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No sign points to downing of Pakistani F-16, Bellingcat rejects Indian claims

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Bellingcat came to conclusion that all signs point to downing of India’s MiG -21 instead of Pakistan’s F-16.

Karachi: The entire world watched in shock as Pakistan and India, both nuclear armed countries with hundreds of warheads, engaged in a dramatic confrontation that seemed to bring them to the brink of a war last week after New Delhi sent its warplanes deep inside Pakistan to hit militant camps.

The airstrikes were carried out to avenge the killing of over 40 troops in Occupied Kashmir in a suicide bombing which India blamed on Pakistan.

India said over 300 militants were killed in the air raids but Islamabad rejected the claim saying not a single body was found in Balatkot, the area hit by IAF, where Indian jets hastily dropped payload and escaped.

Pakistan promised to hit back at the timing and place of its choosing. And it did. Two Indian warplanes were downed by Pakistan Air Force over Kashmir the next day, with one Indian pilot landing in its custody.

India initially claimed a fighter jet crashed while the other went missing but also claimed to have shot down Pakistani F-16 without coming up with any evidence. Pakistan dismissed the statement saying no F-16 was used by its military against India.

Meanwhile pictures of India’s downed MiG-21 as well as videos of captured pilot emerged from Pakistan.

India demanded pilot’s release and used photos of MiG-21 wreckage to claim that it was in fact parts of F-16 shot down by its Air Force.

India’s botched operation in Pakistan and Digital Forensic Research Lab

According to a report prepared by Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFR), which catalyzes a global network of digital forensic analysts, following conflicts in real time said “open-source evidence suggested that the (India) strike was unsuccessful”.

Referring to the images of the area, shared by Pakistani military after the Indian strike, the report stated that “immediate imagery seemed to corroborate the (Pakistan) army’s statement that the payload by Indian warplanes was dropped in a hurry and exploded in an open area.

Pakistani F-16

False comments attributed to manufacturer of the aircraft emerged on media, with Lockheed Martin denying making any statement.

Indian media saw it as a proof of claim that the fourth generation Lockheed Martin was actually downed by Soviet era MiG-21.

Bellingcat, an Award winning open source investigation which became popular with its analysis of forged data on satellite images of the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, decided to solve the mystery.

Veli-PekkaIt, author of the finding, is neither a Pakistani nor an Indian. He is a Finnish expert on technology.

After analyzing the images shared by Pakistan of downed Indian aircraft and which New Delhi claimed were in fact those of F-16’s wreckage, Bellingcat came to conclusion that all signs point to downing of India’s MiG -21 instead of Pakistan’s F-16.

The research undertaken by Bellingcat also included analysis of the images used by both Pakistan and India to support their claims.

It said the images of the wreck were consistent with R-25 engine found on the MiG-21bis.

The report also alluded to US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) archives of MiG-21 service manual which seemed to support the Bellingcat finding.

“In summary, there’s no compelling evidence offered as of yet that an F-16 would have been shot down, and all signs point to MiG-21 wreckage having been on display thus far,” the report concluded.

Below is the link to Bellingcat report:

Falcon vs Bison: Verifying a MiG-21 Wreck