New Delhi: Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who shot down a Pakistani F-16 fighter jet during the February 27 aerial conflict with Pakistan, has been awarded the third-highest wartime gallantry award, Vir Chakra.
Sapper Prakash Jadhav of the Indian Army’s 1 Rashtriya Rifles (Mahar) battalion has been conferred with the second-highest peacetime gallantry medal Kirti Chakra posthumously for operation in Kulgam in Jammu and Kashmir.
Other Indian Air Force officers who have received awards for their role in the Balakot operations include lady officer Squadron Leader Minty Agarwal who has been conferred with Yudh Seva Medal for her role as a fighter controller during the February 27 aerial conflict between India and Pakistan.
Air Commodore Sunil Kashinath Vidhate, Group Captains Yashpal Singh Negi, Hansel Joseph Sequeira and Hemant Kumar have also been awarded the Yudh Sewa Medal for the planning and execution of the Balakot aerial strikes on the Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist camp in Balakot town of Khyber Pakhtunwa province of Pakistan.
The pilots of the Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft which went into the Pakistani territory to carry out the attacks have also been conferred Vayu Sena medals for gallantry.
The seven IAF officers who have been awarded the Vayu Sena Medal for Gallantry include Group Captains Saumitra Tamaskar and Pranav Raj, Wing Commander Amit Ranjan, Squadron Leaders Rahul Basoya, Pankaj Bhujade, B Karthik Narayan Reddy and Shashank Singh.
Abhinandan was asked to counter a fleet of Pakistani fighter jets trying to infiltrate into India from the Jammu sector from his base in Srinagar.
The officer took off in his MiG-21 fighter and foiled the Pakistani attack by F-16, JF-17 and Mirage III fighter jets. After fouling the Pakistani attack, the officer was chasing a Pakistani F-16 fighter and fired his air to air missile to bring it down.In the process, the officer also got hit in his MiG-21 and fell inside the Pakistani territory for here he was taken in as a Prisoner of War by the Pakistan Army. The officer was later returned within two days due to the extreme international pressure exerted by India over Pakistani establishment.
By shooting down an F-16, Abhinandan has become the world’s only MiG-21 pilot in the recorded history to have taken down an F-16 in an aerial beyond visual range fight.
In the Army, eight personnel have been awarded the Shaurya Chakra, of which, five have received the honour, posthumously.
The officers who have received the award posthumously include Major VS Dhaundial of 55 Rashtriya Rifles, Lance Naik Sandeep Singh of 4 Para (Special Forces), Rifleman Shive Kumar of 31 Rashtriya Rifles and Sepoy Brajesh Kumar of 22 Rashtriya Rifles.
The gallantry awards are announced on the eve of the Independence Day and Republic Day are given to the recipients in different investiture ceremonies.The Chakra series awards are given by the President while the remaining are given by the respective services during their different investiture ceremonies.