"IAF (Indian Air Force) claim of hitting F-16 by their Mig-21, before having been shot down by PAF (Pakistan Air Force) gets exposed", said Major General Asif Ghafoor, director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), in a tweet.
Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Friday trolled the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi after U.S. defence officials debunked its claim to have shot down a Pakistani F-16 fighter jet in a dogfight in February which resulted in the downing of latter's MiG-21 warplane.
Pakistan made clear it had not violated Indian airspace and used "stand-off" weapons from its air force assets while remaining in its own airspace and chosen targets so as to avoid loss of life on the other side. "The two sightings were at places separated by at least 8-10 km", it said. One was an IAF MiG-21 Bison and the other a PAF aircraft. The aircraft was not responding to radio transmission calls either, indicating that it had been shot down by Varthaman, they said. One was of IAF Mig-21 Bison and other a PAF aircraft.
There are no official figures from Pakistan on how many F-16s it has but reported estimates place the number between 70 and 80.
But the reported account is at odds with the US Foreign Policy document which contends India did not in fact commandeer the Pakistani aircraft. But that, by itself, does not offer any clues on whether Abhinandan Varthaman had shot down a Pakistan Air Force F-16, as has been repeatedly claimed by the government and the IAF.
The pilot, Abhinandan Varthaman, became a national hero in India after his capture and subsequent "peace gesture" release, with many admirers attempting to emulate his iconic handlebar moustache and some selling merchandise emblazoned with his face.
In an informal briefing later, it said images taken by the AEW&C craft show presence of eleven F16s during Pakistan's intrusion, and intercepts available with Indian agencies show two craft went down. "Electronic signatures gathered by us indicate that the PAF aircraft was a F-16". A top Air India official said that its flights from Delhi to London, Washington, New York and Chicago - all of which departed on Thursday night and in the wee hours of Friday - used the Pakistan airway.
Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated after a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror group killed 40 CRPF personnel in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district on February 14.
The recent India-Pakistan face-off is expected to boost Modi's chances of re-election in the staggered general elections beginning on April 11.
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".
"Some of the aircraft were not immediately available for inspection due to the conflict, so it took United States personnel several weeks to account for all of the jets", USA defence official was quoted as saying in the report.
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