Eight fighter jets of the Indian Air Force took on 24 Pakistani jets in unprecedented air combat over the India-controlled disputed Kashmir region, India’s NDTV television reported on Thursday.
According to the TV Channel, the Pakistani Air Force strike group included eight F-16s, four Mirage-3 aircraft and four Chinese-made JF-17 “Thunder” fighters. The other aircraft were escort fighters to protect the Pakistan strike formation from any retaliation.
“The large Pakistani attack formation was detected at 9.45 am when they came within 10 km of the Line of Control,” the TV Channel reported.
The Pakistani aircraft were intercepted by eight jets of the Indian Air Force, which included four Sukhoi Su-30MKIs, two upgraded Mirage 2000s and two MiG 21 planes, the TV Channel reported.
The Indian Air Force’s planes prevented the Pakistani fighters from delivering precision strikes against ground targets on the India-controlled territory of the disputed Kashmir region, the TV Channel said.
The details of the first massive air combat between the Indian and Pakistani fighters since the third Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 emerged as India waited for the release of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman from Pakistan’s captivity.
The wing commander was in pursuit of a Pakistani F-16 jet, which he shot down with an R-73 air-to-air missile.
“Both pilots were seen parachuting down on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control,” the TV Channel said.
At that moment, an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile) struck his aircraft, after which Varthaman was forced to eject and landed onto the Pakistani side of the Line of Control, where he was captured, the TV Channel said.
The tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad heightened after an Indian paramilitary convoy was attacked in Jammu and Kashmir on February 14, which claimed the lives of 45 people. The Jaish-e-Mohammed group, which aims at separating Kashmir from India and bringing it under Pakistan’s control, claimed responsibility for the February 14 attack.
Last Tuesday, India delivered an air strike against the camp of that grouping in the Pakistan-controlled part of the Kashmir region. On Wednesday, the Pakistani Air Force retaliated by an air strike on Indian military installations. Both India and Pakistan claimed they had shot down each other’s aircraft during the dogfight.
The situation in Jammu and Kashmir, India’s sole state with the predominantly Muslim population, has remained tense for many years. In the India-controlled part, secessionist militant groupings are active. New Delhi accuses Islamabad of supporting terrorists. Pakistan rejects these accusations.