Outgoing Indian Air Force Chief BS Dhanoa and Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who shot down a Pakistani F-16 fighter jet in February this year after the Balakot airstrike, Monday flew together in a MiG-21 trainer from Pathankot Air Base. This was the last sortie of IAF Chief BS Dhanoa, who is set to retire September 30.
Both BS Dhanoa and Abhinandan Varthaman went to war against Pakistan on MiG-21s and both ejected from their aircrafts. While Dhanoa commanded a squadron of frontline ground attack fighters during the Kargil War in 1999, Varthaman chased down and shot a Pakistani fighter jet during the dogfight in the aftermath of IAF’s airstrike on terrorist camps in Pakistan.
The IAF Chief and Wing Commander Varthaman took off in the MiG-21 trainer aircraft from Pathankot and flew for around 30 minutes. While the IAF chief took the front seat, Varthaman sat on the rear seat of the aircraft. The controls in the front seat of the aircraft are replicated in the back.
Varthaman returned to the fighter cockpit around two weeks ago after IAF's Bengaluru-based Institute of Aerospace Medicine gave him the go-ahead to fly again following a thorough medical evaluation. Abhinandan Varthaman was conferred the Vir Chakra, the coveted wartime gallantry medal, for downing the F-16 jet of Pakistan during the February 16 aerial combat.
Interestingly, as a young pilot, the Air Force Chief flew the Mig 21 jet with Abhinandan’s father Simhakutty Varthaman, who retired as Air Marshal. Air Marshal Simhakutty joined the IAF in 1973 and has around 4,000 hours of flying experience.