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New Delhi: The Indian Air Force is set to recommend the name of a young woman squadron leader for a medal for distinguished service after she showed “exceptional” courage to guide India’s response to the air raid attempted by Pakistan on 27 February.

Top defence sources said the officer, who is not being identified by ThePrint due to security concerns, took over the reins at the secure control room in Punjab.

She is the one who called for the scrambling of seven MiG-21 Bison aircraft and informed the pilots in the air about the presence of F-16s with AMRAAMs.

“She did an exceptional job and will be recommended for a distinguished service medal,” a source told ThePrint.

Multiple sources within the defence establishment have corroborated the role played by the officer.

Also readIAF Wing Commander Abhinandan didn’t break, share military info despite Pakistani “interrogation”

How events unfolded

Sources said around 8:45 am on 27 February, the first signs of a possible attack emerged — Pakistan had closed down its civilian airspace and stopped all commercial flights.

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Half an hour later, IAF assets picked up multiple aircraft taking off from different air bases.

In total, about 25 aircraft took off, which included F-16s, Mirages and JF-17s.

Noticing the movement, the squadron leader first informed two Mirage 2000s flying Combat Air Patrol sorties north of the Pir Panjal range, and two Sukhoi Su-30 MKIs flying south of the mountains.

A few Pakistani fighters took off in the direction of the international border with Rajasthan, and the officer coordinated with those on CAP duty in that sector as well.

“As the aircraft moved in towards the Kashmir sector, she gave live updates to the pilots in air about the Pakistani formation. Realising that the fighters are outnumbered, she called in for MiG-21 Bisons,” a source said.

Since the MiGs climbed in the shadow of the Pir Panjal range, Pakistan’s airborne early warning and control system (AWAC) failed to detect them. The MiGs’ sudden appearance proved to be a blessing for India, as Pakistani fighters were taken aback.

Later, during the dogfight, when Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman crossed the LoC while chasing a fleeing Pakistani jet, the officer repeatedly shouted “turn cold, turn cold”. But Abhinandan could not hear anything inside his Bison, as Pakistan had jammed radio frequencies.

Also read:This is the MiG-21 Bison, the fighter jet Wg Cdr Abhinandan flew to take on Pakistan’s F-16s


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8 Comments Share Your Views


  1. The lady officer was part of the IAF. So how was she helping the IAF. She was doing her job.

    Your choice of words needs improvement.

  2. On a slightly different note, Indian media was particularly inept in its articulation of what actually happened in the alleged Balakot assault. The terror outfits in Pakistan, at whose hands Pakistan has lost an estimated 70,000 civilian and military casualties, are highly sophisticated with years of operational experience starting with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and thus arguably far superior than any other guerrilla outfit worldwide.

    For anyone, mush less Indian defense analysts, to suggest that a terror camp was hit in Balakot, most of which was in fact wiped out by the October 2005 earthquake, is asinine and laughable. Yes, there are numerous medressahs (religious seminaries) in and around most small and mid-size cities, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but no alleged “sitting ducks” type training camps surrounded by pine and deodar trees in Balakot or in its vicinity. Yes, Wing Commander Abhinandan lightened his Mig 21 by getting rid of his arsenal in an empty lot. Surely, satellite images of the episode will confirm this.

