Squadron Leader Minty Agarwal, a lady officer who played a key role as flight controller during the Pakistan Air Force retaliation to the Indian Air Force's Balakot airstrike on February 26, are also among the IAF officers who will receive the prestigous Yudh Seva Medal. The other winners are Air Commodore Sunil Kashinath Vidhate, Group Captain Yeshpal Singh Negi, Goup Captain Hemant Kumar, Group Captain Hansel Joseph Seqeira.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who downed an enemy jet in an aerial combat with Pakistan in February 27 and was held captive for three days, has been conferred the Vir Chakra, India's third-highest war time gallantry medal.
At least five IAF pilots who were part of the mission to strike a Jaish-e-Mohammad camp inside Pakistan.Sources told Hindustan Times that Aggarwal was also the one who told Varthaman turn back at the right moment. Varthaman could not hear the instruction because the communication system had already been jammed by Pakistan Air force by then.
The defence ministry announced the military awards on the eve of Independence Day celebrations.From the Army, Sapper Prakash Jadhav of the Rashtriya Rifles will be posthumously awarded Kirti Chakra, the second highest peacetime gallantry award.
The IAF received a total of 13 awards including five Yudh Seva Medals and seven Vayu Sena Medal.The Vayu Sena medal award winners are Group Captain Saumitra Tamaskar, Wing Commander Pranav Raj, Wing Commander Amit Ranjan, Sq Ldr Rahul Basoya, Sq Ldr Pankaj Arvind Bhujade , Sq Ldr B Karthik Narayan Reddy, Sq Ldr Shashank Singh.The Army also got eight Shaurya Chakra awards and 98 Sena medals.
The Navy got one Shaurya Chakra award. "We are very happy that Wing Comm Varthaman has been conferred with Vir Chakra," said an IAF official. Varthaman, 36, was captured by the Pakistani Army on February 27 after his MiG-21 Bison jet was shot down in a dogfight with Pakistani jets during aerial combat.Before his jet was hit, he downed an F-16 fighter of Pakistan. Varthaman was released on the night of March 1 by Pakistan.
Varthaman had suffered injuries while ejecting from his MiG-21 Bison during the aerial combat. A high-level medical board of the Indian Air Force has already cleared Varthaman to return to the fighter cockpit.Days after he returned from Pakistan, Varthaman conveyed to the IAF brass his wish to resume flying at the earliest. IAF fighter jets bombed a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp in Balakot on February 26, nearly two weeks after the Pulwama terror attack.Pakistan retaliated on February 27 by attempting to target Indian military installations.