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When Abhinandan Varthaman, flying MiG-21, shot down Pakistan's F-16 fighter jet

Abhinandan’s Vir Chakra citation mentions that despite the enemy’s“immense numerical and technological superiority,” Wing Commander Varthaman proceeded to courageously engage the enemy aircraft package with utter disregard to his personal safety.'

India TV News Desk Edited by: India TV News Desk New Delhi Updated on: November 22, 2021 14:10 IST
Abhinandan Varthaman
Image Source : PTI

Wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman, the IAF pilot who became the face of a tense military confrontation between India and Pakistan in February, has been promoted as a group captain.


  • Group Captain Abhinandan Varthaman was awarded the Vir Chakra by President Kovind.
  • Varthaman was recently promoted to the rank of Group Captain.
  • He shot down a Pakistani F-16 fighter aircraft during aerial combat on February 27.

Indian Air Force (IAF) ace pilot Group Captain Abhinandan Varthaman on Monday (November 22) was awarded the Vir Chakra, India’s third-highest wartime gallantry award, for shooting down a Pakistani F-16 fighter aircraft on February 27, 2019.

During the Balakot airstrike, the officer took down a Pakistani F-16 fighter aircraft over Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), but was taken captive by the Pakistan Army after his plane was shot down by enemy forces. He was a Wing Commander back then.  

Here's what happened on February 27, 2019:

Abhinandan’s Vir Chakra citation mentions that despite the enemy’s“immense numerical and technological superiority,” Wing Commander Varthaman proceeded to courageously engage the enemy aircraft package with utter disregard to his personal safety.'

In February 2019, Abhinandan Varthaman was posted with a MiG-21 Bison squadron and was on ‘operational readiness platform’ duty at air force station Srinagar when a large Pakistan Air Force fighter aircraft package was detected heading towards LoC. The hostile jets were armed with advanced beyond visual range (BVR) air-to-air missiles and advanced high-calibre air-to-ground stand-off weapons.

Abhinandan was scrambled to intercept this package five minutes after it was detected. 

"Displaying exceptional air combat acumen and knowledge of the enemy's tactics, Wing Commander Varthaman Abhinandan scanned the low altitude airspace with his Airborne Intercept (Al) radar and picked up an enemy aircraft that was flying low to ambush the Indian fighter-interceptor aircraft. Wing Commander Varthaman Abhinandan alerted the other formation pilots towards this surprise threat. He then consolidated the riposte, by gathering his wingman in an offensive formation against the hostile Pakistani aircraft now dropping weapons on Indian Army positions. This audacious and aggressive maneuver forced the enemy aircraft into tactical chaos. All the enemy aircraft thereafter turned back including the rear echelon aircraft who were yet to launch their air to ground weapons," Vir Chakra citation for Wing Commander Abhinandan stated.

"Wing Commander Varthaman Abhinandan then pursued a retreating enemy fighter bomber aircraft, and in the ensuing aerial combat, shot down an F-16 aircraft with his on-board missile. However, in the melee, one of the enemy aircraft fired multiple advanced BVR missiles, one of which hit his aircraft forcing him to eject in enemy territory. Despite being captured by the enemy, he continued to display exceptional resolve in dealing with the adversary in a stoic, brave and dignified manner till he was repatriated on March 1, 2019," it said.

"His actions raised the morale of the armed forces in general and the IAF in particular. Wing Commander Varthaman Abhinandan showed conspicuous courage, demonstrated gallantry in the face of the enemy while disregarding personal safety and displayed an exceptional sense of duty," it added.

On February 14, 2019, Pakistan-based terrorist organisation, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed over 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district. Soon after the attack, the tension between India and Pakistan increased.

In retaliation, India had launched an aerial strike on Pakistan's terrorist facility in Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa area run by the JeM on February 27, 2019.

ALSO READ: Group Captain Abhinandan Varthaman, who shot down Pakistani F-16 in Feb 2019, awarded Vir Chakra

ALSO READ: IAF promotes Balakot air strike hero Abhinandan Varthaman to Group Captain rank

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