Group Captain Abhinandad Varthaman, who shot down Pak jet, gets Vir Chakra
- A Kirti Chakra was awarded posthumously to Sapper Prakash Jadhav
- After the Ashok Chakra, the Kirti Chakra and Shaurya Chakra are the country's second and third highest peacetime gallantry awards
- On Independence Day in 2019, his Vir Chakra was announced
President Ram Nath Kovind awarded Group Captain Abhinandan Varthaman the Vir Chakra on Monday at an investiture ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi, for shooting down a Pakistani F-16 fighter jet during a dogfight over the Line of Control (LoC) on February 27, 2019.
A Kirti Chakra was awarded posthumously to Sapper Prakash Jadhav for gallantry in a counterinsurgency operation in Kashmir three years ago, among other awards presented by Kovind. Shaurya Chakra was awarded posthumously to Major Vibhuti Shankar Dhoundiyal and Naib Subedar Sombir. After the Ashok Chakra, the Kirti Chakra and Shaurya Chakra are the country's second and third highest peacetime gallantry awards.
Abhinandan’s citation read, “Displaying exceptional air combat acumen and knowledge of the enemy’s tactics, Abhinandan scanned the low-altitude airspace with his airborne intercept (AI) radar and picked up an enemy aircraft that was flying low to ambush the Indian fighter interceptor aircraft… Abhinandan alerted the other formation pilots towards this surprise threat.”
He was then promoted to the rank of group captain earlier this month after serving as a wing commander. A group captain in the Indian Air Force (IAF) is the equivalent of an army colonel.
The dogfight in which Abhinandan was involved occurred a day after Mirage-2000s from the Indian Air Force struck targets in Pakistan's Balakot in response to the Pulwama suicide attack in Kashmir, which claimed the lives of 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) men on February 14, 2019.
On Independence Day in 2019, his Vir Chakra was announced. His citation stated that despite Pakistan's "immense numerical and technological superiority", he bravely engaged the Pakistani aircraft package, and his aggressive moves forced the enemy aircraft into tactical chaos.
The citation said, “Despite being captured by the enemy, he continued to display exceptional resolve in dealing with the adversary in a stoic, brave and dignified manner till he was repatriated on March 1, 2019.”