Air chief BS Dhanoa, Wing Cdr Abhinandan Varthaman fly MiGs in joint sortie
The air chief was responsible for destroying Pakistan supply dumps along the Line of Control (LoC) during the 1999 Kargil war, an action that helped turn the tide in India’s favour.Updated: Sep 03, 2019 01:28 IST
Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa and Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who has been awarded the Vir Chakra for shooting down a Pakistan Air Force fighter during a February 27 dogfight after the Balakot airstrikes, flew a joint sortie in a MiG-21 (Type 96) fighter from the Pathankot airbase on Monday morning.
The air chief was responsible for destroying Pakistan supply dumps along the Line of Control (LoC) during the 1999 Kargil war, an action that helped turn the tide in India’s favour. This was the Air Chief Marshal’s last sortie in a fighter. He superannuates this September.
Air Chief Dhanoa described the joint sortie as an honour. “Both of us have two things in common. First, both of us have ejected. And second, both of us have fought Pakistanis. I fought in Kargil, he fought after Balakot. Third, I’ve flown with his father,” he said.
Seconds before his MiG-21 was hit by a missile, wing Commander Varthaman downed an F-16 a day after the Indian Air Force (IAF)’s action against a terror camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan. He bailed out of his aircraft and was taken captive by Pakistan. He was returned after nearly 60 hours in captivity.
Varthaman’s father, who was an IAF fighter pilot, had also bailed out of a MiG-21 over Adampur.
Wing Commander Abhinandan looked different on Monday. Instead of his trademark gunslinger moustache, he wore a handlebar moustache.
The IAF officer, who had become the face of the military confrontation between India and Pakistan in February, was recently cleared to fly after treatment for injuries sustained in action.
Monday’s flight took off from the IAF base in Pathankot, India’s front-line fighter base and home to the officer’s 26 Squadron of the IAF.
IAF has about 5 squadrons of the Russian-made MiG-21 fighters. All five are likely to be decommissioned soon.