Varthaman was involved in a dogfight with Pakistani jets that entered the Indian airspace on February 27, a day after the Indian Air Force’s airstrikes on a Jaish-e-Mohammed camp in Balakot. Indian Air Force Squadron Leader Minty Agarwal will be conferred with Yudh Seva Medal for her role as a fighter controller during the operation, ANI reported.
The Vir Chakra is awarded for acts of gallantry in the presence of enemy. It is the third-highest military award after the Param Vir Chakra and the Maha Vir Chakra.
Varthaman became the first Indian Air Force pilot to shoot down the Pakistani Air Force’s advanced F-16 jet. However, his MiG-21 Bison jet was shot down in Pakistan while he was chasing the Pakistani jets. He was captured by the Pakistani Army. Islamabad released Varthaman on the night of March 1 after holding him captive for more than 60 hours.
His courage was praised across the nation and Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the pilot was an inspiration to many. The wing commander has undergone a series of physical and mental evaluations since his release, and is likely to return to duty soon. The tests were reportedly conducted to check if Varthaman had suffered internal injuries and whether Pakistani authorities planted electronic spying devices in his body.
The Balakot strikes were conducted in retaliation against the February 14 Pulwama terrorist attack in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force Personnel were killed. The attack was carried out by Jaish-e-Mohammed.