Welcome back home ''Singam'' Wing Commander Abhinandan
This week we bore witness to a spectacle that constantly ensues in the cinematic realm but is barely evident in a real-life scenario. A "Top Gun" moment that has stirred the vivid imagination of every boy/girl in the '80s came to life for Commander Abhinandan Varthaman when he decided to chase the F-16 of PAK into the PoK.
"You don't have time to think up there. If you think, you're dead." Those words uttered by Maverick in "Top gun" brim with resonation to the true grit and fortitude that Abhinandan displayed to avoid crucial military targets being hit by Pakistan.
"What does it take to become a good fighter pilot? ''bad attitude''.. said Commander Abhinandan Varthaman in a 2011 television documentary. Back then, he couldn't have portended his "bad attitude" would be on a full-fledged trial where the whole nation rooted for his safe return. The entire nation ardently hoped that he persists with his "bad attitude" just a little bit longer, until we can get him back home, where he rightly belongs.
Commander Abhinandan Varthaman is a father of two children, who graduated from National Defense Academy in Kadakvasla. Prior to his foray into national defense, he was a student in Sainik Welfare school in Amaravathi Nagar, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu.
The IAF pilot was captured by Pakistan after air combat on Wednesday. The aerial combat that led to his capture was a testament to the commanders Moxey who stuck to his guns and remained undeterred in his duty to protect the Indian air Space from invasion.
This is how it went down...
The borders were on high alert and by around 9.45 am on Wednesday, the radars picked up blips of a possible intrusion. At around 10.00 hours, three F-16s of the Pakistan Air Force violated Indian air space and entered into the Nowshera sector and dropped bombs. The IAF got into action and scrambled its MiG 21s squadron.
''We are all set, Sir'' said Wing Commander Abhinandan who took off in one of the MiG 21 Bisons. The operation was not going to be an easy one as Abhinandan was flying a vintage MiG Bison in comparison to the advanced F-16s. It's akin to bringing a knife to a gun fight but it's the knife that he had and he had to wield it to the best of his ability.
Pakistan's target was to engage the Indian Brigade HQ and Army Installations. The Indian Air Force scrambled jets to take on the incoming fighters. Two MiG 21s were sent from Srinagar and the Sukhoi 30 MKI went airborne. The MiG 21 flown by Abhinandan managed to reach the spot in time to intercept one F-16 D
Wing Commander Abhinandan remained steadfast in his mission, stayed in hot pursuit of a Pakistani F-16 jet, which he eventually engaged with an R-73 air to air missile. The Pakistani Air Force strike package also had four Mirage-3 aircraft and four Chinese made JF-17 Thunder fighters to escort the F-16s.
It was clearly a risky proposition, he could have turned away at any given moment. However, the Commander had a job to do, a country he had sworn to protect, and he wasn't about to quit. He valiantly pursued the Pakistani aircraft, despite, the dire warning issued by another aircraft part of the Indian formation about the presence of Pakistani fighters. He continued the hot pursuit and locked the F-16 on his radar. He pushed home the attack and fired an R-73 air to air missile. While this brought the F-16 down, it also exposed Abhinandan's wing to PAF missile, following which he was forced to eject and land into the Pakistan side of the Line of Control where he was captured.
Pakistan was clearly looking to hit Indian military installations, but due to the heroic feat by Wing Commander Abhinandan and the presence of the Indian Air Force, Pakistan missed all the targets. Before being captured the brave-heart displayed the utmost courage, resilience and did not give in easily. He fought his captors, fired in the air, swallowed important documents before it could get into the enemy's hands.
He did all this while he was profusely bleeding after the incident. He was surrounded by the locals who were threatening to attack him. He fired some gunshots but to no avail. He then jumped into a pond where he pulled out the documents and maps. He swallowed some and the rest he soaked into the water, ensuring that the enemy got nothing from him.
Abhinandan who has been around the air force block for 16 years, is from Chennai. He is the son of a decorated former fighter pilot, Air Marshal Simhakutty Varthaman. Abhinandan joined the National Defence Academy in 2000 and was commissioned as a fighter pilot in 2004. He was as a Su30MKI pilot before he started flying the MiG21s.
Abhinandan always drew inspiration from his father, who was commissioned as a fighter pilot in 1973. He has to his credit nearly 4,000 flying hours. Varthaman senior commanded the Western Sector during Operation Parakrama in 2001, the military buildup after the Parliament attack.
Abhinandan's mother, who is a doctor has visited some of the worst conflict-ridden areas across the world and has provided medical treatment. Abhinandan's wife Tanvi Marwah has also served in the IAF as a squadron leader and has been honored several times for her bravery. His colleagues rightly refer to him as Singam (The lion) and we concur the reference. The whole nation had front row seats to the fateful events that transpired in the past two weeks. We had to bear witness to one of the most heart-wrenching tragedies that ensued Kashmir when dozens of soldiers were killed in a terrorist attack. We witnessed the anger, the grief, the escalating tensions between two nations culminating in an air raid and the capture of our soldier. So in the midst of the horrific events, it's a matter of great comfort and happiness to see the safe return of our pilot. This, we hope is the beginning of good tidings.
Welcome back home Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, you are truly India's hero.