Group Captain Abhinandan Varthaman, who shot down a Pakistani F-16 fighter jet during a dogfight over the Line of Control (LoC) on February 27, 2019, was on Monday awarded the Vir Chakra by President Ram Nath Kovind at an investiture ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi.
Vir Chakra is India’s third highest wartime gallantry award after Param Vir Chakra and Maha Vir Chakra.
Among other gallantry awards presented by Kovind included a Kirti Chakra awarded posthumously to Sapper Prakash Jadhav for gallantry in a counterinsurgency operation in Kashmir three years ago.
The dogfight in which Abhinandan was involved took place a day after the IAF’s Mirage-2000s struck targets in Pakistan’s Balakot in response to the Pulwama suicide attack in Kashmir in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) men were killed on February 14, 2019.
Abhinandan Varthaman, then 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 had hailed it as the first ever kill of an F-16 by a MiG-21 Bison – fighter jets of two different generations.
He was captured after he bailed out of his aircraft, and Pakistan returned him to India on March 1, 2019, after holding him captive for almost 60 hours.