New Delhi: Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, the Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot whose unflinching courage in the wake of his capture by Pakistan in February made him a national hero in India, is nearing a return to active duty.
According to reports, the Bengaluru-based Institute of Aerospace Medicine, the final certifying authority on the fitness of a pilot, has declared the Wing Commander fit to fly. The officer, who is currently posted in Rajasthan after being moved from his Srinagar airbase due to security threats, is likely to resume flying duties within the next fortnight.
According to senior IAF officials, he needs to complete some paperwork and undergo a refresher course since he has been away from flying for a long time.
Wing Commander Varthaman, who was released by Pakistan after 60 hours in its captivity, had undergone a series of debriefings on his return to India.
The 36-year-old was flying a MiG-21 Bison which was shot down by a group of F-16s of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), over Jammu’s Nowshera on February 27, in retaliation to the IAF’s strikes on a Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camp in Pakistan’s Balakot, the day before.
The Wing Commander’s Bison was one among several fighters scrambled by the IAF to intercept the approaching Pakistani fighters. Earlier, the IAF action was in response to February 14’s Pulwama suicide attack, which was claimed by the JeM.
Varthaman is also credited with shooting down one of the intruding F-16s, a claim vehemently refuted by Pakistan. The IAF, nonetheless, has recommended him for the Vir Chakra, India’s third-highest war-time gallantry award.
The official announcement is expected to be made on August 14, a day before Independence Day.