IAF unitspart of Balakot, Pakistan dogfight to be feted
The Indian Air Force units involved in the cross-border strikes against a terror camp in Pakistan’s Balakot on February 26 and the dogfight with the Pakistan Air Force the following day will be awarded citations by Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria on October 8, two officers familiar with the development said on Sunday.
The IAF commemorates October 8 as its founding day.
The Number 9 Mirage-2000 squadron, ‘Wolf Pack’, that carried out the Balakot raid; Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s Number 51 Squadron, ‘Sword Arms’; and Squadron Leader Minty Agarwal’s 601 Signal Unit will get the citations, one of the officers said.
A citation is official praise for the actions of a unit.
The air strikes against the Jaish-e-Mohammed terror base were India’s response to the Pulwama suicide bomb attack in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force jawans were killed on February 14. The IAF’s Mirages hit three targets in Balakot with five Israeli-origin Spice 2000 bombs with penetrater warheads that allowed them to pierce through the rooftops before exploding inside to cause maximum damage.
Military tensions between India and Pakistan escalated following the Balakot strikes, with PAF fighters, including F-16s, making a failed attempt to bomb Indian military installations on February 27. Both air forces lost one fighter plane each in the aerial engagement, with Abhinandan ending up in Pakistani custody after his MiG-21 Bison crashed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. He was returned to India on March 1.
Some of the officers in the February 26-27 operations were decorated with gallantry awards on Independence Day.
Wing Commander Abhinandan was awarded the Vir Chakra, the country’s third highest wartime gallantry award for shooting down a Pakistani F-16 during the dogfight over the Line of Control.
Squadron Leader Minty Agarwal, the woman fighter controller, was awarded the Yudh Seva Medal for her role in intercepting the PAF’s attempt to launch retaliatory air attacks on February 27.
She is the first woman in India’s military history to be awarded the YSM, a medal that recognises distinguished service of a high order during war, conflict or hostilities.
Officials said Agarwal was part of a team of seven fighter controllers from the 601 Signal Unit who controlled the IAF’s interception package launched to stop Pakistan’s fighter jets.