Republic Day 2020: Gallantry awards for 2 IAF pilots

Republic Day 2020: Gallantry awards for 2 IAF pilots

Squadron Leader Siddharth Vashisht's funeral in Chandigarh.

Sq Ldr Ninad Anil Mandavgane and Sq Ldr Siddharth Vashisht, the two unfortunate pilots of an Indian Air Force Mi 17 v5 helicopter that crashed in February in a friendly fire incident during the India-Pakistan dogfight killing both of them, are among the winners of this year’s gallantry awards for the military.

They would receive the Vayu Sena Medal (gallantry) posthumously along with Wg Cdr Daler Singh Billing and Wg Cdr Rajesh Agarwal.

Four other men who also perished in the same incident have been named in the Mention in Despatches section. They are Sgt Vikrant Sahrawat, Sgt Vishal Kumar Pandey, Corporal Pankaj Kumar and Corporal Deepak Pandey.

On February 27 when the combat jets of the IAF and Pakistan Air Force were firing at each other in the northern skies, the IAF fired its own Spyder air defence missile on the chopper mistaking it as an enemy aircraft approaching the Srinagar base. All the six IAF men on-board died along with a seventh civilian.

After six months of enquiry, the service has initiated court-martial proceeding against several officials including the commander of the Srinagar base who decided to fire.   “It was our fault as our own missile hit the helicopter. It was a big mistake. Steps are being taken to ensure such things don’t recur in future. Administrative action has already been taken. Two officers face disciplinary actions,” Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria had stated in his annual press conference in October.  

While there are no Ashoka Chakra and Kirti Chakra recipients this time, nine brave men from the Army and Central Armed Police Forces will receive the Shaurya Chakra for the courage they had shown in the operations in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of India. Four of the nine would receive it posthumously.

The President has approved awards of 409 Gallantry and other Defence decorations to Armed Forces personnel and others on the eve of 71st Republic Day.

Twice in a year—on the eve of the Republic Day and Independence Day—such awards are announced.