Indian Air Force will honor a woman Ground Controller with the distinguished service medal for helping India during the Balakot Air Strike and win the dogfight. In February, the IAF retaliated against Pakistan to take revenge for the Pulwama attack that took the life of over 40 CRPF Jawans. After the IAF attack on Balakot, Pakistan decided to retaliate the next day. At around 8.45 AM that day, Pakistan shut its airspace for civilian aircraft which gave a major clue about their actions. Within an hour, the IAF flight controllers witnessed around 24 Pakistani Air force fighter planes getting airborne and heading towards Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.
Around 3-4 PAF planes had entered the Rajouri district. Sensing danger, the Indian flight controller centre immediately alerted four fighters—two Su-30s and two Mirage-2000. These fighter planes were deployed on combat air patrol (CAP) in the area located south of Pir Panjal. A source said, “By then, the IAF radar control hub had alerted two Sukhoi-30MKIs and two Mirage-2000s on combat air patrols north and south of Pir Panjal. Considering the large number of Pakistani jets, the radar hub also simultaneously called for six MiG-21s to be swiftly scrambled from nearby airbases like Srinagar. The woman officer played the central role in all this.”
According to a Times of India report, “The woman officer had also alerted the IAF fighters to the presence of F-16s, which were armed with AIM-120C advanced medium-range missiles in an air defense role.”
The ground controller’s immediate alert helped the IAF pilots to get in action. Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s aircraft shot down an F-16 using an R-73 missile. However, his own aircraft was downed thereafter and he landed across the border where he was captured by the Pakistani Army.