21 Apr 2019
IAF recommends Abhinandan Varthaman for Vir Chakra for downing F-16
The Indian Air Force has recommended Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman for Vir Chakra, the third highest gallantry award in the military during the war, for downing an F-16 in a dogfight in February.
The 12 Mirage-2000 jets which carried out Balakot operation have been recommended for Vayu Sena Medal, claimed reports.
Meanwhile, Abhinandan was moved out of Srinagar air base.
Abhinandan brought down F-16 piloting his MiG-21 Bison
Abhinandan scripted history on February 27 after he became the world's lone pilot to shoot down the US made F-16 piloting his MiG-21 Bison.
IAF and PAF were locked in air combat after the latter attacked military establishments, a day after Balakot strikes.
After killing an F-16, Abhinandan landed in Pakistan where he was held captive. He returned home on March 1.
Meanwhile, Abhinandan is being moved out of Srinagar air base
After his homecoming, Abhinandan went through standard military procedures which included debriefing.
He was kept in Srinagar but will now be shifted to another important base in the western sector along the Pakistani border. Apparently, there were concerns over Abhinandan's security in Srinagar.
"The posting order of the officer has been issued and he would soon be moving out," sources told ANI.
So when can Abhinandan fly again? Apparently, soon
Before taking the skies, Abhinandan will have to pass a medical test at Bengaluru-based Institute of Aerospace Medicine (IAM). His tests are expected to begin in the coming weeks and results will be out by May-end.
"Going by the current health indicators and the officer's determination to return to fighter flying, we hope to see him in a g-suit soon," an official told HT.
Pakistan saw red after it lost F-16
It should be noted that Abhinandan's rare distinction ruffled Pakistan's feathers as the neighboring country repeatedly claimed that F-16s weren't used for the dogfight.
A US-based publication also emboldened their theories when it quoted two unnamed defense officials, who said F-16s in Pakistan were counted and none were missing.
Soon, Pentagon said it has no knowledge that such counting exercise happened.
India held its ground and showed proofs as well
India, on its part, remained consistent with the story. Even before Abhinandan was released, IAF displayed debris of AMRAAM missile, which was fired from F-16. Details of the same were shared with the US too.
After the dubious claims of the US-based publication, IAF showed radar images which clarified that an F-16 came close to Abhinandan's jet and he shot it down.
Awards will be announced after President inks file: Official
An official told TOI on Saturday, "As for the gallantry medals, the IAF headquarters is yet to collate all the awards to be conferred on August 15. It's a confidential process. The medals are officially announced only after the President inks the file."