IAF's Abhinandan Varthaman gets Vir Chakra
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, the Indian Air Force fighter pilot who shot down a Pakistan F-16 aircraft with his vintage MiG-21 jet will receive the Vir Chakra - India's third-highest wartime (presence of the enemy) award.
Wg Cdr Varthaman, who fired the imagination of the nation by his calm and composed demeanour in Pakistan captivity under hostile conditions, is the first recipient of a war-time gallantry award since the Kargil days nearly two decades ago.
He was captured by Pakistan when the MiG-21 he was flying took a hit and crashes inside the enemy territory. He was released by Pakistan after 48 hours as India mounted an enormous diplomatic pressure seeking his safe return.
In a first, Squadron Leader Minty Agarwal, an IAF air traffic controller at Ambala becomes the first woman to receive the Yudh Seva Medal for her deft handling of multiple IAF aircraft that took off from different bases on February 27 to tackle the intruding Pakistani jets.
The dogfight happened a day after the Balakot air raid in which IAF fighter jets destroyed a terrorist training camp deep inside the Pakistan territory.
Half a dozen IAF pilots who flew their Mirage-2000 for the February 26 Balakot strike have also been selected for Vayu Sena Medal (gallantry).
While the IAF has not released the citations for these pilots for operational reasons, sources told DH that the men who were awarded for the Balakot operations were Group Captain Saumitra Tamaskar, Wg Cdr Pranav Raj, Sq Ld Rahul Basoya, Sq Ld Pankaj Arvind Bhujde, Sq Ld B Karthik Narayan Reddy and Sq Ld Shashank Singh.
Sapper Prakash Jadhav from the Corps of Engineers receives Kirti Chakra - nation's second-highest peacetime gallantry award - posthumously on the eve of the IndependenceDay.
Also, 14 brave men from the Army, Navy, CRPF and J&K police receive the Shaurya Chakra, but unfortunately seven of them got the award posthumously. Eight of them are from the Army, one from the Navy, and five of them are from the Ministry of Home Affairs (CRPF and Jammu and Kashmir Police).
In addition, eight Army men receive Bar to Sena Medal (second-time gallantry award), 90 got Sena Medal and five persons from Navy made it for the Nao Sena Medal (gallantry).
Five of the six winners of the gallantry awards from the Navy were selected for the courage they had shown during Operation Rakshak - a 2018 counter-terrorism operation in Jammu and Kashmir.