Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, a brave pilot, who shot down Pakistani F-16 jet during aerial combat on February 27 is likely to be awarded Vir Chakra, according to HT. Apart from Varthaman, other pilots who were part of the pre-dawn Balakot airstrikes will also get top military honours.
Varthaman shot down Pakistan's fighter jet F-16 during a dogfight over the Line of Control with the Mirage-2000 pilots.
IAF pilot Varthaman is likely to get top military honours for his exploits. Also, the five Mirage-2000 fighter aces who dropped 1000 kg bombs on the terror facility of the Jaish-e-Mohammed are likely to be awarded the Vayu Sena Medal for gallantry.
“If the awards are being announced on Independence Day, it will be an acknowledgement of the professionalism and courage displayed by the fighter pilots in missions where stakes were very high,” Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (retd), additional director general, Centre for Air Power Studies told HT.
Notably, Vir Chakra is country's third-highest wartime gallantry award after the Param Vir Chakra and Maha Vir Chakra.
IAF pilot Varthaman chased and ultimately shot down Pakistan's F- 16 while he was flying MiG-21. In the combact, Varthaman's MiG-21 was hit by a missile forcing him to eject and he landed in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). Varthaman was then captured by Pak after he ejected out of his aircraft. However, Pak returned him to India on March 1 after holding him captive for almost 60 hours.
The aerial dogfight between the two country's forces took place a day after the Mirage-2000s struck targets in Jaish-e-Mohammed's main camp in Balakot in response to the Pulwama suicide attack in Kashmir in which 40 CRPF men were killed on February 14.
Video: IAF recommends Wg Cdr Abhinandan for 'Vir Chakra'; transfers him from Srinagar airbase