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.
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.
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