Wing Commander Abhinandan to be awarded Vir Chakra
He was caught by Pakistan after his MiG-21 went down across the LoC on February 27 last and later handed over to India on March 1.
Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel who were part of the February 26 last Balakot airstrike on a Jaish-e-Mohammad terror training camp in Pakistan and the air engagement a day after have been awarded gallantry medals on the eve of Independence Day.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was caught by Pakistan after his MiG-21 Bison fighter jet went down across the Line of Control (LoC) on February 27 and was returned three days later, has been awarded Vir Chakra (VrC), the country’s third-highest gallantry award.
During a dogfight with Pakistan Air Force jets on February 27, he shot down a Pakistani F-16 but his jet was shot down soon after. He was handed over by Pakistan to India at the Wagah-Attari border crossing on March 1.
“President Ram Nath Kovind, who is also the Supreme Commander of the armed forces, has approved 132 awards to armed forces personnel and members of paramilitary forces,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. These include two Kirti Chakras, one Vir Chakra, 14 Shaurya Chakras, 98 Sena Medals (Gallantry), five Nao Sena Medals (Gallantry), seven Vayu Sena Medals (Gallantry) and five Yudh Seva Medals.
Kirti Chakra, the second-highest peacetime gallantry award was posthumously awarded to Sapper Prakash Jadhav for his role in counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir. The Army also got eight Shaurya Chakras, 98 Sena Medals (Gallantry) and four Mention-in-Dispatches.
In addition to the VrC, the IAF got five Yudh Seva Medals and seven Vayu Sena Medals (Gallantry). Of the 13 awardees of the IAF, 12 are fighter pilots and one is lady officer Sqn. Ldr. Minty Agarwal, a flight controller on the ground. These included the five Mirage-2000 pilots who took part in the Balakot airstrike, defense sources said. Sqn Ldr Agarwal has been awarded the Yudh Seva Medal for directing the IAF fighters during the aerial engagement when Pakistani fighter jets attempted to bomb Indian military installations on February 27, the sources added.
Of the six gallantry awards to the Navy, most of them went for counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir under ‘Op Rakshak’. Four Mention-in-Despatches have also been approved to Army Personnel for different military operations, including one posthumously for ‘Operation Anantnag Town’.
In addition, the President has also awarded one President’s Tatrakshak Medal (Distinguished Service), five Tatrakshak Medals (Gallantry) and two Tatrakshak Medal (Meritorious Service) to personnel of the Indian Coast Guard for acts of conspicuous gallantry and distinguished/ meritorious service.
Source Wing Commander Abhinandan to be awarded Vir Chakra