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Come September, Wing Commander Abhinandan could fly with IAF chief in a MiG-21 Bison

The plan is to make Abhinandan Varthaman fly during the Apache attack helicopters induction ceremony in Pathankot on 3 September. He’s medically cleared.

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New Delhi: If things go to plan, Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman could fly with Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa in a MiG-21 Bison in Pathankot in early September, ThePrint has learnt.

Sources said there are plans to make Abhinandan — who has been selected for the Vir Chakra for his role in thwarting the Pakistani offensive a day after the Balakot strikes in February — fly during the induction ceremony of the Apache attack helicopters on 3 September. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will be the chief guest at the event.

The plan is yet to be finalised completely, sources said.

Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa, a Kargil veteran, has flown the MiG-21 Bison before, and has regularly flown fighter aircraft during his tenure as the IAF chief. He is set to retire on 30 September.

Cleared to fly

Wing Commander Abhinandan has already started flying the MiG-21 Bison at an air force station in Rajasthan, five months after he injured his back and ribs due to the hard landing and the subsequent beatings he received in Pakistani custody.

The IAF’s Bengaluru-based Institute of Aerospace Medicine had given him the go-ahead to fly again late last month, following a thorough medical evaluation.

“He has been flying for the last two weeks and is an inspiration for all of us. He has always been eager to fly,” a source said.

The 36-year-old Wing Commander was captured by the Pakistani Army on 27 February after his MiG-21 Bison was shot down in a dogfight with Pakistani jets during aerial combat, a day after the Balakot strike. He was released by Pakistan on the night of 1 March.

Seconds before his jet was hit, Abhinandan downed a Pakistani F-16 fighter. The fighter pilot drew admiration not just for this feat, but also the calmness and composure he showed in captivity, as seen in a number of videos released by Pakistan.

“Abhinandan behaved like a true Indian soldier in enemy custody,” a source said.

In an attempt to break him, Pakistani intelligence agency ISI also made him speak to his wife, former IAF helicopter pilot Tanvi Marwah, but the couple played it by the book.

Also read: What Wing Commander Abhinandan told his wife when he called while in Pakistan’s custody


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  1. It has been proved beyond doubts through various articles published in The Print, The Wire and news papers with detailed ground report. A Flying Branch officer whose complete family is dedicated to serve the nation and whose father is also retired from a top post of IAF, will never accept any reward for which he is not eligible. The IAF is a vast combat force and history of its achievements during peace and war are well documented.

  2. with all due Respect to Abhinandan this NAMO govt is dragging IAF into politics and they wont be able to do the job they are supposed to do. Abhinandan has not achieved anything worth awarded for……this is demeaning of the national awards & achievements of others. Shameful politics by NAMO.

  3. Dear Indians,

    First of all as a common Pakistani, with sanity (which is rare across both sides of the border), I have lots of respect for Abhinandan for his composure and calmness during captivity. In fact he inspired me with his confidence.

    Beside that, I would like to straight some facts. 1- No PAF F-16 was shot down. There are couple of ways through which it can be verified. The most important one is that all the F-16s were counted by Lockheed Martin and the local American embassy officials. 2- If it was shot down, the Indian Satellites should be able to capture images of debris which they didn’t because no plane was downed.

    Now coming to Balakot attack. The place the IAF hit bombs was an empty space and it has been shown to embassy officials of many countries and to international media. It was all rock and empty space.

    So the Indian masses were misled by Modi Sarkar to score election votes. Don’t you understand that? Modi don’t have a social and economic agenda and he can’t deliver on these fronts. He has got nationalism on his cards which he has effectively used.

    Please have the courage and strength to differentiate when bullshit is sold to you by your foreign, home or defense ministry.

    The ability to challenge what is fed will help you see the bigger picture correctly.

    If you have seen the Modi government in the past and in new term, they have not brought solutions to much dire problems like poverty, USD 530 bn + of loans on the government, slowing economy, etc he is diverting the attention of masses to nationalism because he sells it the best.

    All the Indian opposition parties and the individuals who condemn Modi and his acts may be labelled as traitors, rightly so as the common man doesn’t have the intellect to fathom how they are being played by the Government.

    You must know that Governments around the world lie to their people because their interest are bigger than the common interests of common people. So, keep your emotions neutral and weigh everything which is thrown at you with conscience.

    May peace prevail in Subcontinent for the people.

  4. Hi Archie. U definitely need a visit to a mental asylum or to the ISI HQ. We have a warrior who has come out from captivity and u r calling it a joke.

    • agression on Archie when he voiced a truth? “Warior” didnt “came out”, he was willingly released by the enemy to show a higher moral ground.

      Its ok to be shot and archie attitude is quite mature. Rather your attitude of plain denial of truth insults Abhinandan.

  5. Please get in touch with some politician to get some award if it’s so. The fellow flying officers of Wg.Cdr. Abhinandan Verthaman, Vr. C. F(P) are proud of, that one among them proved his metal to be Fighter Pilot who has been conferred with the third highest Award. Also, a Fighter Pilot never eject (leave his aircraft) untill unless it turns into a fire ball. Spare time and meet a Fighter Pilot of IAF, you will understand the difference. Merely posting comments with doubtfull mind makes others to laugh.

  6. Fly high and land safely. Air Chief Marsal BS Dhanova, COAS, before retirement in Sep,2019, is pleased to have sortie with Wg.Cdr. Abhinandan Verthaman, Vr.C. F(P) in Mig-21Bison and this five decade fighter will also be phased out from IAF fleet. Good luck and best wishes.

  7. I wonder what his fellow flying officers think about all this. For a man whose aircraft was shot down by the enemy and who was captured, why all this honour? Purely political, no doubt.

    • Hi Archie, he is first person to down F16 in the world.
      Just imagine what damage he could have done with Su30MKI or Rafael.

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