Wing Commander Abhinandan returned to India on Friday, two days after accomplishing an extraordinary - perhaps unprecedented - feat in the skies above Lam Valley in J&K's Nowshera, after which he was captured by Pakistan.
On the day after the IAF's precision strike at Pakistan's terror camps across the LoC, at about 9:45 am, Wing Commander Abhinandan was part of a 4-aircraft strong MIG-21 Bison Combat Air Patrol (CAP) formation above Srinagar. At a time of heightened alertness, their task was to patrol Srinagar's airspace.
At that point, the Indian Air Force received a sudden alert that a squadron of Pakistan fighter jets was bearing on Indian airspace. The size of the formation was 24 - large - and later confirmed to comprise F-16s, Mirages and JF-17s.
Wing Commander Abhinandan's MIG-21 formation was immediately diverted to head off the ingressing Pakistani fighters, while other squadrons of the Indian Air Force were also scrambled.
Hurtling towards the intruders, the IAF's 4-strong MIG squadron intercepted the Pakistan Air Force's attack contingent, and engaged the numerically-superior and technologically more sophisticated force in a fierce battle.
Attacking ferociously despite being outnumbered, the Indian MIGs broke the Pakistani formation and scuttled the Pakistan Air Force fighters, as a result of which they weren't able to accomplish their intended goal of attacking Indian targets.
In the high-altitude dogfight that ensued, flying a 1960s aircraft, Wing Commander Abhinandan used his close-combat R73 missile to shoot down a Pakistani F-16 - an unheard of feat.
Yes, the brave Indian pilot who was in Pakistan's custody was the Indian hero who shot down the Pak F-16!
Having found his mark, Wing Commander Abhinandan was then tailed by multiple Pak F-16s but evaded them, only eventually being brought down by Pakistani ground fire.
His aircraft hit and crippled, Wing Commander Abhinandan ejected and his parachute was caught in a westerly heading, because of which he landed in Pakistan's territory and was finally subdued, but not before he and his squad-mates demolished Pakistan's attempt to hurt India.