Electronic signatures confirm F-16 hit: IAF

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“All attempts of PAF to attack any targets were thwarted by the IAF. During the aerial engagement that followed, one Mig-21 of the IAF shot down one F-16 in Nowshera sector,” the IAF said in a statement.

During the aerial engagement on February 27, a Mig-21 Bison shot down a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) jet and electronic signatures confirm it as an F-16, the Indian Air Force (IAF) said on Friday. The clarification comes amid reports that no F-16 was downed and all PAF F-16s were accounted for.

“Indian forces have confirmed sighting ejections at two different places on that day. The two sightings were at places separated by at least 8-10km. One was an IAF Mig-21 Bison and the other a PAF aircraft.

Electronic signatures gathered by us indicate that PAF aircraft was an F-16,” the IAF said in a statement.

In addition to electronic signatures, radio transmissions of their ground forces intercepted by the Army also confirm that the PAF jet shot was an F-16, official sources said.

U.S. based Foreign Policy magazine quoted an unnamed U.S. defence official as saying that Pakistan had invited the U.S. to “physically count its F-16 planes” after the incident as part of an end-user agreement and after the process “all aircraft were present and accounted for.”

IAF said that on February 27, a day after the Balakot air strike, a large force of PAF jets comprising of F-16s, JF-17s and Mirage III/V were picked up by IAF radars trying to attack Indian military installations, which were intercepted by IAF Su-30MKIs, Mirage-2000s and Mig-21 Bison fighters guided by ground radars and Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS).

“All attempts of PAF to attack any targets were thwarted by the IAF. During the aerial engagement that followed, one Mig-21 of the IAF shot down one F-16 in Nowshera sector,” the statement added.

Images from AWACS shown by IAF sources show the call sign of the an aircraft identified as F-16 facing of the Mig-21 piloted by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman disappearing in a time frame of 8-10 seconds. “Each radar has a particular signature and over time a threat library is made. From that we could make out that the aircraft was F-16,” one IAF source said.

Another official said in the general area where Wg Cdr Varthaman was engaged in aerial combat, only F-16s were present. Of the 24 PAF aircraft that came in, 11 were identified as F-16s based on their electronic signature.

Sources also drew attention to the statements by Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) of Pakistan who initially claimed that PAF had shot down two aircraft and captured two IAF pilots. “Initially they mistook their aircraft as IAF jet. Intercepted conversations after the incident confirm that. But later changed the statement when they realised it was their own jet,” the official said.

Pakistan had initially maintained that no F-16s were deployed against India. However, the IAF displayed the wreckage of an unexploded Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM) that was recovered by the Indian Army.

Responding to the Foreign Policy report, DG ISPR said that truth always prevails. “Time for India to speak truth about false claims and actual losses on their side including the second aircraft shot down by Pakistan,” he tweeted.

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