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Home » Post-Pulwama strikes earn Air Force rich awards haul | India News
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Post-Pulwama strikes earn Air Force rich awards haul | India News

NEW DELHI: The audacious pre-dawn air strikes on a Jaish-e-Muhammed facility at Balakot and the subsequent skirmish between Indian and Pakistani fighters have garnered a dozen medals for the IAF this Independence Day, with Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman leading the pack with a Vir Chakra, the third highest gallantry medal awarded during war or “in the face of the enemy”.
In the Independence honours’ list, Sapper Prakash Jadhav (posthumously) from the Army’s Rashtriya Rifles (RR) and CRPF deputy commandant Harshpal Singh were awarded the Kirti Chakra, the second highest peacetime gallantry award, for “conspicuous bravery beyond the call of duty” during fierce encounters with terrorists in Jammu & Kashmir. There were also 14 Shaurya Chakras in the list, eight from the Army, one from the Navy, two from CRPF and three police officials.
Apart from Wing Commander Varthaman, the IAF gallantry list included Vayu Sena Medals for the five Mirage-2000 pilots who successfully struck the JeM facility with Spice-2000 penetration bombs after crossing the Line of Control in the early hours of February 26.
They are Wing Commander Pranav Raj, Squadron Leaders Rahul Basoya, Pankaj Arvind Bhujade, B Karthik Narayan Reddy and Shashank Singh. The commanding officer of a Jaguar squadron, Group Captain Saumitra Tamaskar, who was also part of the overall mission, was also awarded Vayu Sena Medal (gallantry). The IAF says the penetration warheads hit five of the six “designated mean points of impact” on the buildings within the JeM facility to achieve “complete and total strategic surprise”.
A woman ground-based fighter controller, Squadron Leader Minty Aggarwal, who showed exceptional alertness and presence of mind to vector the IAF fighters scrambled to intercept the “strike package” of intruding Pakistani jets a day after the Balakot air-strikes, in turn, has been awarded a Yudh Seva Medal for “distinguished services” during wartime. Four other IAF officers who were part of the planning process for the Balakot strike have also been awarded the same medal.
Squadron Leader Aggarwal, positioned at a radar hu b in Barnala, constantly updated the IAF fighters during the dogfight, while also alerting them to the presence of F-16s armed with AIM-120C advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAMs).
In the aerial skirmish, with three to four Pakistani jets intruding 6-7km inside Indian airspace, Wing Commander Varthaman in his older MiG-21 shot down a much more advanced F-16 with an R-73 missile by chasing it across the LoC, before he himself was shot down, captured by the Pak army and subsequently released on March 1.
Varthaman, who became famous when footage of him putting up a brave front in captivity in Pakistan emerged, has now recovered from his injuries and will soon take to the skies in a fighter after undergoing the mandatory ground-based tests.
The Shaurya Chakras have been awarded posthumously to Major Vibhuti Shankar Dhoundiyal (Engineers/RR), Lance Naik Sandeep Singh (Para-Special Forces), Sepoy Brajesh Kumar (Punjab Regiment/RR), Sepoy Hari Singh (Grenadiers/RR), Rifleman Shive Kumar (JAKLI/RR) and Ashiq Hussain Malik (special police officer, J&K).
The other Shaurya Chakra awardees are Lt-Colonel Ajay Singh Kushwah (J&K Rifles/RR), Captain Mahesh Kumar Bhure (Engineers/RR), Rifleman Ajveer Singh Chauhan (Garhwal Rifles), Amit Singh Rana (Navy), Constable Sable Dneshwaryan Shriram (CRPF), Constable Zaker Hussian (CRPF) and Head Constable Subash Chander (J&K).

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