Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who returned to India last week after being held in captivity for two days in Pakistan, will need to be medically fit before he flies a fighter jet again, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa has said. He said that if the pilot is declared fit, he could go back immediately.
"Whether he (Wing Commander Abhinandan) flies or not depends on his medical fitness. That's why post ejection, he had undergone medical check. Whatever treatment required, will be given. Once we get his medical fitness, he will get into fighter cockpit," the Air Chief Marshal said.
Dhanoa said that ejecting from a fighter jet takes a toll on the body. He said, "We don't take chances with a fighter pilot's fitness," further adding that the condition of a pilot's spine has to be good to fly a jet. Wing Commander Abhinandan had suffered injuries including in his rib and spine. According to ANI, the pilot hurt his lower spine while ejecting from the aircraft.
Abhinandan had returned to a hero's welcome in India after Pakistan released him as a peace gesture amid escalating tensions between the two countries. Abhinandan had landed on Pakistani soil after his fighter jet was struck down in an air duel with Pakistani jets. It is believed that Abhinandan took down a Pakistani F-16 with the MIG-21 Bison which he was flying before his own fighter jet was hit.
Addressing the controversy surrounding the number of terrorists neutralised during the air strike on Jaish-e-Mohammed camps, the Air Chief Marshal said that they hit the targets they had identified and it is difficult to say how many terrorists were taken down. He also added that the Indian Air Force is not in a position to declare the number and that it is the government's job. "IAF is not in a position to clarify the number of casualties. The government will clarify that. We don't count human casualties, we count what targets we have hit or not," he said.
BS Dhanoa also said that they hit the targets, otherwise why would Pakistan PM Imran Khan have responded. "The target has been clearly amplified by FS in his statement. If we plan to hit the target, we hit the target, otherwise why would he (Pakistan PM) have responded, if we dropped bombs in the jungles why would he respond," he said.
When asked by a reporter why MiG-21 Bison were deployed to take down the F-16 fighter jets, BS Dhanoa said, "The Mig-21 Bison is a capable aircraft, it has been upgraded, it has better radar, air-to air missiles and better weapons system."