IAF’s woman pilot Deepika Misra gets Vayu Sena medal

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New Delhi:  Wing Commander Deepika Misra, a pilot of the Indian Air Force, was on Sunday conferred with the Vayu Sena medal, becoming perhaps the first woman to bag the prestigious award.

The government also conferred the Vayu Sena medal to Group Captain Rahul Singh and Group Captain Ravi Nanda for their respective roles during India’s Operation Devi Shakti, the evacuation mission launched to bring back Indians from Kabul after its takeover by the Taliban

On Wing Commander Misra’s award, the IAF said she has been chosen for her role during a sortie under a disaster relief operation following flash floods in northern Madhya Pradesh.

“Despite the odds of deteriorating weather, strong winds and the nearing sunset time, Wing Commander Deepika negotiated the challenging weather and was the first and only respondent to reach the affected area,” the IAF said.

It said her initial aerial recce and inputs thereof proved to be instrumental in planning of the entire rescue operation by the IAF, NDRF and civil authorities.

About Group captain Singh’s award, the IAF said he was part of the C-17 transport squadron.

“The flight landed at Kabul airport at night and taxied to the spot vacated by the preceding C-17 aircraft. After holding on ground for nearly four hours the possibility of the remaining evacuees reaching the airport still remained bleak,” the IAF said.

At this point the situation turned hostile with sporadic gunfire and swarms of civilians having broken through the southern perimeter wall rushing towards aircraft parked in the northern part of the airfield.

“The officer displaying superior judgement and dynamic decision making, executed an expeditious departure for Dushanbe to obviate any harm to the aircraft,” the IAF said.

At Dushanbe, he remained in constant contact with Air headquarters operation room.

“Close to midnight, sensing an opportunity the officer took off for Kabul for a possible blind landing using NVGs (Night Vision Goggles),” the IAF said.

“Short of Kabul Airport, the flight had to hold for close to an hour (burning precious fuel) near Durand line as communications could not be established with the now evacuated ATC tower and Radar Approach services,” it added.

The officer, displaying sharp situational awareness and swift decision-making, contacted US Air Force Airborne Control and obtained an accurate update of the ground situation.

“At the same time he was also coordinating via SATCOM with the Air Attache on the ground. After frantic negotiations the aircraft was finally cleared for landing at own risk,” the IAF said.

“The Post parking, the officer established contact with the US Ground Force commander and directed the GARUD forces to establish a defensive perimeter around the aircraft,” it said.

“Post a four-hour delayed arrival of the 153 evacuees; the officer promptly taxied out and executed a flawless tactical departure in order to avoid ground fire in the absence of any ground navigation aids,” it said.

“For this act of exceptional courage, Group Captain Rahul Singh is awarded Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry),” it added.

Group Captain Ravi Nanda also showed similar courage in the operation.

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