Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was captured and spent two days in Pakistani custody, returned to India on Friday. The combat pilot, who ejected from his MiG-21 Bison aircraft after it went down in firing on February 27 is undergoing medical tests, but will he be able to continue to fly a fighter jet?
According to the New Indian Express, Abhinandan will undergo a medical check-up at the Institute of Aerospace Medicine, located in Bengaluru. âOnce a pilot has been in a crash or any other incident which might affect their fitness levels, they will have to undergo a check-up at the Institute of Aerospace Medicine,â a senior Air Force official told the newspaper.
Retd Air Marshal PK Barbora told TNM that as per procedure, the medical check-up is a must. âEven when you are coming back with no injuries, as a POW you have to go through it,â he said.
âWhen one goes through an ejection, the load on your spine increases about 16 to 17 times your body weight. So you tend to cause some damage to the spine. Hence, for recovery, we give time. If the damage is major, once he is okay, he may be flying helicopters or transport aircrafts,â he added.
As per the official who spoke to TNIE, Abhinandan can return to fighter pilot duty if the injuries to his spine donât hinder him from flying a fighter jet.
The Institute of Aerospace Medicine, a part of the Indian Air Force, is the nodal agency in India in the field of aerospace medicine. It has also been tasked with training the crew members of the Gaganyaan mission by the Indian Space Research Organisation.
Abhinandan underwent a series of medical tests as part of the âcooling downâ process, reported PTI. As part of this, the pilot will reportedly be evaluated for physical and psychological harm.
The fighter pilot has sustained a rib fracture, a back contusion and some bruises, reported the Economic Times. Officials told the newspaper that Abhinandan did not suffer any significant injuries.
At the time of the Kargil war, Flight Lieutenant K Nachiketa had been captured by Pakistani forces when he had to eject and suffered a compression fracture, due to which he could not fly a fighter jet again.
Abhinandan met Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday at an armed forces medical facility in New Delhi. He was taken into custody by Pakistan on February 27 after his MiG 21 Bison aircraft was shot down. As per media reports, the Wing Commander brought down the Pakistan Air Forceâs F-16 jet before his aircraft received hits and was brought down. He was then apprehended by officials of the Pakistani Army on the same day and taken into custody. Pakistan then released him as a âpeace gestureâ and handed him over to India at 9.25 pm on March 1.