Hero Pakistani pilots who shot down Indian jets appear on national TV for the first time
ISLAMABAD – Two Pakistani pilots, who had downed Indian fighter jets in a rare aerial engagement earlier this year, recently appeared on the national TV screens for the first time since the Feb 27 confrontation.
Last month, Wing Commander Noman Ali Khan was conferred Sitara-i-Jurat and Squadron Leader Hasan Mehmood Siddiqui was awarded Tamgha-i-Jurat.
The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) remembers its Feb 27 response against India as Operation Swift Retort.
Wing Commander Khan, talking to the participants of a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) ceremony in connection with the Operation Swift Retort on Saturday, said the enemy force had failed to evaluate their weakness and PAF’s strength.
He said the enemy [India] carried out airstrikes in the darkness of night and hurried away after the defeat.
“We went, destroyed their targets and stayed there,” Khan said, adding they told the foe how capabale the Pakistani nation and PAF was.
Recalling the Feb 27 encounter, he said no sooner did one of their formations cross the Line of Control, which divides the disputed Kashmir region between Pakistan and India, it was hit and brought down by a missile.
“They didn’t know our strength which is why they made a mistake.”
Hassan Siddiqui, the other fighter pilot who shot down Abhinandan Varthanam’s warplane after it violated Pakistani airspace that day, in a message asked the nation not to worry about country’s security as Pakistan Air Force is fully awake to defend its air frontiers.
“I want to tell them [the country’s enemies] that I will teach [them] a lesson if they cast an evil eye on my country,” he warned, addressing a PAF event in Islamabad.
Those casting an evil eye on Pakistan will meet the same fate as the Feb 27 shooting down of the Indian warplane, said Siddiqui, who was awarded Tamgha-i-jurat on Aug 14 in recognition of his valour and bravery.
Before the hero pilots took the stage to receive the nation’s applaud, Air Marshal Hasseb Paracha – the chief architect of Feb 27 surgical strikes – briefed the audience about PAF’s response to Balakot strikes and the subsequent kills by these pilots.
Operation Swift Retort
After an aerial engagement in Jammu and Kashmir’s Nowshera sector, Pakistan claimed that it captured one Indian pilot.
The downed pilot was identified as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman and seen in a video of what appears to be an interview at a Pakistani Air base, in which he praised the professionalism of Pakistan Army but denied to share any sensitive information.
His warplane, MiG 21 Bison, hit by Wing Commander Nauman Ali Khan, had crashed on Pakistani side of the Line of Control, while the second IAF fighter jet Sukhoi Su-30, which was downed by Sqn Leader Hassan Siddiqui, landed on the Indian side.
The same day, India confirmed the loss of one plane (MiG-21 Bison) and claimed it also shot down a Pakistani jet (F-16) as it responded to the incident. However, the Indian claim was later debunked by US officials who said that they have counted the number of Pakistan Air Force F-16s in service and can say that none were lost to the Indian Air Force on that day.
Pakistan, on March 1, handed over the IAF pilot to India authorities as a gesture of goodwill, never acknowledged by the hardline Hindu government in New Delhi.
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