  3. She showed exceptional courage by sitting in the control room. It was her job and anyone in her place would’ve done the same. It’s not like she was flying. But coming to a larger point. I am basically skeptical of both countries narratives. I belive truth is somewhere in between. IAF claimed that they deliberately struck a terror camp on morning of 26th. PAF said India came few nautical miles across LOC (not fly 90km into Pakistan) and when engaged dropped their payload and ran away. To prove their point, they show where bombs fell. Officially, we only had a 2 line statement but from Indian media we had story of striking 3 targets in different places and being in Pakistan airspace for 24 min etc etc. Every independent analyst says that IAF missed the mark but from Indian side we have story of small holes on roof that were entry points of bunker buster bombs (even though those holes or smudges on the roof existed before the strike as well) which don’t damage the building (even though it was not a concrete bunker but a normal shabby brick building). So there was large variance in what is said officially and what is leaked by so called sources. Few days later, IAF says we used stand off weapons, but one target in balakot and might not have even crossed LOC. So pardon me if I find statements from Pakistan and Independent sources + local people interviews by AFP & Reuters to be more truthful and closer to reality than what India claims. Now regarding events of 27th. Pakistan claims that it locked-on to Indian military targets including brig. HQ and then launched missiles on empty places around the installations. Indian version is (article above being one example) that we engaged PAF and they ran away when challenged. That is why they didn’t hit their intended targets (even though as per PAF their intention was only to give warning to India and not cause Casualties since India didn’t harm anyone yesterday). PAF says they shot 2 Indian planes and captured 2 pilots and in pursuit of another one. Local accounts say they saw 3 pilots on parachute but Pakistan has only produced 1. India initially (again through sources in military speaking to media) denied they lost a plane but once wreckage pics & Abhi was shown, officially accepted loss of plane. Some Indian channels also said that India has lost a SU30 but then went mum. Later when Pakistan changed their statement to 1 pilot, India media (again using sources) started claiming that an F16 had been shot down. Then some idiots started using wreckage pictures of Mig21 and say this is an F16. Pakistan denied that it lost an aircraft and stood on ground that IAF lost 2 planes (even while not giving an explanation about other 2 pilots that they claimed they had). Then we had a tweet by Khalid Umar about Air Marshall’s son Shahzaz-ud-din lynching by locals and India media & politicians latched on to that. But that tweet has been debunked as Air Marshal Waseem-ud-din only has 2 sons and neither in PAF. Also PAF pilots have Pakistan flag on their coverall and their is no way locals can look past that. Pakistan also denied using a F16 in conflict with India. Indians came up with blown up piece of AMRAAM missile as evidence that f16’s were used. Although that is a good evidence to debunk Pakistani claim but it also goes contrary toIndian claim that no other aircraft was lost since AMRAAM’s don’t blow up if they miss the target. The blown up piece Indicates that it hit a target. Also all missiles of Abhinandan’s Mig21 were recovered from wreckage (broken sections but not blown up by AMRAAM that India showed). Long story short, both sides have claims but I find Pakistani claims closer to reality that India’s. Now these sources (which fed u bs throughout the conflict) can keep making stories up but anyone who quotes them only losses his own credibility.

    • Two small queries: (1) If IAF missed the mark and nothing happened to the buildings in Balakot, why was the facility sealed by Pakistani security forces and no media was allowed to verify the alleged hit and miss by IAF? (2) What happened to the second pilot, whoever he was? He could be either Indian or Pakistani and could have belonged to no other nation. Pakistan claimed that two IAF planes were down and two Indian pilots were captured. One was in good health, i.e. Abhinandan and the other was in hospital and thereafter the Pakistani media suddenly went mum about the second pilot. If he was an Indian pilot who died in Pakistani hospital, where is the dead body, where is the wreckage of the second plane? All these pseudo defence analyst miss the fundamental issue about the Balakot air strike. India called Pakistan’s nuclear bluff and has crossed a red line by breaching the LOC and went deep even beyond that in Pakistan’s own territory . Please note that this was not done even in 1999 Kargil war in which Pakistan lost several soldiers and yet didn’t even bother to claim their dead bodies. Who would believe a failed nation on the verge of bankruptcy and which has now become a vassal of China. All it’s international prestige is ruined and is surviving solely on the Chinese money and veto power.

  4. How come abhinandan’s “visual and locked” was heard by the control room but their ” turn cold” couldn’t be heard by him?
    Are you suggesting that Pakistan has this capability of jamming that works only partially (one way) ?
    With already so much misinformation floating around, please do not post such half stories based on hearsay anymore. Either get all the details or be quiet on the matter that you have no knowledge of. Already Mr. Shekhar Gupta has written one fantasy based account of the air battle and reasons of it, showing his military acumen. Let IAF and GOI speak on it only.

  5. ThePrint should not have published the articles related to the security of India…. Even if not identifying the lady official, one should not take the other side lightly as every one has a mole in the cadres which may identify the lady official jeopardizing her security…. The matters related to security of the country should be handled with utmost care….

  6. It’s a pity that indian airmen have to fight with junks like MIG 21s. The responsibilty for this lies with the nehru dynasty which refused to buy modern jets for the IAF to placate its pro-pak votebank.


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