As more details gradually emerge from the aftermath of yesterday’s aerial skirmishes over the disputed Kashmir region, it appears increasingly likely that a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) JF-17 Thunder fighter claimed the type’s first air-to-air kill against a manned opponent.
A video posted to social media apparently shows members of the PAF’s 14 Squadron ‘Tail Choppers’ stationed at PAF Base Minhas, Kamra, celebrating an aerial victory in a hardened aircraft shelter alongside their commanding officer, reported as Sqn Ldr Hasan Siddiqui. He is reported as having flown JF-17 Block 2 serial 15-201.
Yesterday the PAF conducted air strikes over the ceasefire line in disputed Kashmir and initially claimed to have shot down two Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft that entered Pakistani airspace. Authorities in Islamabad first stated that two IAF pilots had been captured, but later confirmed that just one airman was in their custody.
The Indian government confirmed that one of its pilots was posted missing in action.
In response to PAF strikes this morning as released by MoFA, IAF crossed LOC. PAF shot down two Indian aircrafts inside Pakistani airspace. One of the aircraft fell inside AJ&K while other fell inside IOK. One Indian pilot arrested by troops on ground while two in the area.
— Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor (@OfficialDGISPR) February 27, 2019
A video that appeared on social media showed the blindfolded Indian pilot, Wg Cdr Abhinandan Varthaman, undergoing interrogation. Pakistan announced the following day that the MiG-21 Bison pilot would be returned to India in a goodwill gesture.
Indian pilot in custody of the Pakistan military pic.twitter.com/n5er7PvBT2
— omar r quraishi (@omar_quraishi) February 27, 2019
Additional unconfirmed photos showed wreckage apparently from an IAF MiG-21 fighter, reported as being serial CU2328 of No 51 Squadron:
— Waseem Sajjad (@waseem_swaty) February 27, 2019
New photo circulating of Pakistani soldier posing on wreckage appears genuine as #IAF markings are clear and pitot tube (blue) and hatch/fairing position (red) confirm this is the starboard side nose section of a Mig-21Bis #IndiaPakistan pic.twitter.com/KoDhV86tr1
— Justin Bronk (@Justin_Br0nk) February 27, 2019
While Indian media reported on Wednesday that a PAF fighter was also shot down on Pakistan’s side of the ceasefire line in Kashmir, there has been no evidence of this so far.
Complicating matters, India has revealed wreckage of an AIM-120C-5 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) that came down in Indian-controlled territory. This confirms that PAF F-16 fighters were indeed involved in the dogfights, albeit not necessarily that a Fighting Falcon was downed, or shot down an IAF aircraft.
Wreckage of AMRAAM missile recovered on the Indian side of the LoC. Clear evidence that a PAF F-16 was involved in the air action over J&K yesterday. pic.twitter.com/POlDMV8Awv
— Angad Singh (@zone5aviation) February 28, 2019
Indian officials today added further details from their side of the events, including acknowledging that MiG-21 Bison, Su-30MKI and Mirage 2000 aircraft were all scrambled to head off the PAF strike package. The official Indian account is as follows:
The PAF officially re-equipped 14 Squadron ‘Tail Choppers’ with Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) JF-17 fighters on February 16, 2017. The initial batch of 16 JF-17s replaced some of the last remaining Chengdu F-7Ps that had been in service with the ‘Tail Choppers’ at PAF Base Minhas.
The ‘Tail Choppers’ became the fifth PAF squadron to operate the type after 26 Squadron ‘Black Spiders’, 16 Squadron ‘Black Panthers’, the Combat Commanders School, and 2 Squadron ‘Minhas’. The squadron was the second to re-equip with Block 2 aircraft. However, it the first to fly the Block 2 operationally with the air-to-air refuelling probe fitted.
On June 19, 2017, a JF-17 shot down an Iranian reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) over Panjgur, Balochistan, 28 miles (45km) inside Pakistani territory.