IAF officer Minty Agarwal saw on screen Abhinandan shooting down Pak F-16

Saw Abhinandan shooting down a Pak F-16: Yudh Seva medal awardee Minty Agarwal
Photo released by Pakistan's Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) on March 1, 2019 shows captured Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman standing at Wagah border crossing during a handover ceremony in eastern Pakistan's Lahore. Image courtesy: IANS

New Delhi: Yudh Seva medal awardee Minty Agarwal, a woman Indian Air Force (IAF) officer who played a key role as flight controller during the aerial combat with Pakistan in February, on Thursday said she witnessed Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman shooting down a Pakistani F-16 fighter jet a day after Balakot airstrikes.

Talking to the news agency ANI, Minty said she was the one who was providing Abhinandan Varthaman with the air situation. “I saw the fading of F-16 blip from my screen," she told ANI.

Squadron Leader Minty Agarwal is the first woman who has been awarded the Yudh Seva Medal.

She told PTI on Thursday that the experience of being part of the Balakot operation was "unmatchable" to anything in the world.

On conferred the coveted military honour, she said the feeling cannot be described in words.

"But most certainly, it is that of pride in the uniform I wear, and of humility owing to the fact that the nation has bestowed such an honour," she told PTI.

The defence ministry announced the military awards on the eve of Independence Day celebrations.

Squadron Leader Agarwal had quickly alerted the IAF teams after she spotted a large package of Pakistani Air Force planes heading towards Nowshera sector of Jammu and Kashmir on February 27, a day after India carried out Balakot strikes, officials said on Wednesday.

Her action helped the IAF to quickly respond to Pakistani aggression, they said.

"The operations like the ones on February 26 and 27, are the reason why we adorn the uniform. I was lucky to have got the opportunity to be an integral part of these operations. The experience is unmatchable to anything in the world.

"The fact that India successfully struck the terror camps at Balakot and we thwarted their plans on February 27 are a testimony to the professionalism and dedication of the team IAF," Agarwal said.

IAF fighter jets had bombed a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp in Balakot on February 26, nearly two weeks after the Pulwama terror attack.

Pakistan retaliated on February 27 by attempting to target Indian military installations.

Besides Agarwal, the Yudh Seva medal winners are Air Commodore Sunil Kashinath Vidhate, Group Captain Yeshpal Singh Negi, Goup Captain Hemant Kumar and Group Captain Hansel Joseph Seqeira.

The IAF received a total of 13 awards, including the five Yudh Seva medals.

At least five IAF pilots who were part of the mission to strike the Jaish-e-Mohammad camp in Balakot were among the military awardees.

Vayu Sena medals were given to Group Captain Saumitra Tamaskar, Wing Commander Pranav Raj, Wing Commander Amit Ranjan, Sq Ldr Rahul Basoya, Sq Ldr Pankaj Arvind Bhujade , Sq Ldr B Karthik Narayan Reddy, Sq Ldr Shashank Singh.

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