The Ministry of External Affairs confirmed that it was Indian Air Force Pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman who shot down the Pakistan F-16 in the aerial combat following the IAF airstrikes in Balakot, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in a press briefing on Saturday. He said that there were eyewitness accounts of the incident as well as electronic evidence which supports the claim.
In retaliation to IAF airstrikes, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) aircrafts crossed into Indian air space launching missiles which nearly missed Indian military installations. In the ensuing aerial combat, an IAF MiG-21 Bison aircraft piloted by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was shot down by PAF while he was trying to intercept the intruding aircrafts. Although he shot down one F-16 of the PAF, he ejected inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Abhinandan was then captured by the Pakistan Army and handed over to India on March 1.
Kumar added that Pakistan must answer why they have not presented any proof to corroborate their claim of shooting down a second Indian aircraft even after a week and why they continually deny that their aircraft was shot down in the dogfight.
“Only one aircraft was lost by us. If, as Pakistan claims, they have a video recording of the downing of a second Indian aircraft, why have they not shown it to the international media even after more than one week? Questions should be asked to them as to where the fuselage of the aircraft is and what has happened to the pilots? As we have already said, there are eyewitness accounts and electronic evidence that Pakistan deployed F-16 aircraft and that one F-16 was shot down by Wing Commander Abhinandan,” Kumar said.
Pakistan had claimed that it shot down two Indian jets, and rejected IAF’s assertion that an F-16 aircraft was downed in exchange of fire. While IAF had confirmed that Varthaman had downed an F-16 fighter jet of PAF by firing an R-73 air-to-air missile before his aircraft was hit.