Days before his retirement from the Indian Air Force, Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa Monday undertook his last combat sortie on a MiG-21 aircraft with Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman at the Pathankot airbase in Punjab. The sortie lasted for around 30 minutes, IAF said.
After completing the sortie, Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa said it was a pleasure to fly with Wing Commander Varthaman who is back as a MiG-21 instructor. “It was a pleasure for me to fly with Abhinandan because he has got his flying category back, that is what all pilots look forward to. I also ejected in 1988, it took me 9 months to get my category back. He has been back in less than 6 months,” he said. See Pics Here
On a lighter note, Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa said he and Abhinandan had two things in common — ejecting from their aircraft and fighting Pakistan.
“Both of us have two things in common — first, both of us ejected (laughs) 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,” he said. As a young pilot, the Air Force chief flew the Mig 21 jet with Varthaman senior, Simhakutty Varthaman, who retired as air marshal.
Air Chief Marshal Dhanao was a MiG-21 pilot during the 1999 Kargil War during which he commanded an IAF squadron. Abhinandan, also a MiG-21 pilot, gained fame when he shot down a Pakistani F-16 aircraft in February after the Balakot airstrike.
He was subsequently held captive by Pakistan after his MiG-21 Bison jet was shot down in a dogfight with Pakistani jets. On August 15, he was conferred the Vir Chakra, India’s third-highest wartime gallantry medal. Days after he returned from Pakistan, Varthaman conveyed to the IAF brass his wish to return to a fighter cockpit at the earliest. IAF fighter jets bombed a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on February 26, nearly two weeks after the Pulwama strike. Pakistan retaliated on February 27 by attempting to target Indian military installations.