Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman and heroes of the Balakot operation stole the show at the Air Force Day parade held at the Hindon Air Base in Ghaziabad on Tuesday with their fly past on fighter jets.
Chief of the Indian Air Force, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, was the chief guest at the 87th Air Force Day celebrations in Ghaziabad. The parade was also attended by Army Chief General Bipin Rawat and Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh.
Abhinandan, who had shot down a Pakistani F-16 in an aerial dogfight on February 27 near the India-Pakistan border, flew past in an avenger formation leading a group of three MiG-21 Bison fighter jets. His aerial manoeuvre was greeted with huge cheers from the crowds gathered at the Hindon Air Base to witness the air show.
A Vir Chakra medal had been conferred upon Abhinandan on Independence Day this year for his gallantry in shooting down the Pakistan F-16 with a MiG-21 Bison.
Heroes of the pre-dawn air strikes carried out on February 27 by Indian Air Force (IAF) upon a terror camp near Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan were also part of the spectacular air show. These pilots had bombed the terror camp with five Mirage 2000 fighter jets.
Group Captain Saumitra Tamaskar, who was among the pilots awarded with Vayu Sena medals on Independence Day for spearheading the Balakot air strikes, flew past in a formation of three Jaguar fighter jets. A formation of three Mirage 2000 aircraft was led by Group Captain Hemant Kumar, another Balakot hero.
Squadron Leader Pankaj Bhujade and Wing Commander Rahul Basoya, who had flown fighter jets into Pakistan for bombing the Jaish-e-Muhammed terror camp, also flew past in Mirage 2000 aircraft. These two pilots had also been honoured with the Vayu Sena medals on Independence Day.
The air show began with a fly past by three heavy-lift twin rotor Chinook helicopters. This was followed by a fly past with the Apache attack choppers, the most advanced combat chopper in the world, which have been recently inducted into the IAF.
India's indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas also performed spectacular manoeuvres during the air show.
The 51 Squadron of the IAF, also known as the Sword Arms, to which Abhinandan belongs, was presented with a citation by IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria. Its Commanding Officer Group Captain Satish Pawar was presented with the citation.
The air chief also presented a citation to IAF's 9 Squadron, also known as Wolf Packs, which comprises the Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft. It was presented to the Wolf Packs Commanding Officer Group Captain HJ Sequeira.
A citation was also presented to the 601 Signal Unit of the IAF that had identified the package of 30 aircraft that had been released by Pakistan into Indian territory on February 27. It was presented to its Commanding Officer Group Captain Abhijit Nene.