Vir Chakra is the third highest gallantry award in the military during times of war after the Param Vir Chakra and the Maha Vir Chakra. In the past, the Indian Air Force pilots who shot down enemy fighters were all given Vir Chakra medals.
The IAF’s recommendation to award Abhinandan Varthaman with Vir Chakra comes even as the IAF fighter pilot was issued transfer orders out of Srinagar to another base in the western sector along the Pakistan border following threats from terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed.
“Security considerations prompted the transfer,” a defence ministry official said and added that Wing Commander Abhinandan’s home base will “be another front-line fighter base.”
Reportedly, Wing Commander Abhinandan’s new base is also a fighter base. If he is cleared for flying, he would be able to continue his flying duties. However, the Indian Air Force has said that the transfer orders to another base were “routine.”
Wing Commander Abhinandan, flying a vintage Russian-made Mig-21 fighter, was part of the Indian Air Force package that took on the Pakistan Air Force warplanes on February 27.
A day prior to this, the Indian Air Force carried out successful ‘non-military pre-emptive strikes’ on Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist camp deep inside Pakistan to dismantle the terror apparatus that had inflicted the suicide attack in Pulwama killing more than 40 brave security personnel of the country.
Following the airstrikes, Pakistan had attempted to attack Indian military establishments before Indian airforce intercepted to thwart their attacks. With its strike package comprising of various aircraft, Indian airforce was successful in pushing back Pakistani jets and during the air fight, one MiG-21 Bison flown by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was hit after it had shot down a more lethal Pakistan’s F-16.
During the aerial engagement, Wing Commander Varthaman’s MiG-21 was hit and he had to eject safely across the Line of Control (LoC). After facing tremendous international pressure, Pakistan government had to release the Indian Air Force pilot.