Apart from Abhinandan Varthaman, other pilots who were part of the pre-dawn airstrikes in Balakot will also get top military honours.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, the daring Indian Air Force fighter pilot, who shot down Pakistan's F-16 combat jet during aerial dogfight on February 27 is likely to be awarded Vir Chakra. Apart from Varthaman, other pilots who were part of the pre-dawn airstrikes in Balakot will also get top military honours. The news was reported by The Hindustan Times on Thursday. Vir Chakra is country's third-highest wartime gallantry award after the Param Vir Chakra and Maha Vir Chakra. On that fateful day, Wg Cdr Varthaman chased down the F-16 and ultimately shot it down. All this lasted for just 90 seconds, media report said. But this dogfight in the Subcontinental skies is being seen as not just an unparalleled feat but also proves the superb training at skills of the Indian Air Force pilot. Pakistan's F-16 fighter jet was shot down by Varthaman while he was flying a MiG-21, which has been continuously upgraded and witnessed extensive combat use by nations that purchased them from the US and the USSR, later Russia.
A day after the Balakot airstrikes, at around 10 am, the IAF radars detected a large package of PAF aircraft heading towards the Indian territory towards general area Jhangar. Various media reports had said that the ‘large package’ of the Pakistan Air Force consisted as many as 24 fighter jets. According to an NDTV report, that Pakistan’s strike squad included eight F-16s, four Mirage-3 aircraft, four Chinese made JF-17 "Thunder" fighter.
On the intervening night of 25 and 26 February, the Indian Air Force (IAF) carried out air strikes across the LoC at around 3:30 am. According to reports, 12 Mirage 2000 Indian Fighter jets dropped 1,000 kg bombs, destroying several Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) training camps across the Line of Control (LoC). The strike came in response to the February 14 Pulwama terror attack, in which a suicide bomber of the Pakistan-based JeM rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into a bus in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district, killing 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel.