shot down one F-16 in the Nowshera sector", the statement read. The IAF reiterated that a MiG-21 Bison had shot down the Pakistani F-16 jet in the Nowshera sector. Some of the aircraft were not immediately available for inspection due to the conflict, so it took several weeks to account for all the jets, the report quoted one of the unnamed officials as saying. The sources said that while one of the ejections was of an IAF MIG 21 Bison, the other was of a PAF aircraft.

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The two unnamed officials, said to have direct knowledge of the situation, told the publication that USA personnel recently counted Islamabad's F-16s and found none missing.

The official said, "All aircraft were present and accounted for". In the heat of the combat, he may have believed that he downed the Pakistani jet.

"As regards PAF (Pakistan Air Force) action for strikes across LOC (Line of Control in Kashmir) it was done by (Chinese made) JF17 from within Pakistan airspace", the Pakistani statement had said.

A Pakistani military spokesperson said it was "immaterial" what aircraft was used and declared, "Pakistan retains the right to use anything and everything in its legitimate self-defence".

"The aircraft opposite Wg Cdr Abhinandan's area of engagement with Pakistanis were all F-16s and the package in the north was the JF-17s. But the count, conducted by US authorities on the ground in Pakistan, sheds doubt on New Delhi's version of events, suggesting that Indian authorities may have misled the global community about what happened that day", says Foreign Policy. "Electronic signatures gathered by us indicate that the PAF aircraft was an F-16".

India launched a counter-terror operation against a JeM training camp in Balakot.

This is in contradiction to India's claim that it had shot down one Pakistani F-16 using the R-73 missile fired by Wg Cdr Varthaman.

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