Abhinandan Varthaman shot down Pakistan F-16, confirms Vir Chakra citation | India News
“Despite the enemy’s immense numerical and technological superiority, Wing Commander Varthaman proceeded to courageously engage the enemy aircraft package with utter disregard to his personal safety,” says the gallantry citation for the Vir Chakra, which was not made public earlier.
The audacious pre-dawn air strikes on the Jaish-e-Mohammed facility at Balakot on February 26 last year and the subsequent skirmish between Indian and Pakistani fighters garnered a dozen medals for the IAF. It included Vayu Sena Medals for the five Mirage-2000 pilots who successfully struck the JeM facility with Spice-2000 penetration bombs after crossing the Line of Control in the early hours of February 26.
The next day, Pakistan mounted a massive retaliation with advanced fourth generation F-16 and JF-17 fighters. The enemy aircraft were armed with beyond visual range (BVR) air-to-air missiles and advanced high-calibre air-to-ground stand-off weapons.
Wing Commander Varthaman was among the fighter pilots who were scrambled from Srinagar air base to intercept the incoming hostile jets. “Displaying exceptional air combat acumen and knowledge of the enemy’s tactics, Wing Commander Varthaman scanned the low-altitude airspace with his airborne intercept radar and picked up an enemy aircraft that was flying low to ambush the Indian fighter interceptors,” says the citation.
“Wing Commander Vardhaman alerted the other formation pilots towards this surprise threat. He then consolidated the riposte by gathering his wingman in an offensive formation against the hostile Pakistani aircraft now dropping weapons on Indian Army positions,” it says.
“This audacious and aggressive maneuver forced the enemy aircraft into tactical chaos. All the enemy aircraft thereafter turned back, including the rear echelon aircraft who were yet to launch their air-to-ground weapons,” it adds.
Wing Commander Varthaman, in his MiG-21, then pursued a “retreating enemy fighter/bomber aircraft, and in the ensuing aerial battle “shot down the F-16 with his on-board missile”, it says.
But in the melee, one of the enemy aircraft fired multiple advanced BVR missiles, one of which hit his MiG-21, forcing him to eject in enemy territory.
“Despite being captured by the enemy, he continued to display exceptional resolve in dealing with the adversary in a stoic, brave and dignified manner till he was repatriated on March 1,” says the citation.
“His actions raised the morale of the armed forces in general and the IAF in particular. He showed conspicuous courage, demonstrated gallantry in the face of the enemy while disregarding personal safety and displayed exceptional sense of duty,” it adds.