Indian Air Force pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman who was officially credited with shooting down a Pakistan Air Force jet before being shot down himself during an air skirmish on February 27 last year, has been back to squadron duties for a while now. But on the back of the Vir Chakra gallantry decoration he was given last August, the official citation of the award has remained elusive, even as a claim-counterclaim war rages on social media, with an eruption of ‘evidence’ even this week from Pakistan’s side. Well, that citation has now been found, picked off a web archive yesterday by aviation historian and author Jagan Pilarisetti. And it adds elements of texture to the narrative so far, and we’ve linked to our past coverage of this continuing saga. Here it is in full:
No. 115-Pres/2019 — The President is pleased to approve the award of the “Vir Chakra” to the under mentioned person for the acts of gallantry in the face of the enemy :-
I. WING COMMANDER VARTHAMAN ABHINANDAN (27981) FLYING (PILOT)
(Effective date of the award: 27 FEBRUARY 20190
Wing Commander Varthaman Abhinandan (27981) Flying (Pilot) is on the posted strength of a MiG-21 Bison squadron with effect from 19 May 2018.
On 27 Feb 2019, Wing Commander Varthaman Abhinandan was on Operational Readiness Platform duty at Air Force Station Srinagar. At 0955h, a large force of Pakistan Air Force fighter aircraft (ac), consisting of advanced fourth generation F-16 and JF-17, were detected heading towards the LoC. The enemy ac were armed with beyond visual range (BVR) air to air missiles and advanced high calibre air to ground stand-off weapons. The enemy ac were under seamless airborne radar cover and control. At about 1000h, Wing Commander Varthaman Abhinandan was scrambled to intercept this package. Despite the enemy’s immense numerical and technological superiority, he proceeded to courageously engage the enemy ac package with utter disregard to his personal safety. On the intercept leg, he was provided with updates on likely air threats flying at very high altitudes. Displaying exceptional air combat acumen and knowledge of the enemy’s tactics, Wing Commander Varthaman Abhinandan scanned the low altitude airspace with his airborne intercept radar and picked up an enemy aircraft that was flying low to ambush the Indian fighter interceptor ac.
Wing Commander Varthaman Abhinandan alerted the other formation pilots towards this surprise threat. He then consolidated the riposte, but gathering his wingman in an offensive formation against the hostile Pakistani ac now dropping weapons on Indian Army positions. This audacious and aggressive maneouver forced the enemy ac into tactical chaos. All the enemy ac thereafter turned back including the rear echelon ac who were yet to launch their air to ground weapons.
Wing Commander Varthaman Abhinandan then pursued a retreating enemy fighter bomber aircraft, and in the ensuing aerial combat, shot down an F-16 ac with his on-board missile. However, in the melee, one of the enemy aircraft fired multiple advanced BVR missiles, one of which hit his aircraft forcing him to eject in enemy territory.
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 01 March 2019. His actions raised the morale of the armed forces in general and the IAF in particular.
Wing Commander Varthaman Abhinandan showed conspicuous courage, demonstrated gallantry in the face of the enemy while disregarding personal safety and displayed exceptional sense of duty.