Air force rebuts US media report that all F-16s intact - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

Home Top Ad


Friday 5 April 2019

Air force rebuts US media report that all F-16s intact

Air Force officers display the debris of an AMRAAM missile, proving the presence of F-16s in the dogfight

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 6th April 19

The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Friday contradicted a report by US publication Foreign Policy that implied India had falsely claimed to have shot down a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) F-16, when fighter aircraft from the two sides clashed on February 27 over Jammu & Kashmir.

Foreign Policy cites senior American defence officials as stating that US personnel had “recently counted Islamabad’s F-16s and found none missing.”

If the PAF has indeed been able to account for all its F-16s, this denies the IAF a face-saver in an aerial engagement in which the PAF shot down an IAF MiG-21 Bison fighter and took the Indian pilot captive after he bailed out over Pakistan-controlled territory. The pilot was repatriated to India a day later.

An IAF statement on Friday repeated what it had said earlier: “During the aerial engagement… one MiG-21 Bison of the IAF shot down one F-16 in Nowshera sector.”

“The Indian forces have confirmed sighting ejections at two different places on that day… One was an IAF MiG-21 Bison and the other a PAF aircraft. Electronic signatures gathered by us indicate that the PAF aircraft was a F-16,” said the IAF.

Senior IAF sources presented a detailed circumstantial case, built around intercepts of Pakistani radio transmissions, radar signatures detected by IAF airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft that were controlling the battle, visual confirmation of a pilot bailing out from a second stricken aircraft, other than the MiG-21. The sources argue that this could only have been a Pakistani F-16, since the PAF’s other fighters – JF-17 Thunder and Mirage III/V – were elsewhere in the battle-space.

The sources presented transcripts of radio conversations between Pakistani ground troops on February 27, which talked about a second pilot captured, who was mistakenly identified as an IAF pilot and then taken to a Pakistani hospital.

Soon after the shooting down of the IAF MiG-21, piloted by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, a radio call from Pakistani battalion, 7 Northern Light Infantry (NLI), stated at 12:05 p.m.: “Yeh enemy ka tabah hua hai jo parinda tha, enemy ka tha. Unke wo jo dono parinde wale hain, un dono ko pakad liya. (The destroyed bird was that of the enemy. There were two pilots and we have captured both).”

Minutes later, at 12:42 p.m., the 7 NLI radio operator said: “Enemy ka jo tabah hua parinda wale pakad liye hain, hamne apne unit mein laya. Ab dusra bhi 658 waale ne unko bhi pakad liya. (We have brought the enemy pilot we captured to our unit. The soldiers from 658 [Mujahid Battalion] have captured a second pilot).”

At 3:20 p.m. that day, 7 NLI transmitted: “Wing Commander Abhinandan, the MiG-21 pilot, dusra zakhmi CMH mein hai (Wing Commander Abhinandan is the MiG-21 pilot and the other is wounded and has been transferred to the Central Military Hospital (CMH).”

The IAF sources point out this was corroborated by the confusion within the Pakistan military’s public relations organisation, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), whose director, Major General Asif Ghafoor posted on Twitter at 11:49 a.m.: “One Indian pilot arrested by troops on the ground and two in the area”.

In a press conference, which was posted on Twitter at 1:14 p.m., Ghafoor stated that Pakistani ground troops had captured two Indian pilots. One of them, he stated, was injured and under treatment in the CMH.

In the same press conference, Ghafoor denied any F-16 had been shot down and stated that “No F-16s had taken part in this engagement.” Several days later, after the IAF displayed the wreckage of an AMRAAM air-to-air missile, which arms the F-16 fighter, Pakistani spokesperson changed tack, admitting that F-16s had taken part.

That evening, at 6:19 p.m., Ghafoor tweeted, presumably after being informed that the second pilot was Pakistani: “There is only one pilot under Pakistan Army’s custody. Wing Comd Abhi Nandan (sic) is being treated as per norms of military ethics.”

IAF sources also presented a playout of the AWACS radar display, which showed a MiG-21 icon heading towards an F-16 icon, which subsequently vanished from the display. The IAF says that proves the F-16 was shot down, but there is no way of verifying this.

