IAF Pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, Captured by Pak, to Be Awarded Vir Chakra on Independence Day
IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.(Image: PTI)
New Delhi: Indian Air Force (IAF) Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who became the face of the tense military confrontation between India and Pakistan, will be awarded the Vir Chakra, the coveted wartime gallantry medal, for shooting down a Pakistani F-16 during a dogfight over the Line of Control on February 27.
Earlier, reports said the five Mirage-2000 fighter aces, who dropped precision bombs on the terror camps of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, are also likely to be felicitated with the Vayu Sena Medal for gallantry.
Varthaman was captured by the Pakistani Army on February 27 after his MiG-21 Bison jet was shot down in a dogfight with Pakistani jets during the aerial combat. Before his jet was hit, he downed an F-16 fighter of Pakistan. Varthaman was released on the night of March 1 by Pakistan after being held captive for more than 60 hours.
After he was captured, Varthaman showed immense courage and grace in handling the most testing circumstances. His valiance was praised by politicians, strategic affairs experts, celebrities and the general public. Vir Chakra is India’s third-highest wartime gallantry award, after the Param Vir Chakra and the Maha Vir Chakra.
The Mirage pilots struck targets in Balakot with Israeli-origin Spice 2000 bombs with penetrator warheads that allowed them to pierce through the rooftops before exploding inside to cause maximum damage.
Varthaman is currently recovering from ejection-related injuries and is likely to undergo a series of tests in the coming months at the Bengaluru-based Institute of Aerospace Medicine that will have to give him final clearance for flying again, sources said.
He was earlier posted at the Srinagar air base with the air force’s No 51 squadron, also known as ‘Sword Arms’, but was then shifted to another base a few months ago for security reasons.
Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated after Indian fighters bombed terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed’s biggest training camp near Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on February 26. Pakistan retaliated by attempting to target Indian military installations the next day.
The Indian strike on the JeM camp came 12 days after the terror outfit claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a CRPF convoy in Kashmir, killing 40 soldiers.