Pakistan military Friday called on India to "speak the truth" about the "actual losses" in an aerial dogfight between the nuclear-armed neighbours, after a leading U.S. magazine questioned India's claim that one of its fighter jets shot down a Pakistani F-16 on February 27. He further said that according to New Delhi's understanding of the conditions of Pakistan's F-16 purchase from the US, Islamabad was not permitted to use them in the dogfight with the IAF. The 2 sightings were at places separated by at least 8-10 km. In a previous statement in early March, Kumar had said "there are eye-witness accounts and electronic evidence that Pakistan deployed F-16 aircraft and that one F-16 was shot down" by an Indian pilot. Two senior US defense officials with direct knowledge of the situation told Foreign Policy that USA personnel recently counted Islamabad's F-16s and found none missing.
"During the aerial engagement that followed after Pakistani attack, one MiG-21 Bison of the Air Force shot down one F-16 in the Nowshera sector", the statement read.
IAF said the Pakistani military communication and the initial statements also suggest that they had lost one aircraft which they claimed to be that of IAF.
The news report has come at a time when India has taken up the use of F-16 by Pakistan in the 27 February dogfight. But that, by itself, does not offer any clues on whether Abhinandan Varthaman had shot down a Pakistan Air Force F-16, as has been repeatedly claimed by the government and the IAF. Abhinandan Varthaman landed across the Line of Control and was in Pakistani custody for three days before he was returned to India amid attempts to de-escalate the crisis between the two sides.
The report said the remnants of a US-made AIM-120 air-to-air missile was found near the site; out of all the aircraft involved, only the F-16 can shoot such a weapon.
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The exclusive report published in the Foreign Policy magazine quoted unnamed United States defence officials as saying that their physical count found that all F-16 jets in the Pakistan Air Force fleet were accounted for.
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 am: "One Indian pilot arrested by troops on the ground and two in the area". "We have more truth on this to share", wrote Ghafoor in a tweet along with a picture of 4 missiles.
According to Foreign Policy magazine, Pak invited USA to physically count its F-16 planes. The US generally requires the receiving country to allow its officials to inspect the equipment regularly to ensure it is accounted for.
Since the ban by Pakistan on the use of its airspace, several flights within Asia, between Asia and West Asia or Europe or the USA were forced to take a longer route, entailing an increase in flight duration and sometimes a halt for refuelling.