The heroism of Indian Air Force (IAF) Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman in downing a Pakistani Air Force (PAF) F-16 during the aerial engagement on 27 February will now be remembered in a shoulder patch of the IAF’s Srinagar-based No. 51 Squadron.
The patch, which features a motif of a MiG 21 Bison fighter aircraft – the one that Wg Cdr Abhinandan flew on that day, bears the words ‘Falcon Slayers’. Fighting Falcon is the name by which the American-made F-16 fighter jets are also known.
Wg Cdr Varthaman belongs to the No. 51 Squadron, also called Sword Arms. The squadron has a fleet of MiG-21s.
The ‘Flacon Slayer’ patch also depicts an F-16 under crosshairs in the background.
Besides the MiG-21 Bison squadron, a squadron of Sukhoi-30 MKIs also got a new patch with the name ‘AMRAAM Dogers’, hailing the feat of dodging the air-to-air BVR missiles fired by the F-16s during the engagement.
On 27 February, a day after the Balakot airstrike, PAF fighter jets violated Indian airspace over Jammu-Kashmir to target Indian military installations.
The PAF fighter fleet had F-16s among them. IAF fighter jets intercepted the PAF jets, resulting in an aerial engagement that led to the downing of an F-16 by Wg Cdr Varthaman. In the process, Wg Cdr Varthaman’s MiG 21 Bison was shot down and he was taken captive by Pak Army.
Wg Cdr Varthaman was released on 1 March after India successfully mounted global diplomatic pressure on Pakistan.
Patches are worn on the flying overalls. They depict a major achievement of the squadron and instil a sense of pride in all the pilots of the squadron.