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Falcon vs Bison: Verifying a MiG-21 Wreck

March 2, 2019

By Veli-Pekka Kivimäki

Translations: Русский

On February 27th amid heightening tensions between India and Pakistan in Kashmir, an Indian Air Force MiG-21 aircraft was shot down by Pakistan. In the ensuing war of words over the incidents, both sides made varying claims about the incident, with India saying they had downed a Pakistani aircraft, while Pakistan stated it had downed two Indian aircraft. India acknowledged the loss of one, while Pakistan denied any losses of aircraft.

Against this backdrop, when images of apparent aircraft wreckage started popping up on social media, different interpretations were offered on what the images actually show. This post focuses on claims that pictures released by Pakistan actually showed parts of an F-16, purportedly downed by India.

The two tweets below are examples of claims made regarding the aircraft pieces.

The tweets above claimed to show F-16 parts, so we’re focusing on these for the verification. First, comparing two of the images released by Pakistan, we can determine they are two different perspectives of the same aircraft part. The colored arrows point out details that can be used for matching, such as a service hatch and a bent metal pipe.

A YouTube video from the scene also presents a walkaround view of the same part, establishing the same. (1:56 onwards)

The imagery appears to show an exhaust consistent with an R-25 engine found on the MiG-21bis. Additional imagery from the scene helps us verify this is the tail section. For example, this image:

If we rotate the image 180 degrees and put it side-by-side with a MiG-21’s tail, we have a good match.

For completeness, we can also match the section with the box which was claimed to contain an F-16 serial to this same piece.

According to a MiG-21 service manual available through CIA’s archive, we can determine that this is the thermocouple service hatch. Another manual for the aircraft states that the thermocouple junction box is located in this part of the aircraft, so it’s possible that is the function of the numbered box.

In fact, if we take a closer look at the service hatch, we can see a “CU” format serial number on there, which is used on the upgrade Indian MiG-21bis aircraft.

So, taken together, this is all so say that the claim about the writing on the junction box proving this is be an F-16 part is not correct. This is in fact very much part of an Indian MiG-21.

But what about the other fragment that was matched to an F-16, suggesting it was part of the engine? We don’t have a good match to an F-16 there, either. On the left below, we see an F-16 GE F110 engine being removed from the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo) On the right, a close up of the fragment from Pakistan. Note the uniform rectangular distribution on the F-16 engine cover, while the piece in Pakistan in showing different patterns and thicknesses of supports on the piece, while also curving inward.

Here, YouTube gives us another interesting point of comparison. Reportedly, a MiG-21bis was shot down in Croatia in 1991, and the wreckage of the aircraft is on display at the “museum collection of the homeland war in Turanj“. The YouTube walkaround of this wreckage shows features which match better to a MiG-21 than an F-16.

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.

Veli-Pekka Kivimäki

Veli-Pekka is a doctoral student at Finnish National Defence University, researching social media and open source intelligence. He has a long background in the technology industry, more recently focusing on defense research.

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391 Comments

    • Akif

      Veli-Pekka,

      Dear stop lying, wreckage is of Indian MIG not F16, what do you think should be done with this MIG wreckage, leave it there and then it will start to grow in trees?

      Reply
      • Rey

        Hi Veli-Pekka, i am quite impressed from your analysis. Extremely detailed and well documented impressive work. Here is another task for you. Please look at this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0boJTxWKcOQ and if you can give your opinion of whether this being the tail of the 2nd MIG21 shot down by Pakistan?

        Regards,

        Rey.

        Reply
      • Xtraenergy

        So this is your conclusive report so basically you found it easier to find the MIG wreckage since india accepted it so it was basically a easier research report for you write. Now if you did care to go deep in research and found a conclusive evidence on F-16 that woulld be appreciated half effort not really needs any applauds.

        Reply
  1. prikaza

    The thing is that Indians never denied that they suffered casualties, unlike pakistanis. The whole world knows that pakistan is a habitual liar and they live in denail believing in some sort of islamic utopia. At the worst, the indian media may be a bit over-dramatic sometimes and a little pathetic, but the Indian military is definitely not. Just take a look at the pakistani military history. They even fucked up in the UN missions.

    Reply
    • Syed

      Not platform is left untouched by Indians using pseudonames for Pakistan bashing , though in current scenario it’s India us lying, they had to accept they lost one aircraft because their pilot was caught alive otherwise it would have been different story

      Reply
  2. Jappp

    Pak did claim 2 ‘hits’ and two pilots in custody, one alive and the other hospitalised in an indeterminate condition. This came in an early army official briefing. Later, the account was changed to only one pilot captured. Anyway, what about the hospitalised pilot? If he wasn’t Indian he probably was Pakistani.

    Reply
      • PSP

        The language spoken in this video (which seems to show crew before the first search and rescue teams have reached the crash sight). The language spoken is Marathi (with a very rural accent) which is the local Language in the state of Maharashtra, and not Kashmir expected to be used if the video was from where and when it is claimed to be.

        Reply
  3. Call me dumb but

    Pakistan said they have 2 Indian pilots in their custody, one was found injured.
    The one who was injured was a Pakistani Soldier.
    Pakistan also claimed that they shot down 2 Indian aircrafts.
    Later everyone got to know that one Indiam soldier returned back and was safe but one was in their custody.
    NOW TELL ME, IF IT WASN’T PAKISTANI AIRCRAFT THEN WHO’S?
    AND DO EXPLAIN ME HOW CAN WE FIT 2 PILOTS INSIDE A SINGLE MIG 21 BISON.

    Reply
    • Lal

      The US has confirmed no F-16 has been shot down. All the F-16s are intact. Time to give up the fantasy

      Reply
      • Ralph Smith

        Pentagon said on Friday it was “not aware” of any audit of Pakistan’s F-16 jets that a US journal said showed no missing aircraft

        Reply
        • Hasnaat

          Lol, it was just an Indian cite who claimed, do you really think that pentagon cears about Indian claims or pakistani claims? Foreign Policy is the most well credible and open neutral source and usually US cite so i don’t know the same india was saying US to investigate and now again doing the same propaganda? why?

          Reply
        • Rey

          Reply to Lal “US has confirmed no F-16 has been shot down”
          Reply to Ralph Smith “Pentagon said on Friday it was “not aware” of any audit of Pakistan’s F-16”

          Lie – US DOD never released any statement regarding F-16 claimed by Indian newspapers on Friday 05 April, 2019. Moreover, DOD never even had any press briefing held on April 05 – https://dod.defense.gov/News/Transcripts/

          Help that should expose Indian lies

          Reply
  4. Hammad Said

    The India AOC western command would not have been sacked if IAF had shot down a Pakistani F-16. The video playing of real time would have conclusively proved. None of that, other than childish evidence of two static radar images. No satellite images either. No confirmation from Lockheed – whose rep is at all the time in Paksitan- and no confirmation from Pentagon. It is all cock and bull story from a humiliated IAF – a chopper down, Mig-21 down, SU-30 shot down- to cover its face. Second pilot story in no way proves any F-16 downing claim, other than in Indian imagination. Why would Pakistani PM mention the second pilot being downed if Pakistan wanted to hide its F-16? Makes no sense. The second pilot is an Israeli weapons officer flying in the backseat of SU-30. Due to explosive international dimensions of the issue, Pakistan is refraining from mentioning it.

    Reply

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