Bravery Medals For Air Force Pilots Of Chopper Shot Down In Friendly Fire
The four crew members have been awarded ''Mention-in-Dispatches'' posthumously.
Two Indian Air Force pilots of a chopper accidentally shot down in a friendly fire incident last year in Jammu and Kashmir - squadron leaders Ninad Mandavgane and Siddharth Vashisht - have been posthumously awarded the Vayu Sena Medal for bravery. President Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday approved six Shaurya Chakras, 107 Sena Medals and four Vayu Sena medals for gallantry ahead of the 71st Republic Day, defence officials said.
On February 27, an Israeli-made SPYDER surface-to-air missile of the Indian Air Force had accidentally brought down the Mi-17 aircraft in Jammu and Kashmir's Budgam near Srinagar after the failure of command and control. Six Air Force officers - two pilots of the chopper and four crew members - and a civilian were killed in the incident.
The four crew members - Flight Engineer Vishal Kumar Pandey, Sergeant Vikrant Sehrawat, Corporals Deepak Pandey and Pankaj Kumar - have been awarded ''Mention-in-Dispatches'' posthumously.
The Indian Air Force was on high alert after the February 26 airstrikes that targeted a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp in Balakot in Pakistan. The chopper was accidentally shot down the next day at a time when Indian and Pakistani fighter jets were engaged in a fierce aerial combat in Nowshera, about 250 km away from Srinagar. Visuals showed wrecked fuselage of the IAF chopper in flames and a large number of villagers standing around it.
Soon after taking over, Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria had said that the Mi-17 chopper crash was a "big mistake" on part of the Air Force. A Court of Inquiry set up by the IAF had found two officers guilty in the incident.
On Saturday, President Ram Nath Kovind also approved Param Vishist Sena Medal to six top Air Force officials, including Air Marshal Harjit Singh Arora, the Vice Chief of the IAF. Wing Commander Daler Singh Billin, Wing Commander Rajesh Agarwal have also been awarded the Vayu Sena Medal (gallantry).
The President also approved Ati Vishisth Seva Medal to nine senior officers of the IAF, and Vayu Sena Medal to 29 officers.