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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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378 Comments

  1. Riz

    Appreciate your effort in dissecting the false evidence floating on the indian media. Its really hilarious the way india is trying prove the point with ballant lies and wasting valuable time of experts. India also presented the part of missile fired into their territory by F16 as an evidence that they have shot down the F16. Just laugh it off.

    Reply
  2. kchatto

    That some westerners are in shock and not able to grasp the fact that an antiquated but highly upgraded in sensors and weapons Indian Mig21 BISON will sodomise the Paki F 16. Actually the Indian Mig had a Bouancy wash out due to exhauste wake of the bloody two R 73 AAM fired by it against the sodomy victim the Paki F16. Technically Mig21 airframe were built around ancient R-2 AAM and Later modified to handle medieval R-23 at most. R 73s are for Minimum of Mig29, hence the two R73s launched togather were too much for the Mig21 airframe.

    Reply
      • PRITAM SARKAR

        ‘Reading this article below. Indian Government and IAF need a kick up the back side.’
        Yes, Indian Government needs to update IAF…That doesn’t mean IAF is incompetent….After all, downing F-16 with Mig- 21 is not possible without competence, isn’t it?

        Reply
  3. Hank Johnson

    So, Mr. Veli Pekka ‘s source is youtube video, and this idiot claims to be a researcher. I am a pilot in RAF(UK) and I can guarantee that it is a F-16 wreckage. Believing it is your own personal matter. BTW, the picture from airliners.net is not clear.

    Well, if the Americans can lose about 10,000 aircrafts in Vietnam, suffer significant losses against puny Serbia, fuck up in Iraq & Afghanistan, then the Indian pilots, who are one of the best pilots in the world, alongside Israel(the other IAF), can definitely shoot down a paki F-16. American weapons are actually much inferior than the Russian ones. Take as simple as assault rifles, for example. Which is more popular, the AK47 or the M16/M4 Carbine ? Do you know that American soldiers threw away their own weapons and picked up AK’s from dead VietCong soldiers ? Also remember, the Americans almost never go to war alone. But, even then these things happen.

    Bay of Pigs Invasion – Wikipedia

    Lebanese Civil War – Wikipedia

    Unified Task Force – Wikipedia

    Operation Infinite Reach – Wikipedia

    In spite of having so many allies and so much latest modern technology these fuck ups happen. Maybe the Americans should take classes from Israel, UK, Russia & Germany about military professionalism & bravery. You thought US’s worst fuckup was in Vietnam. No, It was in Cuba.

    All American victories are against 3rd (or maybe 4th world)dirt poor or already suffering adverseries . She never went to war alone against a decent military and won a decisive victory.

    The Americans are understandably butt-hurt about this. When that F-16 was shot down, American ego was also shot down from the sky.

    I am not even starting about the lies of the pakis. Everyone knows how they lied about osama in abbotabad. Nobody wanted proof that time.

    Reply
    • Grewal

      Get the fuck out of here.. RAF pilot😂😂…..u indians were were asking for it for a long time now…and u r too embarassed to even admit that u r an indian now😂😂

      Reply
      • Kushal Kumar Das

        Just one question -Where is wing cmndr Sahaz ud din son of Air Marshal Wasim ud din? If Pakis are so sure about not losing f16 that day, can they publish a recent verifiable photo of that pilot?

        Reply
        • Abi-theloserIAFpilot

          STFU, Wasim ud din has two sons and both work in different companies. This has been debunked a long time ago and these pathological lair indians still believing in myth created by propaganda machine called indian media.

          Reply
    • jj

      What the hell!!!

      Hank Johnston.I call out your bullshit.
      You are an idiot and have made a number of errors in your statement.
      RAF my back side.What Regiment or squadron are you in? If you are a pilot,what type of aircraft do you fly and from what base?In what country do you operate from when on tactical deployment?

      Seriously don’t drag the RAF into this.

      You are a deluded Troll.Just because one of your aircraft got shot down and the pilot was a wing commander (that had to hurt national pride.).

