The Indian Air Force MiG-21 Bison Squadron No. 51 has come up with new shoulder patches with title ‘Falcon Slayers’ to commemorate the shooting down of Pakistan Air Force’s F-16 fighter jet by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman on February 27 this year.
The heroics of the day also earned the squadron the title ‘AMRAAM Dodger’, for successfully evading the AMRAAM missiles of the PAF F-16s.
Varthaman had engaged in a dogfight with a vastly superior Pakistan F-16 jet and had shot it down. Abhinandan is first ever pilot to shoot down a US-made F-16 fighter jet.
Since the episode, Varthaman has been officially moved from No. 51 Squadron to No. 23 Squadron (Panthers) which is equipped with MiG-21 Bison and based at Suratgarh Air Force Station but the F-16 kill will remain with his previous No. 51 Squadron while the kill will be credited to Varthaman.
Pilots of the Su-30MKI Squadron, which also took part in the aerial intercept and survived the volley of 4-5 AMRAAMs fired by the Pak jets, have also given themselves the ‘AMRAAM Dodger’ title in new patches.
IAF spokesperson Group Captain Anupam Bannerjee said it was common for squadron pilots to wear patches. “Patches instill a sense of pride in not only the present generation of pilots but also the future ones. It gives a sense of achievement to the pilot,” he said.
The No 51 Squadron patch depicts a MIG-21 Bison in the foreground and a red-coloured F-16 in the background under crosshairs with ‘AMRAAM Dodger’ written on the top and Falcon Slayer’ inscribed at the bottom.
Patches are cloth badges that depict the squadron’s role and are often used to commemorate an important engagement in which the squadron took part.