ISLAMABAD                    -               Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on Monday shared irrefutable evidence with media to reject Indian claims of shooting down a Pakistani F-16 fighter plane on February 27 last year, by putting on display all the four missiles recovered from the wreckage of India air force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman’s fighter jet.

The PAF officials, in the first-ever briefing to media since the aerial combat with India last year, said the Indian military leadership lied on what actually had happened on that day. They said Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman was awarded a gallantry award for what he never did. The briefing came a couple of days ahead of the first anniversary of the resounding victory in the ‘Operations Swift Resort’ during the standoff with India last year.

The PAF opened its doors to media for all the four missiles recovered from Wing Commander Abhinandan’s fighter jet, questioning if all the missiles were intact, how did he shoot the PAF plane?

The Indian authorities had claimed that before Abhinandan’s jet was hit, he downed an F-16 fighter of Pakistan.

Director Media Affairs and Spokesperson PAF, Air Commodore Syed Ahmer Raza, was astonished that the Indian pilot captured by Pakistani forces was awarded gallantry award by the government of India for what he never accomplished.

It is to be mentioned here that the 36-year-old Indian pilot was prized by the Indian authorities for allegedly ‘shooting down the PAF plane’.

Air Commodore Umer Shah, Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Plans), while briefing to the media said that Abhinandan Varthman’s MiG-21 Bison jet, shot down in the dogfight with Pakistani jets during the aerial combat, was no so obsolete version of the fighter jets.

To a question, he said all the IAF planes present in that area of February 27 were identified and locked by the PAF, however, Pakistan showed restraint.

To a question, he said that visit of the US officials soon after the February 27 dogfight was an ongoing and routine process and it was not the incident-specific.

When further asked if the US officials were invited to visit Pakistan or they visited on their own to ascertain whether Pakistan had lost one of its F-16s in the dogfight, he said cooperation with USA on the F-16 programme is an ongoing process. “They [Americans] have an idea about the number of F-16s we have and the visit of the US officials was part of the ongoing process,” he added. He, however, parried a question if F-16 was used in the fight.

All the four missiles recovered from the IAF jet wreckage were put on display for media. The right wing and the left wing of the Indian destroyed jet carried Beyond Visual Range (BVR) and Short Range Missiles each. Some of the parts of the missiles were burnt along with the wreckage but still, all the components were intact that suggested no missile was fired from Abhinandan’s fighter jet and subsequently no damage was done to the PAF aircrafts.

The Indian pilot had claimed that before being shot down, he fired at a PAF aircraft.

Pakistan has shot down two Indian jets over Kashmir on February 27, 2019 during the dogfight on the eastern border. The incident followed a major escalation of the Kashmir conflict.

According to the Pakistani officials, one plane had fallen in Pakistani territory and the pilot was captured. Pakistan had also denied reports that one of its jets was shot down by the IAF. India had later, confirmed the loss of MiG-21 fighter and said a pilot was missing.

Later, PM Imran Khan had announced to release the Indian pilot, making it clear that it was to de-escalate the situation.

Air Commodore Umer, in reply to a question, said that the PAF defence system was very strong.

To another question why Pakistani fighter jets remained in the air for hours after they shot down the Indian fighter plane, he said it was a natural air defence response and part and parcel of air defence mechanism.

To a question, what PAF learnt from the episode, he said PAF has always strived for excellence. “PAF has its own plan of modernization,” he added.

To a question if Pakistan needed permission from the US for use of F-16 planes against India, he said there needs no permission for its legitimate use. “There is no need to take permission from any side and Pakistan reserves the right to use it [F-16),” he held.

He said Pakistan, with limited resources, cannot go for arms race as he was asked to comment on India’s quest for arms.

He, however, said, the PAF was evaluating avenues for acquiring more planes for the PAF. The briefing focused on the conduct of successful operation on the day and exposing Indian lies and enemy’s false narrative.

The Air Commodore also clarified the reports that an Israeli pilot was also captured along with Abhinandan, by saying the pilot and the ejection seats had two separate parachutes. The pilot and the seat landed separately and the public on ground took the two as two pilots landing on the ground. The officials also put on display the ejection seat of the Abhinandan’s jet with a number ‘CU2328’, which the officials said was also printed on the tale of the jet.

“Practically speaking, the number on the ejection seat is also printed on the tale of the jet and it can be verified that the single ejection seat is of the Abhinandan’s jet,” he added.

PAF releases new song on anniversary of Indian jet downing

Our Staff Reporter adds from Lahore: Pakistan Air Force on Monday released a new song to mark the first anniversary of the downing of Indian jets.

Eminent singer Shuja Haider sung the song “Allah-o-Akbar.”

According to spokesperson for Pakistan Air Force, February 27 is like a bright chapter in the history of Pakistan, when Pakistan Air Force pilots shot down two planes of the enemy.

The song is a tribute to the chivalry of valiant Jawans of Pakistan Air Force as well as story of the Pakistani nation that faced every difficult situation with courage and valor.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Air Force is also organizing an air show on Thursday at Sea View Karachi. The air show will commence at 12pm.

Meanwhile according to Radio Pakistan, a statue of an Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman is also put on display at PAF museum Karachi whose plane was shot down by PAF pilots on February 27 last year. The gallery has been named ‘Operation Swift Retort’.

Varthaman’s plane was shot down in a fight over Azad Jammu Kashmir in February 2019 during an aerial battle which brought nuclear-armed India and Pakistan to the brink of a new war.

After his capture, the Pakistani military released video showing him sipping a cup of tea and politely refusing to answer questions. His stoic and courteous demeanour — largely attributed to the humane treatment by the Pakistan Army — and comment that the tea was “fantastic” made him a viral sensation at India’s expense. He was released several days later in a peace gesture from Pakistan aimed at defusing tensions.