NEW DELHI: Acknowledging the gallantry exhibited by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman in the face of the enemy, President awarded him with Vir Chakra on Wednesday while flight controller Squadron Leader Minty Agarwal has become the first woman officer to get a Yudh Seva Medal.
Wing Commander Abhinandan had shot down a Pakistan Air Force F-21 while they tried to attack Indian military targets but in the process, his MiG-21 was hit and crashed in enemy area.
He was apprehended by the Pakistan army but released and handed over to India on March 1.
Vir Chakra is the third highest gallantry award given for acts in the face of the enemy. The other IAF officers associated with the Balakot operations were also given awards.
“President Shri Ram Nath Kovind, who is also the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, approved 132 Awards to Armed Forces Personnel and members of Paramilitary Forces on the eve of the 73rd Independence Day,” said the Ministry of Defence in its release.
In addition, IAF also got five Yudh Seva Medals and seven Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry) which also includes Mirage fighter pilots who took part in the Balakot strike.
Of the 13 medals to IAF, 12 are fighter pilots. Lady Officer Sqn Ldr Minty Agarwal has been awarded Yudh Seva Medal.
She was the flight controller on the ground when the aerial engagement on February 27 had taken place. Two women officers of the Army were earlier given Sena Medal for Gallantry.
Gallantry Awards are given by the Government of India to honour the acts of bravery and sacrifice of the officers/personnel of the Armed Forces, paramilitary and civilians.
These gallantry awards are announced twice in a year —first on the occasion of the Republic Day and then on the occasion of the Independence Day.