In a historic event, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa and Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who had piloted a MiG-21 Bison retaliating Pakistan Air Force’s attempt to attack India after India’s airstrike at a terror camp in Pakistan’s Balakot in February, flew a sortie together in a two-seater version of the Russian-origin MiG-21.
According to the reports, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman flew a joint sortie with Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa in MiG-21 fighter. The sortie was flown from Pathankot airbase, which is the front-line fighter base and home to the 26 Squadron of the Indian Air Force (IAF).
#WATCH IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa flew a sortie with Wg Cdr Abhinandan Varthaman at Air Force Station Pathankot today in a MiG-21 trainer. It’s the last sortie flown by IAF Chief in a fighter aircraft before retirement.They took off around 1130 hrs for a 30 min sortie. pic.twitter.com/retSoI3EVl
— ANI (@ANI) September 2, 2019
The sortie lasted for around half-an-hour and was conducted on a trainer MiG-21 aircraft. The sortie was also the last time Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa will be flying in a fighter aircraft before his retirement.
Speaking to the media after the sortie, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa said, “It was a pleasure for me to fly with Abhinandan because he has got his flying category back, that is what all pilots look forward to. I also ejected in 1988, it took me 9 months to get my category back. He has been back in less than 6 months.”
“Both of us have things in common – First, both of us ejected and second both of us have fought Pakistanis. I fought in Kargil, he fought after Balakot. Third, I’ve flown with his father. It’s an honour for me to do my last sortie in IAF, in a fighter aircraft, with his son.”
Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa commanded a squadron of frontline ground attack fighters and flew MiG-21 during the Kargil war in 1999. The event witnessed Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa leading from the front by flying a legacy fighter aircraft in an effort to boost the morale of the forces.
Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa has flown in the MiG-21 several times in the last few months. Recently, he led a four-aircraft ‘Missing Man’ formation in honour of the servicemen killed during the Kargil conflict on the twentieth anniversary of the war.
Following the Balakot 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). Abhinandan was held captive in Pakistan for almost 60 hours before he was released on March 1, 2019, due to the tremendous international pressure exerted on the Pakistani government.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was recently awarded for Vir Chakra by the President of India on Independence Day for his exemplary bravery and taking down Pakistani Air Force fighter jets which had attempted to intrude India following Balakot strikes.