Pakistan sent two F-16 fighter planes last month to intercept a SpiceJet flight to Kabul

New Delhi: Pakistan last month scrambled two F-16 jets in its airspace to intercept a SpiceJet plane, assuming it to be a military aircraft, which was heading to Kabul from Delhi with around 120 passengers, a senior government official said.

The incident came in the backdrop of tension between India and Pakistan that had escalated after the Indian government revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5 and bifurcated it into union territories.

“On the morning of September 23, the SpiceJet flight SG 21 left Delhi airport and was going through Pakistan’s airspace to Kabul. Pakistan scrambled two F-16 planes and intercepted the flight mid-air,” said the official.

The SpiceJet pilot was asked by F-16 pilots to lower the altitude and give flight details, the official added.

Another senior government official said, “On September 23, Pakistan assumed that the SpiceJet flight, which had around 120 passengers, is an Indian Air Force plane. Once Pakistan realised that it is commercial flight, the F-16s escorted the SpiceJet plane till the Afghanistan airspace.”

“There was some mix up at the end of Pakistan’s Air Traffic Control (ATC),” the second official added.

SpiceJet did not respond to the query sent by PTI on this matter.

Pakistan had fully closed its airspace on February 26 after the Indian Air Force (IAF) struck a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist training camp in Balakot in retaliation to the Pulwama attack on February 14 and fully opened it for all civilian traffic on July 16.