Abhinandan leads the men and machines that taught Pak a lesson
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.”
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman (middle plane) leads a MiG-21 Bison fighter formation at the flypast at Hindon air base on Tuesday