By Glenn Pew, Contributing Editor, Video Editor
Internet chat forums have for months been alive with comments after 1970s-era F-16s were said in a Pakistani air force blog to have beaten state-of-the-art Eurofighter Typhoons in close air combat exercises, but there's at least one problem with the story. At the core of the issue is an interview in which an unnamed alleged Pakistani air force (PAF) pilot recalls flying three hops against RAF Typhoons. In those three exercises, the Typhoons lost every time, he said. When asked to explain that success rate, the interviewee offered his opinion that "NATO pilots are not that proficient in close-in air-to-air combat." The problem is that there does not appear to be a specific date associated with the event and, while the story may be true, the inability to independently confirm it means it's just as likely that it's not true.
The Typhoon is touted by its supporters as one of the world's best air-to-air combat jets and has been seen by its critics as an especially expensive acquisition, yet to prove itself. In the interview, the alleged PAF pilot described the success of the older F-16s, saying the exercises favored the PAF pilots because the pilots are "very good at" close-in air combat. Details of the engagement, when it took place, specific equipment, pilot experience and the purpose of the exercise were not discussed in the interview, which has nonetheless led to online speculation and some concern. The interview has been a point of interest on three major aviation forums online, beginning several months ago, and made it to TheRegister.co.uk Wednesday. TheRegister concedes the interview may be "a lie" but "it seems likelier that the story is the truth as he perceived it: that the RAF's new superfighter was thrashed in the very type of combat it is supposed to be best at by a 1970s-era plane, albeit much modernised."