Two squadrons and one signal unit of the Indian Air Force that were part of the Balakot operation were decorated with citations on Tuesday.
On the occasion of 87th Indian Air Force Day, Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria awarded citations to 51 Squadron, the 9 Squadron and the 601 Signal Unit for their role in the airstrike on terror camps in Pakistan's Balakot in February.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman and fighter pilots, who were a part of the Balakot operation, also participated in the flypast.
Varthaman was leading the bison formation of MiG 21 aircraft. The fighter pilot had downed an enemy jet during aerial combat with Pakistan in February and was held captive for three days.
In his Air Force Day address, Bhadauria said the IAF acknowledges the contributions of all personnel of commands, stations and units who silently and professionally contributed to the success of the airstrike on the terror camps at Balakot.
The Srinagar-based 51 Squadron, to which Varthaman was attached during the Balakot strike, was also involved in thwarting the retaliatory attack by the Pakistan Air Force, a day later.
"The squadron displayed exemplary courage, determination and professional acumen to ensure victory in the ariel engagement, claiming an enemy fighter aircraft in the process, the first instance since the 1971 war. During the entire period of activation, the squadron flew a total of 71 live missions and 36 on station close air patrols deterring the enemy from any misadventure," the citation for 51 Squadron read.
Post Pulwama, the Gwalior-based 9 Squadron was tasked to neutralise the terror camps in Balakot.
The unit planned and executed simultaneous parallel runway operations by night for the first time in the history of the IAF, the citation said.
"The aircraft successfully crossed the LoC despite the complex vulnerabilities and completed the mission in the most professional manner. For its gallant services of the nation in undertaking the Balakot airstrikes, the 9 Squadron is awarded unit citation by the chief of the Air Staff," the citation for Gwalior-based 9 Squadron read.
The 601 Signal Unit has an area of responsibility of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and northern parts of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. The unit played a critical role during the Balakot airstrike and also when the Pakistan Air Force launched a counter-attack, a day later.
"The response caused the strike to release their weapons hastily and missed their targets. For the professional conduct of operation 2019, Signal Unit is awarded unit citation by the Chief of Air Staff," the citation for 601 Signal Unit stated.
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