Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman is the third generation of IAF pilots from his family.

Like father like son Wing Commander Abhinandans father served as MiG-21 pilot too
news Abhinandan Friday, March 01, 2019 - 17:39

His poise and grit after being captured by Pakistan moved a nation, that prayed for his speedy release. IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan, who has spent over 48 hours in Pakistan’s custody, will be released on Friday.

He had been captured by Pakistan military personnel in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir after he ejected from the MiG-21 Bison aircraft he was flying was shot down. On Wednesday, Wing Commander Abhinandan along with other IAF pilots had given chase to Pakistan Air Force F-16 jets that had violated Indian air space. Before his fighter jet was brought down, Wing Commander Abhinandan had managed to bring down PAF’s F-16 jet. 

Wing Commander Abhinandan was commissioned to the Indian Air Force in 2004 and was flying a MiG-21 Bison when it was shot down during an aerial engagement on Wednesday, just a day after India carried out airstrikes on Balakot in Pakistan to destroy terror camps belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

Wing Commander Abhinandan is the son of retired Air Marshal Simhakutty Varthaman, who also flew the MiG-21s and retired five years ago. Abhinandan's grandfather was also in the IAF.

An alumnus of the Sainik School at Amaravathinagar, Coimbatore, retired Air Marshal Simhakutty joined the IAF as a fighter pilot in 1973. Having flown 40 different types of aircraft with over 4000 flying hours to his credit, Abhinandan's father has a wide range of experience both in Operational, Flight Testing and Instructional Flying.

During the 1999 Kargil conflict, S Varthaman was the Chief Operations Officer of Gwalior Air Force Station. He is credited for using his flight test experience to coordinate the upgradation of the Mirage 2000 aircraft, which was crucial in the success of the air campaign during the war.

During the December 2001 terror attack on the Parliament, Operation Parakram was launched. Simhakutty Varthaman was in command of an operational air base in the western sector during this operation, as per the database.

Simhakutty Varthaman is credited with establishing the Base Air Defence Centre during his tenure as wing commander at the Maharashtra Air Defence Sector of South Western Air Command.

He is the recipient of the Vishist Seva Medal in January 2002 for commanding a MiG-21 fighter squadron in the East, where his unit achieved the distinction of having flown 9500 sorties without a single accident and ensuring quality training of pilots. As a COO, he is credited with coordinating the entire magnitude of operations of Kargil at the Gwalior Air Force Station and the Mirage fleet's victory.

In 2011, S Varthaman took charge as the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Air Command. He retired in November 2012, according to the IAF database. 

As per the Air Force Association Tamil Nadu Branch, Wing Commander Abhinandan's father Air Marshal Simhakutty Varthaman took charge as its President in September 2013. Retired Air Marshal Varthaman was the Chief Test Pilot of Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment, and Chief Flying Instructor at Fighter Training Wing, Hakimpet.

Abhinandan's sister Aditi lives in France and has married a French national, Varthanams’ family friend told PTI.

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