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Wg Cdr Abhinandan Varthaman, who downed Pak F-16, flies MiG-21 with IAF chief

The Indian Air Force Chief is also a MiG-21 pilot and had flown the planes during the 1999 Kargil war while commanding the 17 Squadron, during the war.

SNS | New Delhi |

Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was awarded the Vir Chakra gallantry medal on August 15, on Monday flew a sortie in a MiG-21 fighter aircraft along with Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa.

The sortie was flown from the Pathankot airbase in Punjab. The sortie lasted for around half-an-hour and was conducted on a trainer version of the MiG-21 Type 69 fighter aircraft.

The Indian Air Force Chief is also a MiG-21 pilot and had flown the planes during the 1999 Kargil war while commanding the 17 Squadron, during the war. It was the last sortie flown by IAF Chief in a fighter aircraft before retirement.

Following the sortie, Dhanoa said that it was a “pleasure” for him to fly with Abhinandan as the pilot has got his flying category back. “I also ejected in 1988, it took me nine months to get my category back. He has been back in less than 6 months,” the IAF chief told news agency ANI.

Dhanoa further said that both of them have two things in common – first, both of them ejected and second, both of them have fought Pakistanis. The IAF chief fought in Kargil while Abhinandan fought in Balakot.

“I have flown with his father. It’s an honour for me to do my last sortie in IAF, in a fighter aircraft, with his son,” he added.

Abhinandan had been cleared for flying last month following a thorough medical check-up. He started flying the MiG-21 in August after he was declared medically fit from injuries he sustained while ejecting from a fighter jet that was hit by a Pakistani missile on February 27.

The Institute of Aerospace Medicine had declared Abhinandan medically fit.

Abhinandan was captured by Pakistan after his MiG-21 Bison jet was shot down in a dogfight with Pakistani jets during an aerial combat. His own aircraft had been hit by a missile forcing him to eject from the fighter jet before it crashlanded in Pakistan.

After he was captured, Abhinandan Varthaman showed courage and grace in handling the most difficult circumstances for which he was praised by politicians, strategic affairs experts, ex-servicemen, celebrities and people in general.

Abhinandan Varthaman became the first IAF pilot to shoot down an F-16 fighter jet during an aerial combat with the Pakistani Air Force.

Pakistani security forces released him to India around 60 hours later at the Wagah border following diplomatic pressure from India.

The Vir Chakra is the third highest wartime military award in India.