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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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  1. VirtualMemory

    The crashed debris is that of MiG 21 Bison – the one that shot down the F-16. This is not the F-16 debris. The 2 Pakistan F-16 pilots killed were flying the F-16B, an old un-upgraded F-16, which can be easily taken down by the much upgraded MiG-21 Bison in a dog fight. Pakistanis have to account for the F-16 loss some time soon. India would also have the ELINT (electronic signature of F-16) completely recorded by the A-50 Phalcon AWACS throughout the combat and key performance metrics would clearly point out that the target locked on and hit plane was an F-16 as the Phalcon records everything. Note how no Pakistani Air Force leadership have denied the f-16 loss and the loss of 2 pilots, even after top IAF leadership confirmed the F-16 loss. This pretty much tells the whole story.

    • Andy

      If so, Indians should publish that data. It would be absolute proof. Insted of they still claim that it is wreckage of F-16. They also present debris of AMRAAM missile. Old, un-upgraded F-16s do not carry them. Something doesn’t smell right.

  2. RR

    Guys, the pictures that are shown here may be an IAF plane. Agreed. But then why did Pakistan told that there were two pilots initially and then later on clarified that only one is there? Is it that your generals are not that informed about the where about of their forces and what is happening to their own force and not having enough information from grounds? And there were initial videos coming from Pak , actually two videos, in one an old man (in pashthun cloth) saying that there were 3 pilots. In another video that man was saying that there were 2 pilots. So what is happening here. If 2 or 3 pilots are there inside Pakistan and that too coming down in their parachute, then what happened to them. Don’t just blabber around showing Indian plane pictures and do all the chest thumpings. Just wait for few months and India will show the satellite pictures of pre and post balakot strikes and radar / other proof of how Mig-21 shot down your F-16. At that time, please be here in this forum to discuss the details.

  3. Shalinder sharma

    Appreciate your analysis. Being an indian i am ashmed the way our media is trying to prove a point.

  4. SK

    This is a premature conclusion after analyzing just a few selected pictures released by the Pakis. There is also a video of 3 pilots ejecting from the two downed planes, but Pakistan released just one Indian pilot. The other two pilots were Paki pilots, and one of them died upon being lynched by a mob, upon landing. Look at the video for yourself here

      • Mair

        Wing commander abhinandan is/was a professional officer doubt he gives a fig about point scoring and media frenzied nationalistic chest thumping.

        India can easily provide proof by releasing audio and video available with the other fighter aircraft that were flying and the radar ground controller. A sudden ‘vanishing’ of a blip on a radar screen is proof that a jet was shot down. This would be available with the ground controller on both sides, if it really happened.

        No such evidence has been forthcoming, neither has any video of the alleged crash site. So for now this is nothing but an assertion that an f 16 was downed .

        Btw I hope Indian readers here realise this website is not run or connected in any way by Pakistan or Pakistanis ? Just look at some of the other content mentioned here.

    • Haider Bhuttor

      There was a sikh pilot that landed. He was beaten, Eye witness confirm it. IN a month, we will have the real argument.

  5. Grewal

    No wreckage of f16 found…no ejection seat found….not even a single picture is surface in this age where social media is faster than the traditional media….so indians should stop whining about the f16…if they really did downed an f16 which is a great feat considering mig 21 then why did they dismissed their air marshal n replaced him with another…..every single authentic source is telling that jf17 were used bcz amraam missles can b fired by jf17 too and stocks if jf17 gone up by 100%….but somehow delusional indians are not ready to accept it..further more the other aircraft downed by jf17 which went in indian kashmir was su30 thats why they r claiming that only one of their jet crashed….if the pilot did downed an f16 why isnt he interviewed imediately and asked whether he did or not….just wait for a moth or two if india gives some solid proof of f16 then its fine if not then they lied to save face….its an indian claim so they should prove it…if they really did then it shouldnt be hard for them to prove it ..

  6. Danish

    JF17 thunder block 2 destroyed 2 indian planes 1st one is Mig 21 bison in Azad Kashmir and second one SU 30MKI in indian occupied kashmir…..Indian tv channels old about SU-30MKI crash as technical fault….Also same day an indian chopper went down near Srinagar killing all 6 IAF persons inside it….India again claimed that it was due to technical fault…They only accepted 1 Mig 21 bisson down…. But in reality 3 or more planes down on thst day….1 mig21 bisson, 1 su-30mki and 1 indian chopper…By the thanks for your excellent research…Truth prevails.

    • Manohar

      Lol, you stupid asshole! it was Mi 17 chopper crash in Budgam. Pakistan itself denied any responsibility of the crash in deep inside Indian occupied Kashmir Budgam.

  7. Fahim

    Modi has already accepted India’s defeat when he announced “Results would be different if we had Rafale planes”. Modi knows that PAF has comprehensively outclassed IAF thats why IAF AOC western air command chief was sacked by indian govt after this humiliation

  8. Proud Pakistani

    No evidence of Pakistani F16 down. No pictures or satellite imagery. Pakistan military clearly has denied even using F16 for this operation, and actually used inespensive and indigenously built JF17 thunder, exclusively. SQ-LDR Hassan Siddique shot down Indian Mig 21 Bison (single seater) (debris and pilot Abhinundan falling on the Pakistani soil). These are the pictures you are seeing in this article. The other Indian jet which was shot down is SU30 (twin seater) by WNG CMDR Noman Ali Khan (Pakistan Air Force). Indian pilots attempted to flee and made it to the Indian airspace, which is where debris fell and was immediately covered up by Indian military. There is a video on YouTube available showing 2 pilots ejecting from a jet on Indian side (clearly visible and people in background confirming 2 ejected pilots). Another casualty was Indian chopper which blew up by a friendly fire from India. USA is looking into this. Lock Heed Martin (F16 manufacturer) plan to file a suit against India for defame. In this age, everything will be exposed by satellite imaging.
    Also Indian pathological liars are unable to provide any proof of their self claimed “surgical strike” over Balakot, Pakistan, allegedly killing 360 people and destroying infrastructure. Pakistan indeed suffered loss of 15 trees by Indian bombs and no other damages occurred (all picture proofs on YouTube), and is pursuing to file a lawsuit against India into ecoterrorism. Also read “The strategist” Australian website, which exposed Indian lie and shred indian false claims into billions of pieces.
    Indian media believes that you lie so much that eventually people forget the truth and believe in the lie presented. World will continue to expose you and we all willl see!

  9. Awais

    There is no evidence from indian side about F-16. Poor indian media showing Pak army floated pics to prove it. These kind of things happens to pick the moral.


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