      Reply
    • Shumail

      PAF F16’s use Pratt and Whitney F100 engines not GE
      Picture being used to compare the engines is of GE origin Mr. Fake pilot cause RAF doesn’t even fly F16s

      Reply
    • Sheeraz

      Hahahha RAF pilot . Your cover was blown when u said Indian pilots are among the vest in the world. Dude its the PAF pilots that are one of the best in the world. PAF pilots scored a 3:1 kill ratio in the wars of 65 and 71 vs a quantitatively and qualitatively superior Indian Airforce.
      General Chuck Yeager the first person to break the slund barrier was a witness to the PAFs performance in these wars. The PAF pilots flying Syrian jets are probably one of the very few pilots to have shot down Israeli jets in history. They avhieved this during dogfoghts in the 1974 Arab Israel war.
      So Indian Pilots flying a MIG21 cannot shoot down a Pakistani F16. There is not a single piece of concrete evidence to prove thei case either. Just stories and false claims.

      Reply
    • IRFAN MUHAMMAD

      ” indian pilots are best in the world” what a joke..
      Two jets shot down one pilot captured recently by PAKISTAN AIR FORCE and third indian fighter jet shot down its own MI 17 helicopter shows the inability & incompetency of indian air force pilots and u are uttering blunt lies with so much confidence and conviction which exposes your identity as an indian bcz such lying qualities only belong to indians…

      Reply
    • Taimur Hassan

      Despite all evidence above you think that is a F-16 engine? Claiming to be an RAF pilot you cant even tell that isnt even an engine part , its the fuselage of a MIG-21. Theirs a video of that exact part being turned over and showing its indeed not a engine. If you cant even tell the difference between an engine and Fuselage then RAF must be pretty incompetent

      Reply
  4. Grewal

    The only problem with indians is that they cant grasp the fact that pakistan doest even use f16 as its premier weapon….its uses jf 17 thunder since 2014….but for arguments sake if u believe about f16 then still the number of pilots dont add up bcz pakistan has very few 2 seater f16s and dont even need to use f16 in this type of operation when they have jf 17 block 2 which is better than the f16s pakistan has…pakistan claimed 3 pilots but when india acknowleged only 1 jet which in case was one seater mig 21 so why the fuck would pakistan say that they have 2 more pilots which it can potentially interogate…furthermore these two pilots were su 30 pilots given the fact that the other mig pilot died instantly whose wife also came on record…there r alot of coincidences in indian claims like f16 went down on pak side and the other mig was down by technical problem….and at first their media houses even clamied that su 30 was downed too…so alot of smokes and mirrors in indian story people

    Reply
  5. P

    Hank jhonson lol im a raf pilot (Uk) ..
    More likely another pissed off brainless ,senseless idiout ignorant randian .
    U even mentioning israel before his own country (Uk) lol. get a life .just accept the truth that Pakistan fucked your iaf so u will not need to change your father ,name, country on every forum

    Reply
  6. Hank Johnson

    @Grewal

    Your name sounds hindu. Are you a hindu paki? What language was that, devoid of any punctuation and capitalization? Local paki english spoken in the barbarian lands ?
    Secondly, I am not indian. I am a white British. Frankly speaking, I do not care about either of indians or pakis or chinese or bangladeshis or muslims in general. You guys might as well nuke each other to extinction. I will cheer from the sidelines. You guys deserve to die like insects since you misogynistic vile barbarians breed like insects and infect our great country with your nasty, putrid and rubbish culture. Its high time your nonsensical race keeps a lid on the population growth. Otherwise, we British will be more than happy to do that just like before. Forgotten history already, when a few thousand well spirited British colonized your entire south asia having a total population of at least 300 million for about 200 years?

    Britain will rise again. Brexit was just a beginning. Just wait & watch how we punish those villainous colored people. I pity America. This is what happens when you give too much rights to the colored races, gay men and muslims who are not exactly very bright at all. A great country slowly degenerating!

