US looks into claims Pakistan misused F-16 fighter, as media war over Kashmir clash heats up

The US State Department is investigating claims Pakistan improperly used a US-supplied F-16 jet against India this week, Indian media claims. The jet has been a bone of contention between the two nuclear powers.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) claimed on Thursday to have shot down a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) F-16 one day earlier, during a PAF raid on Indian military bases. Pakistan denied using the American-supplied fighter and denied that any of its planes had been shot down. The IAF countered by showing off the twisted wreckage of an AIM-120 AMRAAM missile, claiming the projectile “conclusively proves” Pakistan deployed an F-16.

Pakistan’s alleged use of an F-16 may have been in breach of its end-user agreement with the United States. Pakistan operates 45 F-16s, and has used the jet since the 1980s. However, Islamabad’s use of the fighter is bound by agreements with Washington, including a requirement that flights outside of Pakistani airspace be cleared with the US government.

“We are aware of these reports and are seeking more information,” a State Department spokesperson told India’s PTI news agency on Saturday.

Amid rising tensions between the two countries, accusations have been kicked back and forth. Pakistan’s World News Observer reported on Friday that Lockheed Martin – the F-16’s manufacturer – was planning a lawsuit against the Indian government for falsely claiming to have shot down the Pakistani jet “for political gains.”

Lockheed Martin India said it “has made no such comments.”

India and Pakistan have been locked into a dispute over the territory of Kashmir since partition in 1947. The latest escalation started when Indian warplanes struck suspected terrorist camps on the Pakistani side on Tuesday, in retaliation for a suicide bombing in India two weeks earlier. Pakistan responded by shooting down at least one Indian bomber and capturing its pilot and dropping bombs on Indian territory.

The captured pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was released by Pakistan on Friday as a “peace gesture,” but tension remains high, and both sides exchanged artillery fire along their heavily militarized border later that night.

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