One of the senior U.S. defense officials with direct knowledge of the count said that Pakistan invited the United States to physically count its F-16 planes after the incident as part of an end-user agreement signed when the foreign military sale was finalized. Generally in such agreements, the United States requires the receiving country to allow U.S. officials to inspect the equipment regularly to ensure it is accounted for and protected. Some of Pakistan’s F-16s were acquired from Jordan through a third-party transfer, but even these are subject to the end-user agreement, said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Teal Group, an aerospace and defense firm.

“If you are a user of American defense products … you need to go through a very clear process to send those weapons to a third party,” explained Aboulafia, noting that the United States has a rigid process in place to try to ensure its equipment does not fall into the hands of “hostile actors.”

Of Pakistan’s 76 F-16s, 13 were acquired from Jordan, according to fleet data provided to FP  by Aviation Week & Space Technology. 

Some of the F-16s were not immediately available for inspection due to the conflict, so it took U.S. personnel several weeks to account for all of the jets, the official said.

But now the count has been completed, and “all aircraft were present and accounted for,” the official said.

A second senior U.S. defense official with knowledge of the count confirmed that U.S. authorities on the ground found that no Pakistani F-16s were missing.

Evidence suggests that Pakistan’s F-16s were involved in the battle. The remnants of a U.S.-made AIM-120 air-to-air missile was found near the site; out of all the aircraft involved, only the F-16 can shoot such a weapon.

When the incident occurred, India asked the U.S. government to investigate whether Pakistan’s use of the F-16 against India violated the terms of the foreign military sale agreements.

However, the first defense official said the agreement did not involve any terms limiting the use of the F-16s.

“It would be incredibly naive for us to believe that we could sell some type of equipment to Pakistan that they would not intend to use in a fight,” the official said.

The U.S. State Department and the Indian and Pakistani embassies declined to comment.

Courtesy: Foreign Policy Magazine