Wg. Cdr. Abhinandan Varthaman, who was awarded Vir Chakra for shooting down a Pakistani F-16 during Balakot air strike, led a Mig-21 Bison formation at the Air Force Day parade on Tuesday.
The Air Force Day flypast to mark the 87th Air Force Day celebrations also saw other pilots who took part in the Balakot air strike and were recently given Gallantry awards.
Five gallantry awardees led an Avenger formation comprising three Mirage 2000s and two Su-30MKI aircraft. The Mirages were piloted by Sqn. Ldr. Bhujadey, Gp. Capt. P. Raj and Wg. Cdr. Basoya. The Su-30s were piloted by Wg. Cdr. K.P. Singh and Sqn. Ldr. Parshuram.
IAF chief R.K.S. Bhadauria decorated the 51 Squadron and the 9 Squadron for their role in the air strike on terrorist camps in Pakistan’s Balakot in February.
IAF personnel who were part of the Balakot air strike and the air engagement a day after in February were earlier awarded gallantry medals on the eve of Independence Day. Wg. Cdr. Varthaman, who was caught by Pakistan after his MiG-21 Bison fighter jet went down across the Line of Control (LoC) on February 27 and was returned three days later was awarded Vir Chakra (VrC), the country’s third-highest gallantry award.
Every year, the Air Force Day is celebrated at Hindon base in presence of the IAF chief and senior officials of the three armed forces.
The IAF was founded on October 8, 1932, and the force has participated in several crucial wars and landmark missions.
(With inputs from PTI)