Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who downed an enemy jet during an aerial combat with Pakistan in February and was held captive for three days, has been conferred the Vir Chakra, India's third-highest war time gallantry medal.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who downed an enemy jet during an aerial combat with Pakistan in February and was held captive for three days, has been conferred the Vir Chakra, India’s third-highest war time gallantry medal. The defence ministry announced the military awards on the eve of Independence Day celebrations. From the Army, Sapper Prakash Jadhav of the Rashtriya Rifles will be posthumously awarded Kirti Chakra, the second highest peacetime gallantry award. Squadron Leader Minty Agarwal, who played a key role as flight controller during the aerial combat between India and Pakistan on February 27, has been awarded Yudh Seva medal.
The IAF received a total of 13 awards including five Yudh Seva Medals and seven Vayu Sena Medal. At least five Mirage fighter pilots, who were part of the operation to strike a Jaish-e-Mohmamed terrorist training camp deep inside Pakistan’s Balakot on February 27, were among the awardees. The Army also got eight Shaurya Chakra awards and 98 Sena medals. The Navy got one Shaurya Chakra award. “We are very happy that Wing Comm Varthaman has been conferred with Vir Chakra,” said an IAF official.
Varthaman, 36, 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 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. Varthaman had suffered injuries while ejecting from his MiG-21 Bison during the aerial combat. A high-level medical board of the Indian Air Force has already cleared Varthaman to return to the fighter cockpit.
Days after he returned from Pakistan, Varthaman conveyed to the IAF brass his wish to resume flying at the earliest. IAF fighter jets bombed a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp in Balakot on February 26, nearly two weeks after the Pulwama terror attack. Pakistan retaliated on February 27 by attempting to target Indian military installations.