IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman
PC : File Photo

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was captured by Pakistani forces after he ejected from his plane when it took a hit on February 27. The Pakistani jets had tried to target Indian military installations a day after Indian Mirage-2000 jets bombed a Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camp at Balakot in a cross-border air strike.

Varthaman won many hearts for his exemplary courage in bringing down a Pak F-16 in a dogfight. According to a detailed 16-minute account of the dogfight from highly placed sources, DNA learnt the brave heart had the option to return to his base but went ahead full throttle, bringing the enemy fighter down.

The pilot, who was flying MiG-21 Bison and another officer who was flying Sukhoi 30MKI, engaged one of the ten F-16s that violated Indian air space on Wednesday morning. While nine falcons were forced to deviate path after a valiant fight from Indian jets, one F-16 went deep inside Indian territory. The MiG-21 Bison (Wing Commander Abhinandan’s) and Sukhoi MKI continued engaging the F16 in a dog fight manoeuvre called ‘defensive split’. In this scenario, MiG 21 was in the front, then F16 and then the Sukhoi. Due to firing from the Sukhoi, the F16 fled the scene using another dog fight manoeuvre called the ‘wingover’.

While the Sukhoi hovered over the oil storage the F-16 had aimed to destroy, the 35-year-old hero chased the jet out of Indian territory. “While chasing he engaged F-16 in a lock-in position for his onboard R-73 air to air missile to be deployed, an act of extreme valour by Wing Commander Abhinandan. He could have returned to base and if he had, then the missile lock-in would have been disengaged (due to out of radar coverage) and he would not have been able to shoot the enemy jet.” He, however, decided to chase it down to POK, and bring it down.

Minute by minute combat account

Operation details punch holes in Pak claims that it did not use Falcons

  • 9:52 AM Indian Netra detects 10 Pak F-16 taking off from 3 Pak airbases. They came in 3 groups and merge in attack formation near PoK
  • 9:54 AM India scrambles MiG21 Bisons and Sukhoi MKI to intercept the 10 F-16
  • 9:58 AM India sounds two alerts to PAF jets. “You’re about to encroach Indian air space. Please evade.”
  • 10:00 AM PAF violates Indian airspace with ‘swarm merge attack formation’
  • 10:01 AM Nine F-16 forced to deviate path and within one km of airspace return to POK side after heavy surface to air artillery and dare from Sukhoi and MiGs.
  • 10:02 AM One Pak F-16 went 3 kms to destroy an oil storage at an Army brigade headquarters
  • 10:03 AM A Sukoi and Wing Commander Abhinandan’s MiG-21 Bison engage the F-16 in defensive split. Due to firing from Sukhoi, F-16 flees using a dog fight manoeuvre called ‘wingover’.
  • 10:04 AM Sukhoi hovers around oil field guarding it; Wg Cdr Abhinandan chases F-16 out. He engages F16 in lock-in for R-73 air-to-air missile to be deployed
  • 10:04 AM He does not return to the base, decided to chase F-16 down to POK and shoot it down.
  • 10:08 AM He engages R73 missile that hit F16 and downed it
  • 10:08 AM After shooting it down he performed a highly dangerous manoeuvre called ‘High-g barrel roll’ as he had been in the vicinity of Pak surface to air artillery and Surface Air Missile. While doing so, he had to vertically climb at high speed and reverse its direction towards India. While doing so his MiG 21 Bison’s engine thrust developed a problem and he became almost non-manoeuvrable for few seconds. And it was during that time either a SAM or air artillery hit his plane.