Indian Air Force (IAF) wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who downed an enemy jet during an aerial combat with Pakistan in February and was held captive by Pakistani troops for three days after his MiG-21 was shot down, has been conferred the Vir Chakra, India’s third-highest war time gallantry medal.
The 36-year-old IAF pilot had suffered injuries while ejecting from his MiG-21 Bison during the aerial combat between Indian and Pakistani air forces on February 27. Varthaman, who became the face of a tense military confrontation between India and Pakistan, is set to fly the MiG-21 within a few weeks as a medical board cleared his return to the fighter cockpit.
Official sources said that IAF’s Bengaluru-based Institute of Aerospace Medicine has given the go-ahead to Varthaman to fly again following a thorough medical evaluation.
Varthaman was captured by the Pakistani Army on February 27 after his MiG-21 Bison jet was shot down in a dogfight with Pakistani jets during aerial combat. Before his jet was hit, he downed an F-16 fighter of Pakistan.
Varthaman was released on the night of March 1 by Pakistan. Days after he returned from Pakistan, Varthaman conveyed to IAF authorities his wish to return to the fighter cockpit at the earliest.
IAF fighter jets bombed a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on February 26, nearly two weeks after the Pulwama strike. Pakistan retaliated on February 27 by attempting to target Indian military installations.