Ab­hi­nan­dan leads the men and ma­chines that taught Pak a les­son

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Nation - NEWS NET­WORK

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New Delhi/ Ghaziabad: The IAF on Tues­day put the men and their fly­ing ma­chines that bombed on Fe­bru­ary 26 a Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) fa­cil­ity at Balakot and then thwarted Pak­istan’s coun­terof­fen­sive the next day at the fore­front of its 87th an­niver­sary on Tues­day, even as Air Chief Mar­shal R K S Bhadau­ria said the pre-dawn strikes showed In­dia’s re­solve to pun­ish per­pe­tra­tors of ter­ror­ism.

Wing Com­man­der Ab­hi­nan­dan Varthaman, who was awarded the Vir Chakra for shoot­ing down a much more ad­vanced Pak­istani F-16 be­fore his MiG-21 was downed on Fe­bru­ary 27, led a MiG-21 Bi­son fighter for­ma­tion at the fly­past to a widely cheer­ing crowd at the Hin­don air­base.

Three Mi­rage-2000 fight­ers, flanked by two larger Sukhoi-30MKI multi-role jets, then flew the ‘Avenger’ for­ma­tion to equally huge ap­plause. In­ter­est­ingly, the two Sukhois were pi­loted by Wing Com­man­der K P Singh and Squadron Leader Parshu­ram, who also flew the fight­ers dur­ing the skir­mish be­tween the In­dian and Pak­istani fight­ers along the LoC.

This, in ef­fect, de­mol­ished Pak­istan’s claim of hav­ing shot down a Sukhoi on that day. To rub it in fur­ther, the Mi­rage-2000s dur­ing the fly­past were pi­loted by Group Cap­tain Pranav Raj and Wing Com­man­ders Pankaj Arvind Bhu­jade and Rahul Ba­soya, who were awarded the Vayu Sena Medals for suc­cess­fully strik­ing the JeM fa­cil­ity with Spice-2000 pen­e­tra­tion bombs in the early hours of Fe­bru­ary 26.

The IAF chief also awarded unit ci­ta­tions to the Sri­na­gar-based No 51 Squadron of Wing Com­man­der Varthaman and the Gwalior-based No 9 ‘Wolf­pack” Squadron of Mi­rage-2000s.

The 601 Sig­nal Unit of Squadron Leader Minty Ag­gar­wal, who as a ground­based flight con­troller showed ex­cep­tional alert­ness to vec­tor the IAF fight­ers scram­bled to in­ter­cept the “strike pack­age” of in­trud­ing Pak­istani jets on Fe­bru­ary 27, also re­ceived a unit ci­ta­tion. Squadron Leader Ag­gar­wal has been awarded a Yudh Seva Medal for “dis­tin­guished ser­vices” dur­ing war­time.

The ci­ta­tion for the No 51 Squadron read, “The squadron dis­played ex­em­plary courage, de­ter­mi­na­tion and pro­fes­sional acu­men to en­sure vic­tory in the aerial en­gage­ment, claim­ing an en­emy fighter air­craft in the process, the first in­stance since the 1971 war...”

ACM Bhadau­ria said, “The strate­gic rel­e­vance of this (Balakot strike) is the re­solve of the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship to pun­ish the per­pe­tra­tors of ter­ror­ism and the IAF ca­pa­bil­ity to ex­e­cute a strike in­side Pak­istan. This has been a ma­jor shift in the govern­ment’s way of han­dling ter­ror­ist at­tacks.”

AP

Wing Com­man­der Ab­hi­nan­dan Varthaman (mid­dle plane) leads a MiG-21 Bi­son fighter for­ma­tion at the fly­past at Hin­don air base on Tues­day

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