New Delhi: Exactly twenty years ago, squadron leader Ajay Ahuja of the Indian Air Force's Golden Arrow Squadron was killed by Pakistani soldiers after he ejected from his aircraft in Batalik Sector. His body was found with two bullets pumped in his body. He was trying to locate flight lieutenant Kambampati Nachiketa, who was on a bombing mission and had ejected after his engine flamed out. He was subsequently taken a prisoner of war. The Kargil war was at its height and India was coming to terms with the scale of the intrusion in Kargil.

Indian Air Force's Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa then commanding the Golden Arrows Squadron, paid tribute to Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja who was killed in action during the operation Safed Sagar in the Kargil war of 1999. Dhanoa led the 'Missing Man' formation flypast of MiG-21 aircraft from the Bhisiana IAF station. Air Marshal R Nambiar, also took part in the tribute. 

The missing man formation is done to pay tribute to the martyrs of IAF who lost their lives in action. India is celebrating 20 years of Kargil Vijay Diwas of victory over Pakistan during the 1999 war. IAF played a pivotal role in deciding the result of the war and launched their first attack on the Pakistani posts on May 26, 1999.

On May 27, 1999, at about 10.30 am six aircraft-four MiG 27 fighters on attack role, and two MiG-21 fighters in escort role took off from Srinagar after successfully attacking Muntho Dhalo, the biggest Pakistani supply base in the Batalik Sector. It was then Flt Lt Kambampati Nachiketa jet suffered a flame-out, and he had to eject. Squadron Leader Ahuja decided to locate where flight lieutenant Nachiketa had ejected and sent back the GPS coordinates so that he could be rescued. While attempting to locate downed fellow pilot, squadron leader Ahuja was hit by a stinger missile. 

By sheer perseverance, he was able to locate the possible crash site and transmitted this information to the rescue helicopters. Unfortunately, at this stage, his aircraft was hit by a surface to air missile. With the exemplary presence of mind and cool professionalism, he attempted to nurse the aircraft towards a safer area. But when the aircraft engine flamed out squadron leader Ahuja had no choice but to eject. He ejected safely and had the presence of mind to transmit his last recorded ground position. 

Also read: Know about Operation Safed Sagar that changed the tide of Kargil War

On May 28, 1999, the body of squadron leader Ahuja was handed over to Indian authorities. The body bore two bullet injuries. It was reported that the left knee fracture was sustained when he parachuted down, but the gunshots show that he landed alive and was shot. His death was called a cold-blooded murder.

Squadron leader Ajay Ahuja hailed from Kota in Rajasthan. He was an alumnus of the National Defence Academy and was commissioned in the IAF on June 14, 1985, as a fighter pilot. Over fourteen years in various squadrons of the IAF, he served as an operational pilot on MiG-21 variants and on the MiG-23 fighter bomber. He grew up in service to become a top instructor with an experience of over 1000 hours spent in instructing ab-initio pilots.

He was extremely popular among his pupils because of his patient and cheerful nature. A thorough professional, the officer was the Flight Commander of the Golden Arrows. We salute this brave officer for his gallantry and draw inspiration from his dedication and bravery. He is survived by his wife Alka Ahuja and son Ankush.