A Pakistani JF-17 was not stolen by ‘elements sympathetic to Imran Khan’

Reddit user’s video shared with false claim by Indian Twitter account

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Claim: A video circulating online shows a JF-17 Thunder aircraft of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) being stolen by supporters of former Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Fact: The video was, in fact, posted by a Reddit user who, along with his friends, was watching a JF-17 aircraft taxiing into a PAF base. An aircraft was not stolen.

On 1 June 2022, Twitter user @unapologeticAnk shared a video — which appears to have been shot from a mobile phone by an individual sitting inside a car — of a fighter aircraft moving along a road with the following claim:

“A Pakistani “JF-17” has been  stolen by elements sympathetic to #ImranKhan. Civil waπ is about to start?”

The video went viral and garnered more than 109,500 views on Twitter. It was also shared by a verified Facebook profile and gained considerable traction among Indian social media users.

Twitter user @unapologeticAnk, who shared the video, has more than 8,600 followers and posts about “Indian Politics, Geo-politics, Global Economy, [and] Global News”, according to their profile.

Fact or Fiction?

Soch Fact Check sifted through all the comments and quote-tweets connected to @unapologeticAnk’s post sharing the video. In one of the comments underneath a quote tweet of the original post, we found a link to a Reddit thread, also from June 1, which features the same clip.

Titled, “Enjoying JF-17 scenes with the bois [640×1138],” the clip was posted on Reddit thread ‘r/WarplanePorn’ by u/Xtreme_2000 at 4:08 PM. Shortly afterwards at 10:12 PM, Twitter user @unapologeticAnk shared the video, which immediately went viral.

A day later, at 2:33 PM on 2 June, user u/Xtreme_2000 said on the same Reddit thread that their video “is being used for fake Propaganda”. In the comments, they explained that they shot the video from inside a car at an airbase. The “plane was taxiing out a refurbishment warehouse where it got repainted” and was returning “to it’s [sic] own hangar or for flying”, they said in their responses to other comments.

A source in the PAF, who asked to remain anonymous, told Soch Fact Check that the video was being used as “propaganda”. The aircraft is taxiing, they said, and “someone made it [the video] inside an airbase and probably uploaded it somewhere”.

The PAF source identified the plane as a single-seat JF-17 Thunder multirole aircraft. They said there are strict security measures inside air bases and no one can enter without proper identification and protocol.

“If a PAF personnel defects, there are thousands of ways to capture them as drones are conducting surveillance, aircraft are parked and there is ground combat nearby, and the base has its ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance] operations,” they said.

The source also explained that security and intelligence services are constantly monitoring military, air force, and naval assets; this is in addition to the mandatory standard operating procedures (SOPs) — such as check-ins and check-outs, the presence of a crew chief and ground crew, forms required to be filled before starting a plane, communication required with control and mobile towers, and the use of verbal codes.

“With every aircraft parked or on ADA [Air Defence Alert], there are DSF [Defence Security Force] sentry and, if they ask for codes —  doesn’t matter if one is a general —  if the code told is wrong, they will shoot. Intelligence personnel are on the prowl, UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicle] are airborne and doing surveillance, all the installations are being real-time monitored, armed ground combatants are patrolling at random, and, in case of an unauthorized move, they will neutralize.

“In case of such an act [a PAF jet being stolen], there will be a black-out like they do in wars, NVG [Night Vision Goggles] will be used and the threat will be executed if not captured,” the PAF source said.

Virality

Soch Fact Check conducted a CrowdTangle analysis for the nine-day period from 31 May to 8 June using the following search terms:

  • “JF-17”
  • “Is Imran khan preparing for war”

The first search term termed up relevant results on Reddit, with four posts that gained more than 500 interactions. The second search term revealed almost 100 interactions across over 25 Facebook posts. The clip and the claim were shared here, here, here, here, and here, as well as on the verified account of Sreedeep Ck Alavil.

On Twitter, numerous people shared the video, including here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. A number of posts shared the video with the false claim, such as this, this, this, this, and this.

The video also appeared on Strategic Front, a national security and international relations discussion forum, and on YouTube. Further, it was also shared on Indian social networking service Koo.

Conclusion: A video posted by a Reddit user of a JF-17 aircraft taxiing inside a PAF base was shared with the false claim that it depicts supporters of former Prime Minister Imran Khan stealing an aircraft. No aircraft was stolen.

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