Even after multiple contradictions in the Pakistani narrative on the post-Balakot air strike aerial engagement have been exposed, a report in Foreign Policy asserts that American officials have counted the total number of F-16s with the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and have found none missing post the India-Pakistan standoff.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian government had officially stated in the aftermath of the clash that one Pakistani F-16 was shot down by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman before his own Mig-21 Bison went down to enemy fire.
Pakistan denied the Indian claim and maintained that it did not lose any of its F-16s. Although the report may seem like prima facie proof of the genuineness of the Pakistani claim, experts say it has fails to address many loopholes and outright falsehoods in the Pakistani stance, thus bringing into doubt its own credibility.
The first public claim about the aerial engagement made by the Pakistani military detailed how they had managed to shoot down and capture three Indian pilots. This was quickly changed to a figure of two Indian pilots being captured. The Pakistanis claimed that one of the two pilots was severely injured upon crashing and was being treated at a hospital.
Even in Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s initial public statement, there was mention of Indian ‘pilots’ being captured. However, the Pakistanis soon completely changed their stance and started claiming that it was only in fact one Indian pilot who was captured, whose identity was soon confirmed as Wing Commander Abhinandan.
An explanation of the obvious contradictions in Pakistan’s initial claims and its later stance, experts point, is that the Pakistanis had in fact mistaken one of their own pilots who was critically injured as an Indian pilot. That is why, it is believed, they were forced to change the narrative to only one Indian pilot being captured.
Pakistan had also outrightly denied that it had used F-16s in the incursion across the LoC, claiming it had sent it its JF-17s. This claim was also punctured when the Indian side presented pieces of an AMRAAM medium-range missile fired from an F-16.
Experts suggest that the report may itself have been motivated by a desire to make US-made defence equipment seem better in comparison to their Russian counterparts. An F-16 being shot down by an ageing Mig-21 Bison brings into question the quality of American defence exports.
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