New Delhi, August 14: Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman will be awarded the Vir Chakra, the country’s third highest war-time gallantry award, on Independence Day for shooting down a Pakistani F-16 during a dogfight over the Line of Control on February 27, two officials said on the condition of anonymity on Wednesday.
The February 27 dogfight took place a day after the Mirage-2000s struck targets in Balakot in response to the Pulwama suicide attack in Kashmir in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force men were killed on February 14.
Vir Chakra is India’s third-highest wartime gallantry award, after the Param Vir Chakra and the Maha Vir Chakra.
The government has not yet officially released the list of awardees but Abhinandan’s name is on the list, which will be out soon. The awardees include the Mirage-2000 pilots who bombed a terror base in Pakistan’s Balakot on February 26 and around 15 army men, one of whom is being conferred with the Kirti Chakra, the country’s second-highest peace-time gallantry award.
The Hindustan Times reported on August 8 that the government would announce Vir Chakra for Abhinandan and the Vayu Sena Medal for gallantry for the Mirage-2000 pilots involved in the Balakot operation.
Varthaman, then 35, scripted military aviation history by downing an F-16, seconds before his own MiG-21 Bison was hit by a missile forcing him to eject. Experts hailed it as the first ever kill of an F-16 by a MiG-21 Bison, fighter jets of two different generations.
Varthaman was captured after he bailed out of his aircraft, but Pakistan returned him to India on March 1 after holding him captive for almost 60 hours.(Courtesy: HT)