New Delhi: Barely a week after flying multiple sorties at AFS Sulur on Mig-21s, one of the oldest fighters in the Indian Air Force (IAF) fleet, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa undertook another sortie on Monday to pay tribute to Sqn Ldr Ajay Ahuja, who was martyred during Operation Safed Sagar of 1999 in Kargil.
According to sources, the IAF Chief flew on a MiG-21, leading a formation flypast from AFS Bahtinda in Punjab.
The team paid tributes to the Kargil War hero by flying the ‘Missing Man’ formation.
Year 2019 is being observed as the 20th anniversary of the Kargil War victory with a series of celebrations waiting in the wing to take off at different parts of the country.
During Monday's tribute flight, Air Officer In-Charge of Western Air Command (WAC) Air Marshal R Nambiar too was part of the IAF Chief’s fleet.
A Kargil war hero, Air Marshal Nambiar, took over the reins of WAC in March this year, at a time when the Indo-Pak face-off over air strikes across the LOC, was at its peak.
As per the IAF traditions, the ‘Missing Man’ formation flight is undertaken to pay tributes to air warriors who had lost their lives in War or during peace operations.
“This is how we bow our heads before air warriors who have sacrificed their lives for the nation. A befitting aerial salute to the fallen heroes,” says an official.
When the Kargil War broke out, Squadron Leader Ahuja was a Flight Commander with the Golden Arrows Squadron based out of Srinagar. The Mig-21 Squadron was commanded by the current IAF Chief, who was a Wing Commander, then.
“The role played by the current Chief during the Kargil War will be remembered for a long time to come. He was the brain behind devising many unique strike strategies that ripped apart the defences of the enemy. Probably, IAF saw for the first time many new modes of night operations while undertaking non-stop bombing missions,” says an official.
On May 27, 1999, while undertaking a reconnaissance mission in the Batalik Sector, Sqn Ldr Ahuja’s plane was hit by a surface to air Stinger missile, forcing him to eject.
He was later captured by the Pakistani soldiers, tortured and shot dead. His mutilated body was handed over to the Indian side the next day.
During the 52nd anniversary of India’s Independence, Sqn Ldr Ajay Ahuja was awarded the Vir Chakra (Posthumous), one of highest gallantry military honours.