IAF Braveheart Pilots Decorated For Gallantry

On 19 Dec 2011, Wg Cdr Vatsal Kumar Singh was detailed to fly a helicopter in a low level mission in the densely forested and heavily Naxal infested area, in support of the CRPF. The landing site was only a small clearing in the jungle with very tall trees around it and an undulating landing surface, which made the task even more difficult. After having completed two shuttles and having transported thirty commandos, while he was executing the third shuttle with seventeen persons on board, his helicopter was fired upon with automatic weapons from the left and below the aircraft. He immediately turned away from the probable direction of fire and gained height. After having ascertained that all aircraft parameters were normal, he decided to return to base, i.e. Jagdalpur. Subsequently, the aircraft started experiencing severe vibrations and the entire cargo compartment was filled with the smell of burnt explosives. The severe vibrations made it extremely challenging to make sure that the helicopter does not go out of control with an any time possibility of an engine malfunction, Wg Cdr VK Singh kept his calm and controlled the helicopter with his professional acumen and flying skills. He reduced the speed and minimised the vibrations and kept a close vigil on the vital engine parameters. His calm and controlled composure and exceptional courage ensured that he tracked every event in the helicopter meticulously and brought seventeen men and the machine to safety, in an extremely professional manner after flying for forty long and demanding minutes. In recovering the helicopter and personnel on board from the precarious situation in the face of intense danger and imminent threat to life, he showed exceptional courage and flying skills of the highest order. For this exceptional display of courage, inspirational leadership and composure under adverse conditions, Wing Commander Vatsal Kumar Singh has been awarded Shaurya Chakra.

On 10 Oct 2011, Sqn Ldr Ajit Bhaskar Vasane was authorised to lead a two aircraft training mission. At an altitude of 9 km, the Head-Up Display (HUD) of the aircraft flickered and after a while, went blank. Immediately thereafter, fire emanated from the starboard side of the HUD. The situation deteriorated rapidly with noxious fumes and smoke filling the cockpit. In these circumstances with rapidly increasing intensity of fire posing a great personal risk, he initiated emergency recovery of the aircraft. While doing so, with exceptional presence of mind and courage of the highest order, he elected to avoid overflying various petro-chemical installations in the vicinity of the area, even though this prolonged flight endangered his life.
Throughout the flight, he displayed exceptional courage, maintained extreme calm and composure, thorough professionalism and presence of mind in keeping with the highest traditions of the Indian Air Force. Sqn Ldr AB Vasane’s courageous actions in handling such an unforeseen critical emergency not only saving himself and recovering the aircraft, but also preventing possible catastrophic damage to the strategically important and vital petro-chemical installations in the area, which are a national asset. For the display of exceptional courage and very high standards of professionalism, Squadron Leader Ajit Bhaskar Vasane has been awarded Shaurya Chakra.

On 06 Feb 2012, Flt Lt Gunadnya Ramesh Kharche was detailed to fly as captain for a low-level navigation sortie on an An-32 aircraft. While effecting the rejoin, when the undercarriage was lowered, the starboard and nose undercarriage was locked down. Even emergency means of lowering the port undercarriage failed to yield any results. Inspite of his limited experience as captain on type, Flt Lt GR Kharche maintained his composure in this grave emergency and decided to carry out an emergency landing on starboard main wheel and nose wheel. While landing in such configuration likelihood of a dangerous situation of aircraft getting out of control is very high. He assessed the situation and ensured that the entire available crew resources were marshaled in the most professional way to handle the emergency. Landing an An-32 aircraft without one of the main wheel is an extremely rare emergency. Flt Lt GR Kharche carried out a safe emergency landing with only starboard main wheel and nose wheel. The aircraft landing was controlled in the most courageous way and the aircraft suffered minimal damage. After landing, the action to evacuate the personnel on board were carried out most efficiently under his supervision. Flt Lt GR Kharche displayed qualities of exceptional courage and extreme professionalism during handling of such a grave emergency inspite of limited experience. His actions not only saved the lives of personnel onboard but also recovered the aircraft with minimal damage. For the display of exemplary courage and composure in handling an extremely rare emergency, Flight Lieutenant Gunadnya Ramesh Kharche has been awarded Shaurya Chakra.

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