IAF has shown capability to engage adversary: Air chief

Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria on Thursday said the IAF had “clearly demonstrated” its resolve and operational capability to “effectively engage” the adversary should the need arise, at a time India and China are locked in border tensions in the sensitive Ladakh sector.

In his address on the 88th IAF Day celebrations at the Hindon airbase, during which Balakot heroes were presented gallantry awards, the IAF chief said, “I would like to commend all warriors for the quick response, in the recent stand-off on our northern frontiers, when we deployed our combat assets at short notice to handle any eventuality, and provided proactive support to all the requirements of deployment and sustenance for the Indian Army.”

Three days ago, the IAF chief said at his annual press conference that China couldn’t get the better of India in any conflict and the air force was ready to handle any contingency, with its capability and intent serving as a deterrent for the adversary.

The IAF celebrated its 88th anniversary with a ceremonial parade and fly-past involving 59 aircraft including the Rafale jets. It was the second public appearance of the Rafales after the planes were formally inducted at the Ambala airbase on September 10. The fly-past this year was marked by elaborate air displays by front-line fighter jets, transport aircraft and helicopters that flew in synergy in line with the theme of ‘Innovate, Integrate and Intimidate.’

Bhadauria presented gallantry awards to several IAF personnel including fighter pilots who were associated with the air force’s 2019 airstrikes against terror camps in Pakistan’s Balakot. These awards were announced on the eve of Independence Day last year but given away on Thursday.

Several Yudh Seva Medals and Vayu Sena Medals for gallantry were announced last year for officers who were a part of the Balakot operation on February 26, 2019 and dogfight with the Pakistan air force the next day.

Those awarded the YSM by the IAF chief on Thursday included Air Vice Marshal Sunil Kashinath Vidhate, Group Captains Yeshpal Singh Negi, Hemant Kumar, Hansel Joseph Sequeira and Squadron Leader Minty Aggarwal. Aggarwal, a woman fighter controller, played a key role in intercepting the Pakistan air force’s attempt to launch retaliatory air attacks after the IAF’s Balakot airstrikes, which were in retaliation for the February 14, 2019 Pulwama suicide car bomb attack that killed 40 troopers of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).

Those who were given Vayu Sena Medals for gallantry included Group Captain Pranav Raj, Wing Commander Amit Ranjan and Squadron Leaders Pankaj Bhujade, Shashank Singh and BKN Reddy.

“With Atmanirbharta {self-reliance} as the bedrock, IAF has been rapidly shifting to indigenous equipment. The light combat aircraft, advanced light helicopter, Netra AEW&C, Akash surface-to-air missile systems, ASTRA air-to-air missile, BrahMos…are many successes of our home industry, which are already operational in the IAF today,” the IAF chief said

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