New Delhi: Indian Air Force (IAF) Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, the pilot captured by Pakistan, will be awarded gallantry medal Vir Chakra on Independence Day for shooting down a Pakistani F-16 during a dogfight over the Line of Control on February 27.
Varthaman, 35, scripted military aviation history by downing an F-16, seconds before his own MiG-21 Bison was hit by a missile forcing him to eject.
Experts hailed it as the first-ever kill of an F-16 by a MiG-21 Bison, fighter jets of two different generations.
Varthaman was captured after he bailed out of his aircraft, but Pakistan returned him to India on March 1 after holding him captive for almost 60 hours.
The February 27 dogfight took place a day after the Mirage-2000s struck targets in Balakot in response to the Pulwama suicide attack in Kashmir in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force men were martyred on February 14.
Vir Chakra is India’s third-highest wartime gallantry award, after the Param Vir Chakra and the Maha Vir Chakra.