The India Air Force is recommending Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman for the wartime gallantry medal Vir Chakra for shooting down an F-16 in aerial conflict with Pakistan.
The 12 Mirage 2000 pilots who bombed targets in Pakistan are being recommended for the Vayu Sena Medal for gallantry for their acts of bravery as well, government sources said.
Though the IAF refused to comment officially, sources said Varthaman was “routinely transferred”’ to another airbase in Rajasthan and not because of any security concerns for his safety in J&K. “His tenure with the IAF’s No.51 squadron, also called the ‘Sword Arms’, was getting over. Moreover, the final clearance for him to fly again will be given by the Bengaluru-based Institute of Aerospace Medicine, where he will undergo tests next month,” said a source.
Wing Commander Abhinandan is the only pilot in the world to have shot down an F-16 combat aircraft from his vintage MiG-21 Bison aircraft on February 27 during aerial conflict with Pakistan.
India has again and again rebuffed Pakistan’s claims that India shot down no fighter jet and only bombed forests and empty land during the Balakovo airstrike.
The IAF has reiterated that it has very credible evidence that not only did Pakistan deploy F-16s in the intended strike on Indian military installations across the Line of Control on February 27.
The Vir Chakra is the third highest gallantry award in the military during the times of war after the Param Vir Chakra and the Mahavir Chakra.