The Indian Air Force on Saturday recommended Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman for the wartime gallantry medal Vir Chakra for shooting down a Pakistani F-16 in an aerial dogfight on February 27
The Vir Chakra is the third highest gallantry award in the military during the times of war after the Param Vir Chakra and Mahavir Chakra.
In February, Wing Commander Varthaman shot down an F-16 combat aircraft from his legacy MiG-21 Bison aircraft. He had shot down Pakistan's F-16 fitted with AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles in the air.
Earlier this week, Wing Commander Varthaman underwent medical tests at a Delhi-based facility for becoming eligible to fly the MiG-21s again.
Following the aerial dogfight, he was captured by the Pakistani Army on February 27 after his MiG-21 Bison jet was shot down during combat.
He was released by Pakistan after 48 hours on March 1. While he was in Pakistan custody, he showed extreme courage and grace in handling the most difficult circumstances in the neighbouring country.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also hailed the officer after he returned to India, saying that the 'nation is proud of his exemplary courage'.
"It is good to be back in my country," was the first reaction of IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman as he set his foot back on Indian soil, as stated by an official quoting the ace pilot after he received him at the Attari-Wagah border soon after his release by Pakistan.
Indian Air Force had also taken to describe Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman as someone who "hunted the hunter". Posting a poem on it's official Twitter handle, the IAF described the fighter pilot's feat as something that is not possible for everyone.
(With agency inputs)