New Delhi Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who spent some days in Pakistani custody when his MiG-21 was shot down in a dogfight with PAF jets a day after the February 26 Balakot airstrike, will likely be conferred the Vir Chakra on Independence Day, sources said on Wednesday. The 36-year-old IAF pilot had suffered injuries while ejecting from his MiG-21 Bison during the aerial combat between Indian and Pakistani air forces on February 27.
Varthaman, who became the face of a tense military confrontation between India and Pakistan, is set to fly MiG-21 within a few weeks as a medical board cleared his return to fighter cockpit.
Official sources said IAF's Bangaluru-based Institute of Aerospace Medicine has given the go-ahead to Varthaman to fly again following a thorough medical evaluation.
Varthaman was captured by the Pakistani Army on February 27 after his MiG-21 Bison jet was shot down in a dogfight with Pakistani jets during aerial combat.
Before his jet was hit, he downed an F-16 fighter of Pakistan. Varthaman was released on the night of March 1 by Pakistan.
Days after he returned from Pakistan, Varthaman conveyed to IAF brass his wish to return to 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.