Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s 51 Squadron will be awarded unit citation by IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria for thwarting Pakistani aerial attack and shooting down a Pakistani F-16 on Feb 27, ANI said. The award will be received by commanding officer Group Captain Satish Pawar. The number 9 squadron whose Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft carried out the Balakot aerial strikes on February 26 during 'Operation Bandar', will also be awarded unit citation, as per ANI. The air strike was carried out a day after India carried out following the dastardly Pulwama attack by Pakistan-backed Jaish-e-Mohammed on February 14.
Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria who recently took over the post from former Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa reiterated on Friday that India shot down a Pakistani F-16 fighter aircraft in the aerial engagement on February 27 while losing a MiG-21. Pakistan has been denying that India shot down one of its F-16 jets. Asked whether the IAF was ready for another Balakot-type strike, the Air Chief Marshal said any terror activity or strike from Pakistan would be responded to according to government's directive. "Whatever be the targets, they will be taken care off," he said. Asked whether Pakistan would be able to block IAF's communication network in future, he said necessary infrastructure has been put in place to ensure safe radio communication.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who downed the Pakistani F-16, could not hear radio messages during the aerial combat on February 27 as the communication was jammed by Pakistan. Minutes later his MiG 21 Bison was hit and he was held captive in Pakistan for three days. "They will not be able to hear and jam our communication network," said the Air Chief. On reports that the terrorist training camp in Balakot has been "reactivated", he said, "If we had not carried out the Balakot strikes, then the level of activities would have been in greater intensity."
When asked about incidents of Pakistani terror groups dropping arms in Punjab border using drones, he said, "I would not say it is a very serious threat. It is a new threat. It is not something which we had not anticipated. Some measures were taken already to deal with the situation." "It is an issue of airspace violation and necessary steps will be taken...Action has been initiated," Bhadauria added.
(With agency inputs)