Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman of the Indian Air Force will receive the Vir Chakra gallantry award on Independence Day, news agency ANI reported on Wednesday.
While flying his MiG-21 fighter on February 27, Varthaman had claimed a kill on a Pakistan Air Force F-16, before being shot down across the Line of Control. Varthaman was held as a prisoner of war for two days before being released by the Pakistan government. Varthaman's conduct during his captivity and media coverage over his release had made him a national hero. Moreover, claims that an ageing MiG-21 could shoot down a far newer F-16 made headlines.
The Vir Chakra is the third-highest gallantry award in India after the Param Vir Chakra and the Mahavir Chakra. As many as 1,322 armed forces personnel have received the Vir Chakra till date. According to Bharat Rakshak, a defence information website, Indian Air Force personnel have received around 200 Vir Chakra awards, most of which were during the India-Pakistan war of 1971.