USA count found no Pakistan F-16 jet missing

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However, one downing of a MiG-21 Bison was verified as its wreckage was found on the Pakistan side and its pilot IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Vartharam was captured after he ejected over Azad Kashmir.

The dogfight between the two nations occurred on February 27, when India says a group of Pakistani jets entered its airspace in response to the first Indian air raid on Pakistani territory since a 1971 war.

"The two sightings were at places separated by at least 8-10 km (about 5-6.2 miles)". The sources said that while one of the ejections was of an IAF MIG 21 Bison, the other was of a PAF aircraft. They said the Pakistani aircraft was an F-16 and enemy radio transmissions which were monitored showed that it did not return to its base.

The Foreign Policy report cited "two senior U.S. defence officials with direct knowledge of the situation" who claimed that the United States personnel had recently counted Pakistan's F-16 and had "found none missing". One was an IAF MiG-21 Bison and the other a PAF aircraft.

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There are no official figures from Pakistan on how many F-16s it has but reported estimates place the number between 70 and 80.

"One of the senior USA defense officials.said that Pakistan invited the United States to physically count its F-16 planes after the incident as part of an end-user agreement signed when the foreign military sale was finalised", the magazine said.

The Balakot strike triggered a dogfight between the two air forces which resulted in the loss of a fighter jet from each side and a brief detention of IAF Wing Commander Abhinadan Varthaman by Pakistan Army. The IAF says that proves the F-16 was shot down, but there is no way of verifying this.

In his tweet, the DG ISPR said: "Allah be praised, truth always prevails". "The count has been completed and all the (F-16) aircraft were present and accounted for", the official added.

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However, Pakistan appeared determined to answer in kind to a violation of its airspace and sovereignty by its eastern neighbour and the very next day avowedly first locked on to Indian military and administration targets before firing on uninhabited ground in IHK.

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. However, India was unable to present any physical evidence to back up its claim of having downed an F-16.

With this latest news of yet another Indian military success that was not, will Prime Minister Modi now seek to try something else?

Tensions soared between India and Pakistan in the aftermath of the February 14 suicide bombing in Pulwama, occupied Kashmir.

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The pilot, Abhinandan Varthaman, became a national hero in India after his capture and subsequent "peace gesture" release, with many admirers attempting to emulate his iconic handlebar moustache and some selling merchandise emblazoned with his face.