Ghaziabad: Two squadrons and one signal unit of the Indian Air Force (IAF) that were part of the Balakot operation were decorated with citations, Tuesday.
On the occasion of 87th Indian Air Force Day, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria awarded citations to 51 Squadron, the 9 Squadron and the 601 Signal Unit for their role in the airstrike on terror camps in Pakistan’s Balakot in February.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman and fighter pilots, who were a part of the Balakot operation, also participated in the flypast.
Abhinandan Varthaman was leading the bison formation of MiG 21 aircraft. The fighter pilot had downed an enemy jet during an aerial combat with Pakistan in February and was held captive for three days.
The Srinagar-based 51 Squadron, to which Abhinandan Varthaman was attached during the Balakot strike, was also involved in thwarting the retaliatory attack by the Pakistan Air Force, a day later.
“The squadron displayed exemplary courage, determination and professional acumen to ensure victory in the ariel engagement, claiming an enemy fighter aircraft in the process, the first instance since the 1971 war. During the entire period of activation, the squadron flew a total of 71 live missions and 36 on station close air patrols deterring the enemy from any misadventure,” the citation for 51 Squadron read.
Post Pulwama, the Gwalior-based 9 Squadron was tasked to neutralize the terror camps in Balakot.
The unit planned and executed simultaneous parallel runway operations by night for the first time in the history of the IAF, the citation said.
“The aircraft successfully crossed the LoC despite the complex vulnerabilities and completed the mission in the most professional manner. For its gallant services of the nation in undertaking the Balakot air strikes, the 9 Squadron is awarded unit citation by the chief of the Air Staff,” the citation for Gwalior-based 9 Squadron read.
The 601 Signal Unit has an area of responsibility of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and northern parts of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. The unit played a critical role during the Balakot airstrike and also when the Pakistan Air Force launched a counter attack, a day later.
“The response caused the strike to release their weapons hastily and missed their targets. For the professional conduct of operation 2019, Signal Unit is awarded unit citation by the Chief of Air Staff,” the citation for 601 Signal Unit stated.