Wednesday, 19 January, 2022
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A year on, IAF hero Abhinandan is training for another Balakot and training young pilots

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, now posted in the western sector, is due for promotion and command position next year.

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New Delhi: A year after Indian Air Force (IAF) Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman catapulted to national fame, when the country prayed for his safe return from captivity in Pakistan, the officer is back to full-time flying in the Western sector, training young officers for another “situation like Balakot”.

The IAF officer who became a ‘hero’ in India after the dogfight between Indian and Pakistani pilots on 27 February, is now living the life of a regular officer at an IAF base in the Western sector. He was moved out of the Srinagar air base, where he was posted at the time of the conflict, due to security concerns.

Fully recovered from his back injury sustained during ejection and subsequent beatings in Pakistani custody, the officer was awarded the Vir Chakra — the third highest gallantry award in the military — last year.

‘Training’ next generation of fighter pilots

Speaking to ThePrint about Abhinandan Varthaman’s presence in the IAF, a senior officer said, “He is a hero and a pride of the IAF. Those who know him will know that he does not bother about his exalted status within the military. He is back to doing what he loves the most — flying.”

A second officer said Varthaman is flying with young officers, which is a huge motivation for them.

“He is literally training the next generation of fighter pilots. During peacetime, the entire flying if for training so that whenever a situation like Balakot or what happened on 27 February 2019 happens, one is always prepared. He is a senior pilot now and youngsters learn from him by flying together,” said the officer, who didn’t wish to be named.

Also read: How Afghan intel helped India carry out the Balakot air strike

Due for promotion next year

According to sources, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman is due for promotion as a Group Captain next year. He will also be due for his Command, or his own unit, next year.

During last year’s skirmish with Pakistan, Varthaman was third in hierarchy in the Srinagar-based 51 Squadron, where he was the deputy flight commander.

What Varthaman did last year

In the early morning hours of 27 February 2019, about 25 Pakistani fighter jets including F-16s, backed by the SAAB airborne warning and control systems (AWACS), headed to target Indian military installations.

Left to defend the Indian airspace were two Su-30 MKI in south of Pir Panjal, and two upgraded Mirages in the north of the mountains. They were outnumbered and outgunned.

At this moment, IAF’s Barnala-based Integrated Air Command and Control System ordered the scrambling of six MiG-21s.

As the MiGs climbed in the shadow of the Pir Panjal range, Pakistan’s AWACS failed to detect them. The Pakistani fighters were taken aback by the sudden appearance of the MiGs.

There was complete panic on the Pakistani side as more Indian aircraft came to the scene. Pakistani pilots, who suddenly broke into Punjabi rather than sticking to the military codes, fired about 11 H-4 glide-bombs, weighing 1,000 kg each, at Indian military installations, none of which hit the target. The controllers on board the AWACS also broke out in Punjabi.

“The Pakistani strike package had panicked completely. It was the emergence of Abhinandan and his team that surprised the Pakistani and forced them to release their bombs in panic,” said an officer quoted above.

Also read: Inside story of attack on Balakot — from IAF officer who planned and executed it


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  1. Can’t we effing give it to Pakistan for releasing our soldier? If we stop appreciating what deserves appreciation, then I think they’re one level up.

    For what it’s worth, thank you Pakistani army and leadership for releasing our valiant hero.

  2. India n Kia story banai h 27 ,Feb 2019. Indian media aur Kuch logon may. Such Ka samna kerni seekho.
    PAF n intentionally target ko hit naheen Kia aur tum n. Kahani Bana le k target hit naheen Hoy tumhary khouf se.
    Wah g Kia baat h tumhari

    A symbol of pride for nation.

  3. Abhinandan switched off his IFF like his training missions in IAF, but he forgot the superior awareness of the PAF Saab awacs and was promptly shot down by a Amraam missile. The bunkim mentioned here of going close to an F16 is just that, Bunkim.

  4. Dear friends in Pakistan with all due respect first ask question from you airforce how come Indian jets reached Balakote and returned safely ….

  5. Wow. Evident how propaganda makes ZERO into Hero.
    His aircraft was shot and he became POW. On basis of mercy and humanitarian grounds he was released and this shot is being portrayed as hero. No shame,

    • he is a hero precisely because he ignored the danger from long range US made AMRAAMs used by Pakistani pilots and got up so close to an F 16 that there was no escape from the Russian R 73 missile. He ignored the threat to his own plane and pushed the envelope of engagement to get a kill. May he inculcate the same spirit of daring in all our younger pilots. Pak will have to face a whole new generation of Abhinandans next time.

    • Pakistan army and PAF should actually hang their heads in same coz of two reasons.
      1) Indian Air Force jets went inside Pakistan, hit it’s targets in Balakot and came back without even a missile being fired at them. That shows how prepared they are .
      2) PAF came in with their frontline F-16s , could not hit even a single Indian target and on the way back lost a F-16 shot by a soon to be retired Mig 21 , but that’s not the worst part. The worst part is again disowned the brave PAK F-16 pilot who died fighting for his country.

      Also to add, Wing Commander Abhinandan was not released coz of humanity, the Pak establishment knew what was about to be announced and what would subsequently fall on them at 5:30 pm on 28th Feb when the media was supposed to be addressed by the three 4star generals from the Indian side and announcements were supposed to be made. That’s the reason Imran talked about is release at 4:30 pm on 28th . The last time three 4 star generals have ever done a press conference together was 1971 , fyi .

    • Speaking of heroes, you can see the difference between pow behaviour and treatment. Proud of Abhinandans galantry and poise in face of abhorrent treatment against all military ethos by the Pakis. Compare this with the meek, cowardly surrender of another Niazi!! Just Search youtube to see The start difference!

    • THis just shows that INdian defence officers don’t view Pakistanis as enemies, just adversaries. They are willing to give credit where it is due .
      They are willing to give as good as they get but don’t hold it permanently against the Pakistanis. Great credit to Abhinandan for this.

    • @Saleem. thought pakis were more generous, so much talk for just 1 cup of tea? India gave Tea, food, shelter to 90000 paki cowards, even gave back captured land in West Pakistan! But then again, seeing the state of Your economy one can understand the miserly complaining on one cup of Tea. We can send a few trucks full of tea if you ask nicely!

  6. Hahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahahahahhahahahaha
    Pagal bnate ho tum logon ka tu apna Abhinandan hamare geet gata ha kehte ho tu uski mere sath conversation send karun. 😂😜

    • 1 plane down doesnt mean anything, kind of like winning Champions Trophy by fluke, the team is still weak and lost every other time..but your real rulers already know this reality! Worrying matter for you Pakis should be your incompetence of day before when 16 Indian aircraft went deep into country for 25 minutes with no resistance at all! But then again Same thing happened when US came for OBL!

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