Group Captain Abhinandan Varthaman was Wing Commander when he shot down Pakistan's F-16 with his MiG-21 during the Balakot airstrike in 2019.
New Delhi: Indian Air Force ace pilot Group Captain Abhinandan Varthaman was accorded the Vir Chakra by President Ram Nath Kovind in an investiture ceremony on Monday (November 22).
He has been accorded the Vir Chakra for shooting down a Pakistani F-16 fighter aircraft during aerial combat on February 27, 2019, a day after the Balakot airstrike.
In the process, he flew over Pakistan occupied Kashmir, and his MiG-21 was hit, and he had to eject over the territory controlled by the enemy.
He was then taken into custody by the Pakistan Army. The Pakistan Army was forced to release him due to the extensive pressure exerted by the Indian side along with international intervention into the matter.
"Abhinandan on the posted strength of a MiG 21 Bison Squadron from May 19, 2018. On February 27, 2019, at around 9 am, a large force of Pakistan Air Force fighter aircraft, consisting of advanced fourth-generation F-16 and JF-17, were detected heading toward the LoC. At about 10 am, Wing Commander (now Group Captain) Varthaman Abhinandan was scrambled to intercept this package," the citation said.
"Displaying exceptional air combat acumen and knowledge of the enemy's tactics, Wing Commander Varthaman Abhinandan scanned the low altitude airspace with his Airborne Intercept (Al) radar and picked up an enemy aircraft that was flying low to ambush the Indian fighter-interceptor aircraft. Wing Commander Varthaman Abhinandan 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. 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 said.
"Wing Commander Varthaman Abhinandan then pursued a retreating enemy fighter bomber aircraft, and in the ensuing aerial combat, shot down an F-16 aircraft with his on-board missile. However, in the melee, one of the enemy aircraft fired multiple advanced BVR missiles, one of which hit his aircraft 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, 2019," it said.
"His actions raised the morale of the armed forces in general and the IAF in particular. Wing Commander Varthaman Abhinandan showed conspicuous courage, demonstrated gallantry in the face of the enemy while disregarding personal safety and displayed an exceptional sense of duty," it added.
India had launched an aerial strike on Pakistan's terrorist facility in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa area run by the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) on February 26.