President Ram Nath Kovind conferred the Vir Chakra to Wing Commander (now Group Captain) Varthaman Abhinandan for “showing conspicuous courage” while shooting down a Pakistani F-16 aircraft in February 2019. Vir Chakra is the third highest gallantry medal after Param Vir Chakra and Maha Chakra.
Group Captain Abhinandan received the award at the Defence Investiture Ceremony on Monday at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in Delhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh also attended the event.
The Vir Chakra citation states, “Displaying exceptional air combat acumen and knowledge of the enemy’s tactics, (then) Wing Commander Varthaman Abhinandan scanned the low altitude airspace with his Airborne Intercept (AI) radar and picked up an enemy aircraft (Pakistan Air Force fighter aircraft) that was flying low to ambush the Indian fighter interceptor aircraft.”
Delhi: Wing Commander (now Group Captain) Abhinandan Varthaman being accorded the Vir Chakra by President Ram Nath Kovind, for shooting down a Pakistani F-16 fighter aircraft during aerial combat on February 27, 2019. pic.twitter.com/vvbpAYuaJX
— ANI (@ANI) November 22, 2021
Group Captain Abhinandan went on to pursue a retreating enemy fighter bomber aircraft, and in the ensuing aerial combat, shot down an F-16 aircraft with his on-board missile.
After his aircraft was shot down, the pilot was forced to eject in Pakistan 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 01 March 2019. His actions raised the morale of the armed forces in general and the IAF in particular,” the citation reads.
The Pakistan Air Force’s retaliation in February 2019, came after India’s strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp in Balakot” following the Pulwama attack.
“Wing Commander Varthaman Abhinandan showed conspicuous courage, demonstrated gallantry in the face of the enemy while disregarding personal safety and displayed exceptional sense of duty,” the citation further adds.
Earlier this month, the Indian Air Force (IAF) approved the rank of Group Captain for the Wing Commander.