The government will bestow awards to Wing Commander Adhinandan Varthaman and the pilots involved in the Balakot operations in February this year. Varthaman is likely to be awarded a Vir Chakra and the five other pilots are likely to be awarded the Vayu Sena Medal for gallantry.
Abhinandan Varthaman shot down a Pakistani F-16 during a dogfight over the Line of Control on February 27. The five Mirage-2000 fighter pilots dropped bombs on Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camps in Balakot.
Varthaman who was celebrated as a hero across the country following the dogfight and his capture by Pakistani forces, shot down the F-16 with his own MiG-21 Bison. Experts believe that this is the first ever kill of an F-16 by a MiG-21 Bison. His kill came moments before his own MiG-21 Bison was shot down, forcing him to eject. He was then captured by Pakistani forces and questioned, following which Pakistan returned him to India on March 1.
The dogfight took place a day after the Mirage-2000s bombed the terror camps after an attack in Pulwama on February 14 claimed the lives of over 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel.
The Mirage-2000 pilots bombed the camps with Israeli-origin Spice 2000 bombs.
Following the Balakot strike and the dogfight, Pakistan had fully shut its airspace on the eastern border with India. It partially opened its airspace in March but did not allow Indian flights to fly over its airspace. This resulted it expensive detours for foreign airlines using the Indian airspace.
Pakistan eventually reopened its airspace in early July to all civilian planes.