New Delhi: The Indian Air Force (IAF) is going to recommend names of Mirage pilots involved in the Balakot air strikes for the gallantry awards and Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman will be recommended for the Vir Chakra.

According to a senior official, names of 12 Mirage 2000 pilots, who bombed a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), have been recommended for the Vayu Sena medal for gallantry.

Varthaman, who became a national hero by bringing down Pakistan’s highly sophisticated F-16 fighter jet with the IAF’s vintage MiG-21 Bison, has been recommended for the Vir Chakra, the third highest gallantry award in the military after the Param Vir Chakra and the Maha Vir Chakra.

Varthaman is under threat from the JeM, which has been trying to attack Indian military locations and personnel. He is currently posted at an important airbase in the western sector of Srinagar, but keeping his security in mind, the IAF has decided to post him to a different airbase in the western sector. 

Also read: Abhinandan Varthaman joins squadron in Srinagar rather than returning to Chennai home

The IAF Wing Commander will be undergoing medical tests before going to his new place of posting. According to sources, the new place of posting (name of the airbase being withheld due to security reasons) is also a fighter base and if the officer is cleared for flying, he would be able to continue his flying duties.

Varthaman was captured by the Pakistani Army on February 27 after his MiG-21 Bison was shot down in a dogfight with Pakistani jets. Before his aircraft was hit, he downed an F-16 fighter jet of Pakistan. Varthaman was released on the night of March 1 by Pakistan.

After Varthaman’s release by Pakistan, he went on leave in mid-March after security agencies completed a nearly two-week debriefing following his return from Pakistan. He was diagnosed with injuries to his spine and ribs. He had returned to his squadron in Srinagar last month though he was on a four-week sick leave. Varthaman’s wife, Squadron Leader Tanvi Marwah (retd), and their seven-year-old son Tavish are with him in Srinagar.

Also read: This is how Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman brought down Pakistan’s F-16

According to the sources, looking at his determination, it seems Varthaman may soon be able to fly again, but a medical board will review his fitness to help the IAF brass decide whether he can return to the fighter jet cockpit as desired by him.

The final clearance will be given by the Bengaluru-based Institute of Aerospace Medicine (IAM) where Varthaman will undergo a series of tests in the coming weeks.

He is likely to be assigned “light ground duties” before moving to the IAM for the final clearance for flying fighter jets.

Earlier this week, Varthaman underwent medical tests at a Delhi-based facility for becoming eligible to fly the MiG-21s again. He has flown different types of fighter aircraft in the Air Force including the mighty Su-30MKI.