New Delhi: Pakistan's military has claimed that JF-17 Thunder combat aircraft developed jointly with China were used in retaliation to India's pre-emptive strikes on a Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camp in Balakot, denying that they used a US-made F-16 jet to hit Indian aircraft. 

Referring to the aerial dogfight with the Indian Air Force jets after the February 14 Pulwama terror attack claimed by JeM, Pakistan Army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said that the Indian jets violated the Pakistani airspace on February 26, dropping payloads without inflicting any casualties or damage to infrastructure. 

The next day, Pakistan Air Force retaliated and downed a MiG-21 in an aerial combat and captured Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, who was handed over to India later, Maj Gen Ghafoor claimed. 

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"The aircraft which engaged those targets and fought them were JF-17. As regards to how to use F-16, in what context [they] were used or not - because at that point of time our entire Air Force was airborne - now it remains between Pakistan and the US to see how the MoUs regarding the use of F-16 have been adhered to or otherwise," Ghafoor said.

Pakistan had been constantly denying having used its F-16 aircraft to violate Indian airspace in retaliation to the Indian air strikes in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), following which India released photographs of the American-made F-16s AMRAAMs’s wreckage on social media. A plausible reason for that is that the US had sold the F-16s to Pakistan under the condition that the aircraft would be used only against terrorists and not in a typical military operation.

The US is checking if their assets were misused by Pakistan while carrying out attack on India. According to the US-Pakistan agreement on F-16s, these aircraft cannot be used by Pakistan for military offence against another country; they have to be used solely to hit terrorists.

After the aitrstrike, India had presented evidence of the use of F-16s by Pakistan. Further, the aircraft that India used in the airstrike were Mirage 2000s, none of which Pakistan could harm. The MiG-21 Bison comes into the picture only when Pakistan attempted a retaliation, trying to target Indian military installations. That was when Pakistani F-16s and Indian MiG-21 Bisons engaged in a dogfight.