India's claim of shooting down a Pakistani F-16 in February has been challenged as a report citing unnamed USA officials said that all US-supplied fighter jets to the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) have been counted and none is missing, reported IANS.
In her piece, Ms Seligman rather generously suggests that Wing Commander Vartharam may have locked on his weapons on a PAF F-16 and genuinely believed he'd scored a hit but it was not the case as the U.S. "count" has now established.
The aerial clash over Kashmir followed an Indian air strike on what New Delhi said was a terrorist training facility inside Pakistani territory.
In his debriefing upon his return to India, Vardhaman - who let off an R37 missile from his Mig-21 - said he saw a PAF F-16 going down on the other side of the border. Foreign Policy cites senior American defence officials as stating that USA personnel had "recently counted Islamabad's F-16s and found none missing".
The Indian Air Force on February 28 displayed pieces of the AMRAAM missile, fired by a Pakistani F-16, as evidence to "conclusively" prove that Pakistan deployed US-manufactured F-16 fighter jets during an aerial raid targeting Indian military installations in Kashmir.
The radar tracks recorded by airborne warning and control aircraft show the presence of an F-16 aircraft in the vicinity of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman's MiG-21 Bison.
The IAF sources said that the F-16 aircraft was shot down 7-8 km inside Sabzkot in PoK. The pilot of that jet Varthaman was captured by Pakistan and handed over to India on March 1 in an effort to de-escalate the crisis. One was an IAF MiG-21 and the other was a PAF aircraft. Earlier this week, news agency PTI even reported that Pakistan has indicated it may have used F-16 against India after all.
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A senior United States defence official said Pakistan invited the U.S. to physically count its F-16s after the incident as part of an end-user agreement signed when the foreign military sale was finalized.
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.
"All aircraft were present and accounted for", the report quoted one of the official as saying.
However, Pakistan appeared determined to answer in kind to a violation of its airspace and sovereignty by its eastern neighbour and the very next day avowedly first locked on to Indian military and administration targets before firing on uninhabited ground in IHK.
U.S. 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.
DG ISPR, in the tweet said: Allah be praised, truth always prevails. When the count was finally conducted, all F-16s employed by the PAF were accounted for, Foreign Policy reported.
The news comes ahead of India's general elections in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking reelection.