First aerial dogfight in 48 years escalates India-Pakistan tensions
India shot down a US made F-16 fighter of the Pakistan Air Force on Wednesday, and an Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter pilot, part of the Combat Air Patrol (CAP) that engaged the in-coming Pakistani fighters, was captured after being shot down in Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir (PoK) .
The air battle lasted for about 10 minutes and began at around 10 am Wednesday morning. The engagement over the skies of Nowshera in Rajouri district of Jammu Province is the first aerial dogfight between the two air forces since the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.
The US made F-16 was shot down by the Russian made MiG-21, a senior official who didn’t want to named to said. “It is a huge achievement, because the F-16 is considered to be hugely superior,” he added.
Pakistan has denied US made F-16 fighters were part of the strike. “The US prohibits the use of fighters in offensive operations,” the senior official added, explaining why Islamabad denied the presence of F-16 in the strike force. India is expected to provide evidence of having shot down the Pakistani fighter in the next few days, a second senior official in the government said on condition of anonymity
“The incoming Pakistani fighters were engaged within two minutes,” a third senior security official said on condition of anonymity, adding that “the Pakistani fighters turned back as soon as they were challenged.”
“One Pakistan Air Force fighter aircraft was shot down by a Bison MiG-21 of the Indian Air Force. The Pakistan aircraft was seen by ground forces falling from the sky on the Pakistan side,” a spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs said in New Delhi when briefing reporters.
Islamabad retaliated to the Indian jets bombing the Balakot based Jaish-e-Mohammed camp by sending the fighters to bomb Indian targets on Wednesday. A strike group comprising 12 Pakistan fighters – including four F-16 and four Mirage fighters – struck through the Kalal area in Nowshera sector of Rajouri. The Pakistani fighters took-off from NurKhan and Sargoda air bases. “Even as these fighters took off, Indian radars picked them up,” the third official said. The Indian Air Force scrambled a force of Su-30Mki and MiG21 to intercept the attackers.
The Pakistani fighters targeted a military installation in the Nangi Tekri area and a forward ammunition depot at the Naria area. Pakistani fighters missed the target. Pakistan, however, said it deliberately did not hit Indian military targets.
“Because we are a responsible state and want peace, PAF this morning decided there would be no military targets, no human casualties or collateral damage. While remaining within our own boundaries, we locked on six selected targets and then carried out strikes on open spaces at a distance from them. This was done to demonstrate we have the capability, will and resolve but don’t want to do anything that proves we are irresponsible,” Director General of Inter-Service Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Gafoor said in Islamabad.