    The rest of your comments do not make any sense. The indian media never claimed those things. It’s actually the pakis who were continuously changing their official statements. The jf-17 is actually a chinese aircraft reverse engineered from the Russian ones.

    Listen, at the end of the day, NO one cares! Definitely not the civilized people of the white countries. We should never let colored men come to our countries at all. Not only that, the colored idiot men already staying should be deported and killed off.
    Colored women however, will be welcome in our country as tourists and sex workers. We do not mind that. Ha Ha HA!!!

    One more thing, I intentionally did not capitalize your country and race names because you do not deserve it at all.

    Reply
    • Servus

      Débat Hank,
      So you say that the wrackage is a
      Pakistani F16. It’s pilot, Indian Air Force officer was sent back home to India. It all makes perfect sens.

      Reply
        • sethi

          Dear Mr. Hank,

          Regarding Osama, he died a long time ago and certainly not in Abbotabad!

          You might remember reading about the afghani commanders reading his funeral prayers in 2000. He had Morphy’s syndrome and had also imported a machine for cleaning his blood (dialysis machine). This was back in around 2000 I think. Now the only blame on his head is the downing of 2 buildings, but in fact actually 3 buildings fell on that day including building No. 7 ?

          Who downed the third building ?????

          Reply
    • Bumwart

      Hey “Hank” the yank. You claim to be an RAF pilot but have a very American name, and your spelling further betrays you; the word is ‘coloured’ in British english, ‘colored’ in US english.
      Poor quality trolling coupled with vile racism… I bet you’re a hoot at parties.

      Reply
    • Jom Gaard

      hahaha… Hilarious how this err “British RAF pilot” uses all US spellings in his racist rant. “Hank” – hahahaha! What a “British” name! I’ve never met any Brit called Hank..

      Reply
    • SwingWing

      @’Hank Johnston’

      As former RAF groundcrew myself, I know from your tenuous grasp of the intricacies of the English language that you are not a pilot in Her Maj’s finest. Our pilots are extremely well educated and are all commissioned officers. There is zero chance of you getting through Cranwell with English like that. You would also realize that some of the wording you are using are rather unacceptable here, especially from a serving officer in the Royal Air Force, so kindly drop the charade. If you wish to continue with it, give us some information only someone serving would know.

      Regards.

      Reply
    • al franklin

      You are flushed out mate. Only an Indian would have this type of view of the world. Shut up already. You’re no brit…

      Reply
  7. Druidman

    Terrific investigating! I see the postings are completely internet normal… 14% real replies and the rest personal attack piffle.

    Reply
  8. Frits D'Auxy

    Hallo,
    I can say at least one thing for sure. The pakistani online propaganda here is just childish and laughable. Ex.- The abbotabad laden elimination. Now they are saying he died in 2000. I specifically remember islamic terrorist organizations still in disbelief about laden’s death after the 2011 military operation. They always live in denial. Not only that, immigrant muslims are a big problem in Europe now. Maybe, the US is also indirectly responsible for this, but still!
    About the wreckage, it is very difficult for common people to determine which is which. I have serious doubts about it. However, I will be more inclined to believe and support India in this matter.
    Please also remember that, many pakistanis are still denying facts about the bangladesh war, siachen and kargil, not to mention the pakistani massacres against Bengali people in 1971.

    Doei-doei.Tot ziens.

    Reply
  9. joy

    Veli-Pekka In your analysis you have not commented on the drop tank that was photographed.. they seem too big to be a Mig 21 drop tank… would you comment on that? I have attached some links to the drop tank here. There are other videos of it being loaded into trucks also

    https://i.stack.imgur.com/iDosh.jpg

    Reply
    • Allaisa

      The Mig Drop tank is needle nosed and aerodynamic. During CAP MiGs DONOT carry drop tanks. Perhaps Jinns could have dropped that drop tank. In 1965 war Pakistan claimed Jinns came to their aid to defeat Indian tanks. So they did it again. No surprise there Pakistan being a pious Islamic state where all their citizens stick up their butts five times a day and far*.

      Reply

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