Air Chief BS Dhanoa gives 3 reasons why sortie with Abhinandan Varthaman was special

All of us know by now that Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa on Monday went on a MiG 21 sortie with Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who shot down a Pakistan Air Force F-16 fighter jet during the aerial dogfight after the Balakot air strikes in February. But, not many know that Dhanoa had earlier also flown with Abhinandan’s father Simhakutty Varthaman, who retired as an Air Marshal.

Listing the reasons why Monday’s flight was special, the Air Chief Marshal said: “Both of us have two things in common. First, both of have ejected and second, both of us have fought Pakistanis. I fought in Kargil, he fought after Balakot. Third, I’ve flown with his father. It’s an honour for me to do my last sortie in IAF, in a fighter aircraft, with his son.”

Both Dhanoa and Varthaman, a Vir Chakra awardee, have played key roles in conflict situations. The Air Chief Marshal, who is also a MiG-21 pilot, destroyed Pakistan supply dumps along the Line of Control (LoC) during the 1999 Kargil war which helped turn the tide in India’s favour. Wing Commander Varthaman downed F-16 before his MiG-21 was hit by a missile. He bailed out and taken captive by Pakistan. He returned 60 hours later

With the Monday’s flight both returned to the cockpit after a long gap. “I also got ejected in 1988 and took me 9 months to get my category back but he is back in less than 6 months. So it’s very good for him. At present he is trainer captain and got all his qualification back,” said Dhanoa.

Varthaman returned to the fighter cockpit around two weeks ago after IAF’s Bengaluru-based Institute of Aerospace Medicine gave him the go-ahead to fly again following a thorough medical evaluation.


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