IAF sources also presented a photo, posted at that time on social media, which showed Pakistani ground troops gathered around the mangled engine of a crashed aircraft. The sources pointed out that the longitudinal corrugations on that engine are different from the lateral corrugations on a MiG-21 engine.

Finally, the IAF sources cited radio intercepts that indicated that one Pakistani F-16 fighter stopped transmitting abruptly, suggesting it had crashed.

Both the PAF and IAF have presented divergent narratives of the aerial combat on February 27, a day after the IAF struck terrorist camps deep inside Pakistan to retaliate again the Valentine’s Day terrorist bombing of a security forces convoy in Kashmir in which over 40 paramilitary soldiers were killed.

Pakistan, however, has held the trump cards in this exchange, being able to present the wreckage of a MiG-21 as well as the captured pilot.

That day the IAF suffered another loss, when one of its Mi-17 V5 helicopters crashed near Budgam, ten minutes after getting airborne from Srinagar, killing all six air force personnel on board. It is now believed that the helicopter might have been shot down by India’s own air defence weapons that had been placed on high alert.


  1. Really saddened the way we have allowed the saffronization our our Armed Forces...bad for the country in the long run.

    1. And I'm really amazed at the number of people here, the author included and some from the service community at that, so eager to jump and believe the Pakistani version of events and disregard the technical evidence presented by their own Air Force, going so far as to call them 'saffronised'. Shame on you so called veterans. I challenge you to say that to Wingco Abhinandan to his face. You chose to ignore the fact that till late afternoon, ISPR kept claiming that they had downed two aircraft and had two pilots in custody and then suddenly did an about turn. If that wasn't obvious enough, I wonder how you stumbled through your years in uniform. I hope now that the Pentagon itself has clarified that there has been no census of Pak F-16s initiated by them, good sense will prevail on you to accept that you are wrong. Don't let your dislike for a political ideology trickle down to your own fraternity.

  2. It is probable both accounts are true. Did Pak borrow those planes from a country that does not want to be named?

  3. What this encounter tell ,

    India desperately needs a new radar which has to be AESA and long range beyond the visual range missiles.
    India needs few more rafales.
    The ground radars needs some improvement with complete grid being formed and few long range newer versions of Akashi and LRSAM be inducted.
    Try to get S 400 system and integrate it with the air defense grid.
    The friend and foe system needs immediate replacement and it should not happen that IAF shoots down its own planes and helicopter.
    Quickly get Tejas with AESA radar and long range I derby missiles and quickly try to devlop the Astra MK 2 and fast tract SFDR missiles.
    Get meteor missiles for upgraded mirages and quickly upgrade all mirages.
    Get few more planes with AESA radar for SU 30 and SFDR.

    The plan should be such the aggressor planes should all be shot down.


  4. Return the debris and flight data recorder of MIG21



  5. I have also read in one of numerous commentaries on this subject, that: The Mig 21 wreckage on Pakistan side of the LoC was found to have all its (authorised) arsenal intact; meaning, Abhinandan did not release any rocket/missile at an enemy target.

  6. This whole tamasha yesterday was orchestrated from behind by the cabinet secretariat.
    Mere analysis of radar by SIGINT officers of the IAF and low level conversations intercepted by the ARC and and presenting this as evidence at a Press Conference is rather weak.
    Is this all the evidence we have? where is the supporting human intelligence ?
    If what the IAF says was true - RAW would know which Pakistan airbase this F16 was from and the names of the pilot, families and dates of funerals. These things are difficult to conceal within the armed services community.
    A downing of a PAF F16 is a significant event, Pakistan is not yet a N Korean police state where they can be complete lockdown on information, in Pakistan there is a relatively free investigative media and word gets out.
    These lies are absurd, the F16 is an expensive item and service records are kept and periodic inspections made by the manufacturer - and its difficult to keep one unaccounted.
    Have journalists tried contacting Lockheed for their view on all this?
    Lastly we would not even be having this conversation, if the IAF had not bent to their political masters,
    If the IAF had been fiercely independent they would have no need to bend the truth for the cause of nationalism
    - an independent Air Force would have long established its reputation for credibility.
    This lack of trust is bound to happen the IAF is on a downhill path, started with some chiefs comprising their integrity by lack of backbone, by allowing political interference
    - some Army chiefs on retirement have joined with rubbish politicians with extremist views.

