New Delhi: Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who downed an enemy jet in an aerial combat with Pakistan in February and was held captive for three days, will be conferred the Vir Chakra, India’s third-highest war time gallantry medal.

At least five Indian Air Force pilots — who were part of the mission to strike a Jaish-e-Mohammad camp inside Pakistan — and Minty Agarwal, a lady officer who played a key role as flight controller during the Pakistani retaliation, were also among the list of military awardees.

The defence ministry announced winners for the military awards on the eve of Independence Day celebrations.

From the army, Sapper Prakash Jadhav of the Rashtriya Rifles will be posthumously awarded Kirti Chakra, the second highest peacetime gallantry award.

 Abhinandan Varthaman to get Vir Chakra; five pilots who took part in Balakot air strike also to be awarded, says defence ministry

File image of IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. PTI

Agarwal, who played a key role as a ground staff during the dog-fight between India and Pakistan on 27 February, will be awarded Yudh Seva medal.

The IAF will receive a total of 13 awards including five Yudh Seva Medals and seven Vayu Sena Medal.

The Vayu Sena medal award winners are Group Captain Saumitra Tamaskar, Wing Commander Pranav Raj, Wing Commander Amit Ranjan, and four Squadron Leaders — Rahul Basoya, Pankaj Arvind Bhujade , B Karthik Narayan Reddy, and Shashank Singh.

Besides Agarwal, the Yudh Seva medal winners are Air Commodore Sunil Kashinath Vidhate, Group Captain Yeshpal Singh Negi, Group Captain Hemant Kumar, and Group Captain Hansel Joseph Seqeira.

The army will also get eight Shaurya Chakra awards and 98 Sena medals. The navy will get one Shaurya Chakra award.

“We are very happy that Abhinandan has been conferred with Vir Chakra,” said an IAF official. The 36-year-old was captured by the Pakistani Army on 27 February 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 1 March by Pakistan. Varthaman had suffered injuries while ejecting from his MiG-21 Bison during the aerial combat.

A high-level medical board of the IAF has already cleared Varthaman to return to the fighter cockpit.

Days after he returned from Pakistan, Varthaman conveyed to the IAF brass his wish to resume flying at the earliest.

IAF fighter jets bombed a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp in Balakot on 26 February, nearly two weeks after the Pulwama terror attack.

Pakistan retaliated on 27 February by attempting to target Indian military installations.

Updated Date: Aug 14, 2019 23:03:44 IST