MPA (400+ posts)
There’s a “good chance” of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman returning to a fighter cockpit soon but the final clearance will be given by the Bengaluru-based Institute of Aerospace Medicine (IAM) where the 35-year-old will undergo a series of tests in the coming weeks, two Indian Air Force officials with direct knowledge of the matter said on the condition of anonymity.
Varthaman created military aviation history by shooting down a Pakistani F-16 during a dogfight with the Pakistan Air Force over the Line of Control on February 27, seconds before his own MiG-21 Bison was hit by a missile forcing him to eject. Experts have hailed it as the first ever kill of an F-16 by a MiG-21 Bison, fighter jets of two different generations. He could be recommended for a Vir Chakra, India’s third-highest war-time gallantry award, HT learns.
The aerial skirmish took place a day after Indian Mirage 2000s struck targets in Pakistan’s Balakot in response to the Pulwama suicide attack in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force men were killed on February 14.
Varthaman was in Delhi last week for a medical review at the Air Force Central Medical Establishment, the same facility where he was first brought to on March 1 after his repatriation from Pakistan where he spent almost 60 hours in custody.
The medical establishment is a specialist facility where aircrews from the three services are assessed for flying fitness. Doctors at the Army Hospital (Research and Referral) have also been involved in his medical assessment and treatment. He was diagnosed with injuries to his spine and rib.
“In such ejection cases, specialists usually assess a pilot’s health for up to 12 weeks before they clear him for flying again. So we will know about Abhinandan by May-end. But going by the current health indicators and the officer’s determination to return to fighter flying, we hope to see him in a g-suit soon,” said the first official.
Next time there will be no tea only Dandas.
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