Varthaman was in news after the military confrontation between India and Pakistan escalated in February this year.
Delhi: The Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots who had stuck Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camps in Balakot in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) on the morning of 26 February have been decorated with Vayu Sena medals.
Also, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman has been awarded Vir Chakra — the third highest gallantry award in the military after the Param Vir Chakra and the Mahavir Chakra.
ThePrint has reported that the IAF pilots have got 13 gallantry awards for the Balakot strike and for foiling an attempt by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) to hit back on 27 February.
Among the awardees is Squadron Leader Minty Aggarwal, a female officer, who steered the dog fight over the Nowshera sector and alerted the IAF pilots to the presence of Pakistan’s F-16s with AMRAAM missiles.
Wing Commander Amt Ranjan, Squadron Leaders R Basoya, P A Bhujade, B K N Reddy and Shashank Singh have been awarded the Vayu Sena medals (gallantry) for their operation, which caught Pakistan by surprise.
This was the first time since the 1971 war that India carried out a strike beyond the PoK — Balakot is situated in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.
The PAF retaliated the next day and carried out a failed attempt to target Indian military installations.
Wing Commander Varthaman has been awarded the Vir Chakra for his role in thwarting the Pakistani offensive and for shooting down an F-16 fighter aircraft.
Air Commodore S.K. Vidhate, Group Captains Y.S. Negi, Hemant Kumar, and Hansel Sequeira also got the Yudh Seva medals.
The Indian Army has got 107 gallantry awards of which 15 have been given posthumously. There are five Mention-In-Dispatches too. Mention in Dispatches record the acts of valour in the service records of personnel.
Lance Naik Sandeep Singh, who was part of the 2016 surgical strike, has been awarded Shaurya Chakra (posthumous). Belonging to the 4 Para, he was killed in a counter-infiltration operation on 22 September 2018 in Kupwara district’s Tangdhar sector along the LoC.