When Abhinandan Varthaman shot down a Pakistani F-16 fighter jet, he was hailed as a hero.

The only Mig-21 pilot to shoot down an F-16 is Abhinandan Varthaman.
Abhinandan Varthaman

Abhinandan Varthaman received the Vir Chakra, India's third-highest wartime heroism medal, on Monday, November 22 for shooting down a Pakistani F-16 fighter jet in February 2019.

During India's Balakot air raid, he shot down an F-16 over Pakistan-occupied Kashmir but was captured by the Pakistan Army after his plane was shot down by enemy forces. Back then, Abhinandan was a Wing Commander.


On February 14, the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) claimed responsibility for a suicide attack in Pulwama, Jammu & Kashmir, that killed over 40 CRPF members. Tensions between India and Pakistan spiked shortly after the incident.

In reaction, India launched an early-morning attack on a JeM terror camp in Balakot, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

A day later, 24 Pakistan Air Force planes crossed the Line of Control (LoC) into Indian airspace and dropped bombs on Indian territory.

On February 27, Abhinandan Varthaman, a Wing Commander at the time, was kidnapped after his MiG-21 Bison was shot down by Pakistani fire across the Line of Control (LoC). Pakistan published a film of the Pakistan Army offering tea to Abhinandan shortly after he was apprehended, in an attempt to portray their civility towards him. However, his bloodied appearance revealed that his treatment away from the camera was far from that.


Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan declared Abhinandan's release as a "peace gesture" two days after he was apprehended.

Abhinandan held his head up and smiled as he proceeded towards the Indian side of the Wagah-Attari border during his release. Abhinandan was escorted to Lahore by Pakistani rangers and the Indian air attaché assigned to the High Commission in Islamabad, who had traveled to the city with travel documents.

Abhinandan is credited with becoming the only Mig-21 pilot to ever shoot down an F-16 fighter jet.

Abhinandan resumed duty shortly after his return and is now assigned to the Air Force's Frontline Unit in Rajasthan.