Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who spent some days in Pakistani custody when his MiG-21 was shot down in a dogfight with PAF jets a day after the February 26 Balakot airstrike, will likely be conferred the Vir Chakra on Independence Day. The 36-year-old IAF pilot had suffered injuries while ejecting from his MiG-21 Bison during the aerial combat between Indian and Pakistani air forces on 27 February.
Varthaman, who became the face of a tense military confrontation between India and Pakistan, is set to fly MiG-21 within a few weeks as a medical board cleared his return to fighter cockpit. Official sources said IAF's Bangaluru-based Institute of Aerospace Medicine has given the go-ahead to Varthaman to fly again following a thorough medical evaluation. Varthaman was captured by the Pakistani Army on 27 February after his MiG-21 Bison jet was shot down in a dogfight with Pakistani jets during aerial combat. Before his jet was hit, he downed an F-16 fighter of Pakistan. Varthaman was released on the night of 1 March by Pakistan.