Abhinandan Varthaman, a wing-commander of the Indian Air Force (IAF), is from Thirupanamoor, a village in Tamil Nadu. Born on June 21, 1983, he studied at Sainik Welfare School in Chennai and graduated from the National Defence Academy. Varthaman was commissioned into the combat stream of IAF as flying officer in June 2004. After receiving training at different IAF centres, he was promoted to flight lieutenant in 2006 and to squadron leader in 2010.
Abhinandan Varthaman's father also served in the IAF. He retired as an Air Marshal in IAF, while his mother is a doctor. He is married to a retired IAF Squadron leader and has two children.
Tensions between India and Pakistan heightened in the aftermath of Pulwama terror attack, in which 40 CRPF jawans were killed on February 14. Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for the attack.
Days after the Pulwama attack, the IAF carried out an airstrike at a terror camp run by Jaish-e-Mohammed in Balakot. On February 27, 2019 Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was shot down during a dogfight with a Pakistan Air Force jet. However, he shot down a Pakistan F-16 jet in the process.
Abhinandan fired an R-73 missile to take out the Pakistan F-16 aircraft before his Mig 21 Bison was hit by an AMRAAM missile. However, after bailing out from his damaged jet, he landed in Pakistan and was captured by Pakistani forces.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced a day later that Pakistan would release him, which the country did. On March 1, 2019, he was handed over to the Indian authorities at the Attari-Wagah border.
This is when he came into the limelight. Photographs of him blindfolded and handcuffed by Pakistani army surfaced in the news as well as social media. One of the videos showed him answering questions posed by Pakistanis fearlessly.
On August 15, 2019, he will be conferred the Vir Chakra, India's third-highest wartime medal for shooting down the Pakistani F-16.