New Delhi, Feb 28: Presenting evidence that the Pakistan Air Force used F-16s to target Indian military installations, the Indian armed forces on Thursday warned Pakistan that they would respond to any “misadventure” from across the border.
The Air Force welcomed Pakistan’s decision to return the captured pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, but said the gesture was only in accordance with the Geneva Convention.
The service officers said the forces have enough evidence of successfully implementing what they wanted to in bombing a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM) terror camp. “Whatever we planned, we have got it. It is for the government and top leadership to present evidence. It will be premature to talk about casualties,” said Air Vice Marshal R.G.K. Kapoor in reply to a question as to how many terrorists were killed in the Tuesday action in Balakot and what was the damage caused.
At a joint media briefing, top officers of Air Force, Army and Navy said Pakistan was trying to lie and hide facts. “There is enough evidence of PAF having used the American AMRAAM (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile), which is a modern beyond-visual-range missile (used by F-16). The fact is that one F-16 was brought down by the IAF,” Air Vice Marshal Kapoor told reporters in the first joint briefing by the three services after India carried out air strikes on a JeM training camp in Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
The press conference was deferred by two hours to 7 p.m. apparently after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that Varthaman would be released on Friday.
To a question whether India considered Pakistan Air Force targeting Indian military installations as a declaration of war on India, Army official Major General Surender Singh Mahal said: “We continue to maintain strict vigilance along the Line of Control and International Border and the anti-aircraft weapons systems are on standby and so are our mechanised forces”.
The Army officer said as long as Pakistan continues to harbour terrorists “we will continue to target agencies which are inimical to India.”
“We are fully prepared and are on heightened readiness. We are prepared to respond to any Pakistan provocation and maintain peace and stability,” he said.
Navy officer Rear Admiral Dalbir Singh Gujral told the media that the Indian Navy has been put on high state of readiness on sea, under water and in the air to defeat any misadventure by Pakistan. “I can assure you a resolute and strong response by the Indian Navy. We –the Army, Navy and Air Force — stand as one to ensure safety and security of the nation and our citizens,” he said.
Giving details of the Air Force operations on Thursday when the Pakistani jets targeted India, Kapoor said that on Feb 27 at 10a.m. Indian Air Force radars detected a large package of PAF fighter jets heading towards the Indian territory towards general area Jangar. They breached the Indian air space west of Rajouri in the Sunderbani area. The ingressing aircraft were observed to be at various levels.
“The IAF fighters, including MiG 21 Bison, Sukhoi MKI and Mirage 2000 were tasked to intercept the intruding Pakistani aircraft. The PAF jets attempting to target our military installations were intercepted by the IAF which foiled their attack.
“In the aerial combat that ensued, one F-16 of PAF was shot down by IAF’s MiG 21 Bison aircraft. The F-16 crashed and fell across the Line of Control (LoC) in the Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” said Air Vice Marshal Kapoor.
The IAF lost one MiG 21 in the aerial engagement, though the pilot ejected safely. His parachute drifted to the Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir where he was taken into custody by the Pakistan Army, he said.
“There have been many factually incorrect statements made by Pakistan. The first information was that the two IAF aircraft were shot down by Pakistan and three pilots of the IAF were downed. This figure was later revised in the evening that two IAF aircraft were down,” he said.
The fact, he said, was that Indian Army units had reported citing two parachutes in Pakistan-occupied J&K which were of two F-16 pilots. Pakistan later in the evening changed its statement to say that one Indian pilot was in their custody. Therefore it was only by late evening that they corrected it, the Vice Marshal said.
“Secondly, Pakistan claimed that they intentionally dropped weapons in an open space where there was no human presence or military post. The fact is that PAF targeted military installations, however they were intercepted by the IAF which thwarted their plans. However, PAF bombs fell inside an Indian Army formation compound which could not cause any significant damage due to our swift action,” he said.
Pakistan also stated that no F-16s were used in the operation and that no Pakistani plane was downed by IAF. “There is enough evidence such as electronic signature that shows PAF used F-16s. Pakistan is trying to hide this fact,” said Vice Marshal Kapoor.
Also parts of AMRAAM missiles, which are carried by only Pakistan F-16, were recovered east of Rajouri. Therefore, the fact remains that one F-16 of PAF was shot down by IAF MiG 21 Bisons, he said.
At the press conference, the IAF officer displayed fragments of the missile.
Answering a query, Kapoor said while Pakistan used F16, JF7 and some MiGs to target India, the IAF used Sukhoi, MiG21 and Mirage.