Balakot pilot Abhinandan Varthaman clears medical tests, set to fly soon
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, whose fighter aircraft was shot down in a dogfight with Pakistan Air Force over Nowshera in Jammu on February 27, will be flying the MiG-21 fighter within the next fortnight, senior officials aware of the details said.
The Bangalore-based Institute of Aerospace Medicine - the final certifying authority on the fitness of a pilot – declared Wing Commander Abhinandan fit to fly.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was part of the fighter fleet that was sent to counter a package of incoming PAF fighters comprising F-16s among others on February 27, 2019. The day before on February 26 – Indian fighters comprising Mirage-2000 had used precision munitions to target the Kyber Phaktunkhwa based terror training camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). Pakistan responded the next morning by sending fighters to bomb Indian military installations along the Line-of Control – the disputed boundary between India and Pakistan.
Wing Commander Abhinandan who shot down an US-made F-16 fighter jet during the dogfight was taken prisoner by Pakistan after he ejected into Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK). The PAF used the AM -120 or AMRAAM missiles during the dogfight. Only the US made-F16s are capable of firing these missiles. Pakistan, however, denied having lost an aircraft. Nonetheless, the PHALCON airborne warning and control system that was assisting the Indian fighter package had picked up a F-16 going down after the dogfight.
“There is some paperwork that needs to be done before Wing Commander Abhinandan can start flying and also he has to do a short refresher course since he was away from flying for a few months. We expect him to be flying after a fortnight,” a senior IAF official who did not want to be named explained.
The Indian Air Force has recommended a gallantry award – Vir Chakra – the third-highest wartime gallantry award - for Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. The announcement is expected to be made on August 15.
Wing Commander Abhinandan was posted at the Srinagar-airbase and was moved away from the valley because of a security threat and is now posted in a frontline airbase in Rajasthan.