Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman to be awarded Vir Chakra; five Mirage pilots, who carried out Balakot airstrikes, to be conferred Vayu Sena medal

The Vir Chakra is the third highest wartime gallantry award. In addition to Varthaman, the five pilots of the Mirage-2000 fighter jets, who dropped bombs on the camps of the terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in Pakistan's Balakot, will also be awarded the Vayu Sena medal for gallantry, News18 reported.

The report also said that Abhinandan, who was sent back to India around three days after his MiG-21 Bison jet was shot down and he was captured by Pakistani security forces, is still in recovery from the operation and is likely to undergo tests in the coming months for clearance to rejoin services.

The fighter pilot was hailed for maintaining his composure when a video of him in captivity was released by Pakistan. He was praised by "politicians, strategic affairs experts, celebrities and the general public", the report said.

"Abhinandan, then 35, scripted military aviation history by downing an F-16, seconds before his own MiG-21 Bison was hit by a missile forcing him to eject. Experts hailed it as the first-ever kill of an F-16 by a MiG-21 Bison, fighter jets of two different generations," Hindustan Timesreported.

The dogfight during which Abhinandan was captured, occurred a day after the IAF struck targets in Balakot as a response to the Pulwama terrorist attack which resulted in the deaths of at least 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel on 14 February.