The Indian Air Force is set to retire its Srinagar-based MiG-21 squadron ‘Sword Arms’, a day after Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was part of the shooting down of Pakistan’s F-16 fighter jet. Balakoti strike in February 2019, sources said on Monday.
The ‘Sword Arms’ is one of its remaining four squadrons of the aging MiG-21 fighter jets.
Defense sources said No 51 Squadron is to be retired “as per plan” by the end of September.
He said the remaining three squadrons of MiG-21 would be phased out by 2025.
IAF fighter jets had bombed Jaish-e-Mohammed’s terrorist training camp in Balakot on February 26, 2019, almost two weeks after the Pulwama terror attack. On February 27, Pakistan retaliated by trying to target Indian military installations.
Varthaman (now Group Captain) took to the skies to thwart an airstrike launched by the opponents and engaged in aerial combat with Pakistani jets during the aerial combat.
Before downing his MiG-21 Bison jet, Varthaman shot down an F-16 fighter from Pakistan. He was awarded the Vir Chakra, India’s third highest wartime gallantry medal on Independence Day in 2019.
The MiG-21 jets were inducted into the Indian Air Force four decades ago and many of these aircraft were lost in accidents.
Although Soviet-era Russian fighter aircraft have been in the news over the years due to the deaths of pilots due to numerous accidents, sources said, “When an IAF aircraft is airborne, it means that it is fully serviceable. “.
“Ageing is a factor, but we read reports that even a modern aircraft can crash. The accident could have happened due to several factors including weather,” said a source.
And, the retired Srinagar-based No. 51 Squadron, also known as ‘Sword Arms’, is “going according to plan”, he said, adding that the old fleet was also in operation as new ones were awaited.
51 Squadron or ‘Sword Arms’ is one of the decorated squadrons of the Indian Air Force, and took part during Operation Safed Sagar (Kargil conflict) in 1999.
“It was awarded one Vayu Sena Medal and three Mention-in-Dispatches for its effective contribution. During Operation Parakram, the squadron was assigned the task of air defense of the Kashmir Valley,” according to the Bharat Rakshak website.
it was raised in Chandigarh in 1985. The squadron’s crest depicts a pair of muscular arms clad in swords, bearing the motto of “Vijay Prakram”, which means ‘Victory to Valor’.
According to the website, for its meritorious and glorious service to the nation, since its inception, the squadron was awarded the President’s Standards in 2018.