IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan’s squadron gets ‘Falcon Slayer’ patches to mark F-16 kill

SRINAGAR: The MiG-21 Bison Squadron, of which Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was part of when he took on the intruding aircraft of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) in Jammu and Kashmir on February 27 this year, has taken on the sobriquet ‘Falcon Slayers' and ‘AMRAAM Dodgers' and have got special uniform patches made to commemorate the dogfight.

In the encounter, Varthaman shot down PAF's F-16 aircraft. His Bison aircraft was also shot down as he ejected into Pakistani territory. He was captured by Pakistan but released days later

The MiG-21 squadron, No. 51, is not the only one to have had special uniform patches made for their flying overalls. The Sukhoi-30 squadron, whose aircraft also blunted the Pakistani air attack and successfully evaded the AMRAAM missiles of the PAF F-16s, have also named themselves the ‘AMRAAM Dodger' in new patches.

Patches are cloth badges that depict the squadron's role and often identify itself with an important engagement in which the squadron took part. It also reflects the type of aircraft the squadron flies and is worn on flying overalls.

The 51 Squadron patch depicts a MIG-21 Bison in the foreground and a red-coloured F-16 in the background under crosshairs. The other squadron's patch shows a SU-30MKI with an AMRAAM missile going past after narrowly missing it.

When contacted, Group Captain Anupam Bannerjee, IAF spokesperson, said it was common for squadron pilots to wear patches that connect to a feat which the unit has performed. "Patches instil a sense of pride in not only the present generation of pilots but also future ones. It gives a sense of achievement to the pilot," he said.

The patches for both the squadrons have been designed by a young aviation enthusiast, Saurav Chordia, who has designed a variety of patches for several IAF squadrons in the past, as well as air exercises.

Saurav Chordia said, "I got a request from the two squadrons last month and after a few changes, the final design was approved by them."

Originally from Assam and now based in New Delhi, Saurav is a recent graduate from college. He says the first patch that he designed for the IAF was for the SU-30MKI squadron when he was still in college in 2015. "I also designed the IAF Tejas Patches for the first Tejas squadron in 2016," he said.

The young aviation enthusiast has also designed patches for the Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team. "I have designed for Gaganshkati 2018, Exercise Pitch Black 2018, Exercise Cope India 2018 and Vayu Shakti Exercise held in Rajasthan earlier this year," he said.

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PTI