A US count of the F-16s with Pakistan has found that none of them are “missing” and all the fighter planes were “present and accounted for”, according to a report in a prominent American magazine.
The finding by the US on the ground in Pakistan “directly contradicts” India’s claim that its air force shot down an F-16 fighter jet during an aerial dogfight on February 27. 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.
Pakistan had categorically said that no F-16 fighter jets were used and denied that one of its planes had been downed by the IAF. According to the Foreign Policy magazine, 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. “A US count of Pakistan’s F-16 fleet has found that all the jets are present and accounted for, a direct contradiction to India’s claim that it shot down one of the fighter jets during a February clash,” Lara Seligman of the magazine reported on April 4. The count of the F-16 fighter planes in Pakistan has been completed, and “all aircraft were present and accounted for,” an unnamed defence official was quoted as saying by the magazine.
The Department of Defence did not immediately respond to a question on its count of F-16 fighter jets in Pakistan. “As details come out, it looks worse and worse for the Indians,” MIT professor Vipin Narang told Foreign Policy magazine. “It looks increasingly like India failed to impose significant costs on Pakistan, but lost a plane and a helicopter of its own in the process,” he said. Generally, in such agreements, the US requires the receiving country to allow its officials to inspect the equipment regularly to ensure it is accounted for and protected, the news report said.
Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated after the suicide bomber of JeM killed 40 CRPF personnel in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district on February 14. India launched a counter-terror operation against a JeM training camp in Balakot. The next day, Pakistan Air Force retaliated and downed a MiG-21 in an aerial combat and captured its pilot, who was handed over to India on March 1.