New Delhi: Indian Air Force (IAF) on Monday released radar images to reiterate the fact that not just F-16 was used by Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on February 27 but also that a MiG-21 Bison piloted by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman shot down the F-16 in the dogfight.

“The Indian Air Force has irrefutable evidence to prove not only the fact that F-16 was used by PAF on February 27 but also that an IAF MiG-21 Bison shot down a PAF F-16,” Air Vice Marshal RG Kapoor said while addressing a press conference here.

Explaining the entire action of February 27 with the help of slides and images from the ground-based radars, Kapoor said: “PAF package of fighter jets were in three groups. One was to the north, and the other ones in central (Jhanagar) and southern (Naushera) sector which were picked by AWACS. The northern group was JF-17 while the central and southern group were F-16s.”

“IAF aircraft were vectored to shoot down the PAF aircraft. PAF aircraft fired multiple AMRAAM missiles which were defeated by countermeasures and tactical manoeuvres," he said.

"In the aerial combat that followed, one MiG 21 Bison piloted by the Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman shot down one F-16 of the PAF. The F-16 crashed and fell across the LoC in Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

"Indian Army posts located in the vicinity of the action area witnessed two separate parachutes. The first sighting was due West, in general area Sabzkot and the second, was after a few minutes, South West, general area Tandar,” the senior Air Force officer said.

“There is no doubt that two aircraft went down in the aerial engagement on February 27, one of which was the Bison of IAF while the other was F-16 of Pakistan Air Force conclusively identified by its electronic signature and radio transcripts,” the Air Vice Marshal said.

Highlighting the contradictions in the statements made by the DG, ISPR and Pakistani Prime Minister, the IAF said, “In his initial statement on Feb 27, DG ISPR categorically said ‘3 pilots- one in custody, and two in the area’. DG ISPR also stated on camera in a press briefing that they had two pilots."

"One in custody and the other had been admitted to hospital and was being given treatment. The same was corroborated by the statement by the Pakistan Prime Minister on camera also indicating more than one pilot.”

The IAF said that all of these conclusively prove that a total of two aircraft had gone down that day in the same area separated by approximately 1 to 1:30 minutes of time.

“Analysis of electronic emissions have shown that the aircraft picked by the ELINT intercepts from AWCS and radio transcripts indicated F-16s in the area directly in front of Wing Commander Abhinandan’s aircraft,” the IAF officer said.

"The IAF achieved its objective of successfully striking the terrorist camp at Balakot and thwarting PAF attack against Indian Military Installations while PAF was unable to achieve its military objective," he said.

“The Indian Air Force has more credible information and evidence that is clearly indicative of the fact that Pakistan Air Force has lost one F-16 during the entire action. However, due to security and confidentiality concerns are restricting the information being shared in the public domain.”

The Indian Air Force had bombed a Jaish-e-Mohammad, a terrorist organisation based in Pakistan, camp in Pakistan’s Balakot on February 26. This was in retaliation to Pulwama terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir in which more than 40 CRPF soldiers lost their lives.

On February 27, PAF tried to retaliate by attempting to bomb Indian military installations in Jammu and Kashmir which was thwarted IAF fighter jets.

Soon after the aerial engagement, DG ISPR (propaganda division of the Pakistani Army), Major General Asif Ghafoor tweeted that PAF had shot two MiGs of the IAF and captured three Indian pilots.

He reiterated during a press conference that two pilots were captured claiming that one of them is under custody while the other one was undergoing treatment in hospital.

Ghafoor also denied using F-16s in the mission, a claim which was refuted by Indian which presented parts of AMRAAM missile which can only be fired from an F-16 jet.

However, making a U-turn on his claims, DG ISPR tweeted in the evening that only one Indian pilot is in Pakistani custody. 

India approached America about the use of F-16 in an offensive mission against it. US was non-committal on the issue refusing to confirm or deny if the F-16 was indeed shot down by the Indian Air Force.

Controversy erupted after an American magazine reported a few days ago quoting unnamed Pentagon officials that all F-16s of the Pakistani Air Force were accounted for, contradicting the IAF claim of shooting down an F-16.

However, the Pentagon denied being aware of any such counting.

The DG ISPR welcomed the “truth” reported in the magazine and later tweeted a picture of four missiles which he claimed proved that IAF MiG-21 fired nothing.

This claim was immediately rebutted by the defence experts in India who said one of the missiles shown in the picture was actually fired.

IAF reasserted on the same day that it has conclusive evidence of shooting down a Pakistani F-16 jet.