Pentagon isn't aware that US "counted" F-16s in Pakistan
A day after Foreign Policy published a report claiming the US "counted" F-16s given to Pakistan and none of them were found missing, the Pentagon said it wasn't aware of any such investigation. The report had contradicted India's claims of shooting down an F-16 in a dogfight on February 27 and quoted two "senior US defense" officials. But IAF held its ground. Here's what happened.
A bit about the dogfight and report in US magazine
In February, a day after IAF jets breached Pakistani airspace to destroy Jaish-e-Mohammed's camp in Balakot, PAF attacked India's military establishments. Soon, IAF jets scrambled and PAF aircraft were chased away. After going for the F-16 kill, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthamana landed on the other side of LoC. Months later, Foreign Policy quoted two US defense officials who "confirmed" F-16s weren't missing in Pakistan.
Defense department spokesperson sets record straight on news report
According to HT, US defense department spokesman said they "weren't aware of any investigation". When asked to confirm the news report, the official said, "As a matter of policy, the Department does not publicly comment on details of government-to-government agreements on end-use monitoring of US-origin defense articles." The official, however, underscored that the US has stopped providing security assistance to Pakistan since January 2018.
Even IAF didn't buy the report, claimed Abhinandan scripted history
Notably, IAF reiterated its stand that Abhinandan shot down an F-16 while piloting his MiG-21 Bison. To support its claim, IAF showed two AWACS pictures, which were clicked eight seconds apart, on that day. The second picture showed an F-16 was missing. Moreover, IAF confirmed two pilots ejected. While one was Abhinandan, Pakistan didn't say anything on the second one.
What exactly happened on February 27? Here's the answer
Reportedly, a large force of PAF's F-16s, JF-17s and Mirage III/V aircraft tried to enter Indian airspace on February 27. Quite promptly, IAF's Su30-MKI, Mirage-2000 and MiG-21 Bisons intercepted the PAF jets and were guided by AWACS and ground radars. While JF-17s remained in the North, one F-16 came close to Abhinandan. He fired an R73 Archer missile.
Pakistan can't use F-16 without speaking to US
Notably, F-16s are manufactured by Lockheed Martin and policy allows the US to check aircraft in Pakistan's inventory. It's important to note that Pakistan can't use F-16 without the US' permission. It definitely can't use it for an "act of aggression". Despite the well-known rules, the US official whom FP "spoke" to, said it would be "naive" to expect Pakistan won't employ F-16s for its battles.
Pakistan asked India to "speak the truth"
The restrictions which the US has put on Pakistan is the reason the latter claimed F-16s weren't scrambled to attack India's military posts. So, when FP supported Pakistan's theory, Asif Ghafoor, the spokesperson of the Army, quickly questioned India. He claimed India's lies were busted and asked the Indian Army "to speak the truth about false claims and actual losses".
Notably, India's story has been consistent all along
Unlike Pakistan, India hasn't been changing its theories on what happened on February 27. When Abhinandan was in Pakistan's custody, Indian armed forces held a press conference to speak about his feat. The officials displayed pieces of an AMRAAM (advanced medium-range air-to-air missile), which Pakistan used in the combat. Other than F-16, no Pakistani jet is capable of firing this missile.