April 5, 2019
A recent American count of Pakistan’s F-16 fighter jets found none missing, a top news magazine has reported, citing two unnamed “senior US defence officials with direct knowledge of situation”.
Foreign Policy magazine claims this information “directly contradict[s] the account of Indian Air Force officials” — that an Indian pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, brought down one of the US-made jets during a dogfight in February.
Pakistan’s F-16s were manufactured by Lockheed Martin.
“One of the senior US defense officials…said that Pakistan invited the United States to physically count its F-16 planes after the incident as part of an end-user agreement signed when the foreign military sale was finalised,” the magazine said.
Its report also said it was possible that, “in the heat of combat”, Abhinandan Varthaman “got a lock on the Pakistani F-16, fired, and genuinely believed he scored a hit”.
“India’s claim that one of its fighter pilots shot down a Pakistani F-16 fighter jet in an aerial battle between the two nuclear powers in February appears to be wrong. Two senior US defense officials with direct knowledge of the situation told Foreign Policy that US personnel recently counted Islamabad’s F-16s and found none missing.”
– Foreign Policy magazine report | April 4, 2019
The aerial face-off between India and Pakistan took place on February 27, a day after Indian warplanes flew into Pakistan to strike a terrorist training camp.
India later pointed to the recovery of AMRAAM missile parts to bolster its argument that Pakistan used F-16s. It said Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, the Air Force pilot who was captured during the dogfight, had shot down the F-16.
Varthaman was later released.
Pakistan categorically denied that it had used F-16s in the dogfight, but later indicated that they may have been used.
A pilot identified by Pakistan’s foreign minister in the National Assembly — Wing-Commander Nauman Ali Khan — is a career F-16 pilot, an investigation by India Today’s Open-Source Intelligence team found.
Foreign Policy said in its report that “evidence suggests that Pakistan’s F-16s were involved”.