Mi-17 chopper pilots killed by friendly fire get gallantry awards
Two Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter pilots killed by friendly fire in Kashmir a day after the February 26 Balakot air strikes are among 409 gallantry awardees and other military honorees on a list approved by the President on the eve of the 71st Republic Day.
Squadron Leaders Ninad Anil Mandavgane and Siddharth Vashisht, whose Mi-17 helicopter was brought down by friendly fire in Kashmir’s Budgam on February 27, a day after the IAF bombed terror camps in Pakistan, will both be posthumously awarded the Vayu Sena Medal for gallantry. All six IAF personnel on board the Mi-17 helicopter were killed. The remaining four have been awarded ‘Mentioned-in-Despatches’ by the President.
Nine security forces personnel will be awarded the Shaurya Chakra -- the country’s third highest peacetime gallantry award -- for outstanding gallantry during a string of operations. Four of these awards -- to soldier Naib Subedar Sombir, and the three policemen, Challapilla Narasimha Rao, Kamal Kishore and Aman Kumar -- will be given posthumously.
Sombir was part of an assault team of a Rashtriya Rifles battalion that planned and executed a daring operation in which three hardcore terrorists were killed in Jammu & Kashmir last February.
The other Shaurya Chakra awardees from the Indian Army are Lt Colonel Jyoti Lama, Major Konjengbam Bijendra Singh, Naib Subedar Narender Singh, Naik Naresh Kumar and Sepoy Karmdeo Oraon.
The army credited Lama with creating a vibrant intelligence network in Manipur that led to 14 wanted terrorists being apprehended, and also killing two terrorists in a well-planned operation in July 2019. Major Konjengbam Bijendra Singh’s citation says his courage and leadership resulted in the killing of two terrorists in Manipur last March.
Naib Subedar Narender Singh killed two terrorists and wounded a third during a firefight along the Line of Control in J&K last July. “His aggressive actions led to foiling of attempt of the hostiles to target own posts,” his citation said.
Naik Naresh Kumar shot dead a hardened terrorist from range of just five metres during an operation in J&K last May, while Sepoy Oraon killed two terrorists in an operation along the LoC in December 2018.
Oraon was deployed at a forward post when it came under heavy fire from Pakistani army posts and, simultaneously, a group of terrorists also targeted the Indian post. He observed four terrorists firing and rushing towards the post. The Sepoy fell down after a bullet hit his bulletproof headgear but he quickly recovered and mounted a counter assault.
“With utter disregard to his personal safety, he immediately rushed out of his bunker, lobbed nine grenades and engaged the terrorists in close quarter battle. This gallant action resulted in elimination of two terrorists. Continuing focused aggression he rushed back to his light machine gun and recommenced firing, ensuring that the terrorists made no further attempt,” said his citation for the award.
The awards announced 28 Param Vishisht Seva Medals, four Uttam Yudh Seva Medals, 53 Ati Vishisht Seva Medals, 10 Yudh Seva Medals, 123 Vishisht Seva Medals, four Bar to Sena Medals (Gallantry), 107 Sena Medals (Gallantry), five Nao Sena Medals (Gallantry) and four Vayu Sena Medals (Gallantry).