  7. Diwakar Mishra6 April 2019 at 02:17

    Yesterday u were praising Foreign policy' Stupid report wherein Reporter was so dumb & on attention seeking mode that it did't even ask basic journalistic Questions like How can audit b Reliable when USA does't Investigates each n every reported crash reported crash reports Pak can easily announce fake crash and thus have lower figures on paper than those actually are
    Today il

  8. I think India has done a poor job of presenting it's side of the story to the international media. Also, foreign journalists think that India is sticking with MiGs by choice - which isn't exactly the case.

  9. Gen Chand and others are now providing an example for post retirement. Now is the time for every officer to look around to see which party will suit and start making preparations. Arrangements should be made for providing early morning Shaka (Officers only) before parade.
    The earlier we prepare officers for political life after Army the better.
    No more hiding in the woodwork, RSS officers hiding in units must come forward and tell the rest how it’s done.

  10. PaF are claiming to have shot down 2 IAF aircraft. IAF are claiming to have shot down 1, which now looks unlikely to be an F-16. Could it have been a JF-17, which would have similar signature?

    PaF claim to have shot down 2 IAF aircraft, could this be true. After all they are saying they have more truths and they have made patches of SU30MKI being shot down. Why would Modi and Air Chief say that Rafael would have made a difference? PaF/Pakistani's are sounding too confident, they have info.

    The truly shocking thing is not that we lost an aircraft or two but that, PAF achieved Air Superiority that day for a period of time. Their cheap JF-17 has turned out to be quite cheerful for them, especially when backed by state of the art AWACs. Modern Air war is all about systems.

    Whilst we buy extremely expensive Rafael's, they are about to start turning out JF17 BLK 3 with ASEA and PL-15 BVR for 1/4 of the cost. How many Rafael's will we be prepared to lose?

    Our policy makers have started believing their own propaganda!!!
    These Bhakts will shame our nation for the next decade or two!!!


  11. relax Ajai, we must trust our armed forces and all the more you being from army background.
    IAF or IA has no history of cooking up stories to save their skin and if you believe the pakis version then even 1971 or kargil are their wins. Remember IAF lost 3 aerial assets during kargil even when PAF hadn't participated! for me what is not clear is that why did IAF not use air defence assets on the aggressors and use older fighter jets. why was an attack not anticipated? why are all the best fighters deployed south of kashmir? we don't have any frontline assets in J&K, only mig-21's, why so? we should compensate these airfields with akash and MRSAM's if we can't base sukhoi's there. why not have tejas fighter deployed there?
    now there is enough evidence in open source to say that PAF lost a fighter, doesn't matter which one. by questioning the integrity of IAF we are doing no favour to ourselves. it is rather provoking them to quickly climb the escalation matrix and showing proof to the whole world. till elections we will see much more of such stories. the reality as the chief said is blowing in the wind!

  12. Mr. Know it all come today you are silent on this topic after the pentagon comments?

  13. Replying to 6 April 19.08
    If these bhakts get in again then it will be nigh impossible to dislodge them, goodbye democracy.
    Gujarat was the laboratory and the same tactics are being used as were after Godhara.
    The Pulama Attack has been a Godsend, the attack on Balakot is being used again and again in election rallies to garner the vote.
    The vice like grip on IB and RAW is dangerous for all our freedoms, the entire administration has been infiltrated by the forces of fascism.
    Yes these Bhakts will eventually take us to war.
    They have brainwashed themselves with their own propaganda.
    Our Ill prepared armies will face defeat, such is the reality.
    The old Chinese curse is “ May you live in interesting times”
    If Modi wins the curse is upon us.

  14. Peoples branding everyone who are not convinced by Ajai's assumptions as BHAKTS. This clearly shows what BRAND of readers are these blogs written for and which ultimately shows what BRAND of ideology, the blogger Ajai has. Did I used words CHAMCHA or LEFTY anywhere?


Recent Posts

Page 1 of 10412345...104Next >>Last