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Splits & barrel rolls: Media lays out minute-by-minute account of India & Pakistan’s aerial dogfight

Splits & barrel rolls: Media lays out minute-by-minute account of India & Pakistan’s aerial dogfight
Indian media have provided a detailed account of its downed pilot’s dramatic air combat with Pakistan in Kashmir, featuring rapid duels and daring aerial maneuvers on both sides. Some details have been disputed by Islamabad.

The detailed account of the dogfight was published by India’s Times Now channel in an exclusive on Sunday.

The minute-by-minute report details the combat between the Indian jets and the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on February 27, which ended with one MiG 21 downed and its pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, captured by the Pakistanis on the ground.

10 v 6

According to the publication, at 9:52am local time, 10 PAF F-16 jet fighters took off from three airbases and proceeded to move towards India from the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir. Six minutes later, they were asked to “evade” but failed to respond and penetrated Indian airspace in a “swarm merge attack formation.” By that time, New Delhi had already scrambled two of its MiG-21s and four Su-30MKIs to intercept the incoming aircraft.

Lone F-16 remains

The opposing forces met at 10:01am. The Indian jets, assisted by ground artillery, managed to fend off nine F-16s, while the last US-made fighter stayed on its path. It flew nearly 3km deep into Indian airspace, possibly aiming to hit an oil storage facility at Army Brigade HQ, Times Now wrote.

Defensive split & sandwich

The lone Pakistani jet was trailed by a MiG-21 Bison, piloted by Varthaman, and a Sukhoi plane. The Indian fighters performed a dogfight maneuver known as a ‘defensive split,’ effectively sandwiching the F-16, with the MiG flying ahead and the Sukhoi behind the PAF plane.

Fire from the Sukhoi’s guns made the F-16 “flee” the scene with a ‘wingover’ maneuver, with Varthaman now on his tail.

High-G barrel roll

The outlet noted that the Indian pilot could have turned around at that point and flown back home, but he decided to attack the escaping F-16 anyway. At 10:08am, Varthaman shot down the Pakistani fighter with an R-73 short-range missile.

He was immediately forced to perform a daring ‘high-G barrel roll’ in order to avoid being hit by the Pakistani air defense. In doing so, the pilot essentially had to turn his plane upwards at high speed while gaining altitude. The trick didn’t help, though, as Varthaman himself was quickly downed by a surface-to-air missile or another jet.

Conflicting reports

India’s account of the dogfight was heavily disputed by Pakistan. Islamabad claimed to have shot down not one but two Indian fighters, and denied losing any of its aircraft. It denied using F-16s in the dogfight as well. In response, New Delhi showed what it said was the wreckage of a US-made missile, belonging to one of the F-16s that attacked Indian territory last week.

After spending 60 hours in custody, Abhinandan Varthaman was returned to India by Pakistan on Friday, as a “peace gesture.” He was given a hero’s welcome at home.

Also on rt.com Downed Indian pilot is eager to be back in action – report

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