A top expert with the Chinese defence forces has claimed it wasn’t Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) US-made F-16 that shot down India’s MiG-21 Bison during last month’s dogfight when the two air forces had scrambled jets along the Line of Control (LoC).
Professor Jin Yinan from the National Defence University (NDU) of the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) hints – without actually saying so – that it could have been a China-built jet, possibly the jointly built JF-17 fighter aircraft, which shot down India’s jet.
Jin also argued that it wasn’t a surface-to-air missile that hit the MiG-21 Bison but an air-to-air projectile.
Jin’s interview was first published earlier this month on a Chinese website run by the PLA where he attempted to counter the narrative that it was an F-16, which shot down the Indian aircraft.
Jin, a retired general and an author, was a director of the strategic research institute at the NDU.
“Expert: Who shot down India’s MiG-21 in India-Pakistan air battle?” was the headline of the English version of the interview.
The Chinese expert’s reasoning comes against the backdrop of Beijing’s announcement that it had, along with Islamabad, started upgrading the JF-17 fighter jet. “The development and production of the JF-17 Block 3 are underway,” Yang Wei, a Chinese legislator and chief designer of the China-Pakistan co-developed fighter jet, was quoted as saying by the state media.
A day after Pakistan’s attempt to retaliate the Indian Air Force’s air strikes at a Jaish terror camp in Balakot, the Indian armed forces, in a rare tri-service press conference, had displayed parts of an AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile) fired by an F-16, which fell in Indian territory. New Delhi had also underlined that electronic signatures captured by Indian radars had established the use of F-16 for the offensive.
Soon after, the US State Department had announced it was seeking more information from Pakistan on the potential misuse of American-made F-16 jets against India in violation of the end-user agreement.
The Chinese expert did not elaborate his counter to the IAF stand and appeared to accept Pakistan’s claim about not using the F-16 at its face value.
He said: “The Indian side tried to find reasons for its loss, saying that Pakistan had dispatched its most advanced F-16 fighters, which was denied. Pakistan’s saying is more reliable for three reasons”.
“First, the sales of F-16 fighters had been cut off by the US, so Pakistan now has only less than 20 such aircraft left, not to mention how many of which could still perform a flight mission,” Jin said.
“Second, Pakistan had signed an ‘agreement’ with the US, which banned the use of F-16 fighters in offensive operations. This time, Indian warplanes flew into the Pakistani airspace and attacked ground targets first, and then Pakistan sent aircraft into India’s airspace for retaliation. From this perspective, it was a retaliatory, offensive operation conducted by Pakistan, in which the F-16 was inapplicable according to the aforesaid agreement.”
Jin then argued that the Indian Air Force is well aware of the capabilities of the US-made jets including firepower and radar frequencies.
“Third, the Indian military had already obtained basic data about the F-16 jets. The U.S. planned to export the F-21 – an upgraded version of the F-16 – to India, so it had informed the Indian side of all performance parameters about the aircraft. For this reason, India is familiar with the combating performances of the F-16, including its fire-control and searching radar frequency,” the PLA expert said.
“Given all this, Pakistan was unlikely to use its F-16 fighters in the air battle because there was a small chance to win even if it sent out the aircraft.”
Asked what kind of missile would have hit the Indian jet, Jin claimed it was an air-to-air missile.
“All existing signs indicate that it is improbable a surface-to-air missile. The wreckage of the MiG-21 fighter jet should be comminuted debris caused by the cellular explosion. However, it is evident that part of the crashed MiG-21 fighter jet was cut by a missile, instead of exploding in the air. It was directly hit by a missile warhead. In this case, it is unlikely to be a surface-to-air missile, but probably an air-to-air missile,” he said.
Jin said IAF’s frontier jets are in poor shape and flying “outdated” aircraft.
“The aircraft equipped in India’s frontier troops are poor in performance. For instance, the MiG-21 fighter is already outdated. The captured Indian pilot is a senior wing commander. Among air force pilots, wing commander is already a high military ranking, who needs to fly at least 1,000 hours, so he is actually an experienced pilot. However, limited by its backward avionics, the MiG-21 fighter’s search radar could not detect the enemy and its fire-control radar cannot guide medium-range air-to-air missiles,” Jin said.
The Chinese expert added: “So, it could not perform preemptive detection and firing. As a result, it was detected and shot down first by the enemy. If the Indian military commissioned some more advanced fighters in the frontier, it would not only enhance its image but also not lose so badly. This is a feature of air warfare: a single pilot and a single aircraft can determine the result of an air battle.(HT)
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