New Delhi: The Indian Air Force will retire one of its four remaining squadrons of the old MiG-21 fighter jets on 30 September that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was a part of when he had downed an F-16 combat aircraft of Pakistan a day after the Balakot strike in February 2019, said sources as reported by news agency PTI. The number 51 squadron based in Srinagar has been known as ‘Sword Arms’.
The No. 51 Squadron or ‘Sword Arms’ is one of the decorated squadrons of the IAF, and it participated during Operation Safed Sagar (Kargil conflict) in 1999.
“It was conferred with one Vayu Sena Medal and three Mention-in-Dispatches for its effective contribution. During Operation Parakram, the Squadron was tasked with the Air Defence Of Kashmir Valley,” according to the Bharat Rakshak’s website.
The MiG-21 fighter aircraft is serving in the Indian Air Force for a long time. This plane is also called a flying coffin because it has caused many accidents so far, in which many soldiers have lost their lives.
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Significantly, Abhinandan Varthaman was awarded the Vir Chakra on February 27, 2019, for the shooting down of a Pakistani F-16 fighter jet along the Line of Control.
A day before the IAF’s Mirage-2000 bombed Pakistan-occupied Kashmir on February 26, 2019, the Indian Air Force destroyed a terrorist camp in Pakistan’s Balakot. This attack took place in retaliation for the Pulwama suicide attack in Kashmir in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel were martyred on 14 February.
The remaining three MiG-21 squadrons will be retired in a phased manner in 2025, said sources.
Varthaman (presently Group Captain) had taken to the skies to thwart an aerial assault launched by adversaries and participated in a dogfight with Pakistani planes during aerial combat.
Before his MiG-21 Bison jet was shot down, Varthaman had brought down the F-16 fighter of Pakistan. He was given the Vir Chakra, India’s third-highest wartime gallantry medal, on Independence Day in 2019.
(With PTI Inputs)