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Independence Day awards: 5 IAF pilots who carried out Balakot air strikes to get gallantry award

The five Mirage-2000 fighter pilots of the Indian Air Force who dropped bombs on the terror facility of the Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camp in Pakistan are being named for the Vayu Sena Medal for gallantry to be announced on the eve of Independence Day, official sources said.

The fighter planes had destroyed the JeM camp in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s province after entering Pakistani airspace for the first time in 48 years following a suicide bombing claimed by the terror group.

Forty troopers of the Central Reserve Police Force were killed in the car bombing in Pulwama on February 14 that led to escalation in tensions between India and Pakistan.

The five Mirage pilots being named for the military honours are Wing Commander Amit Ranjan and Squadron Leaders Rahul Basoya, Pankaj Bhujade, Shashank Singh and BKN Reddy.

This is the first time that the Indian Air Force is identifying the pilots who struck targets in Balakot with Israeli-origin Spice 2000 bombs.

The February 26 operation by IAF involved Mirage 2000s and 2000is that carried out the attack, Sukhoi 30s MKi that acted as decoys and were also meant to provide cover in case the Mirages were intercepted, Phalcon AWACS and Embraer AEWS mid-air refuellers, and Heron drones for photographing the targets after the attack.

One of the five pilots later spoke about how the airstrike was over in all of 90 seconds.

But the preparations for the airstrikes had gone on for days. In the days ahead of the strikes, the Indian Air Force had increased the number of air patrols flown along the Line of Control to throw off Pakistan air defences.

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