Indian Air Force Mirage 2000 fighter pilot has been awarded Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry) for safe recovery of his aircraft despite incapacitating injury.
On 26 July 2016, Wing Commander Ravinder Ahlawat was authorized to carry out a 'Range Instructional Technique' (RIT) sortie over Pokharan Range in Dassault Mirage 2000 Trainer aircraft as the captain of the aircraft, occupying the front cockpit.
While carrying out "Pull Up Attack" circuit, at 500 ft above ground level at high speeds and in a turn, the aircraft experienced a bird hit.
The severity of the impact shattered the canopy perspex completely and the bird hit Wg Cdr Ahlawat, damaging his helmet, breaking his visor and injuring his face, neck, arms and chest resulting in profuse bleeding and nearly incapacitating him.
The bird also broke the glass separator between the front and the rear cockpit as well. The impact also damaged the front pilot ejection system.
Due to the injuries, blood streaming down his face and bird remains, Wg Cdr Ahlawat had limited vision available from his left eye only.
Despite the nature of his injuries, shock of impact, high wind blast and minimal reaction time since the aircraft was flying at low level, he took all the emergency actions correctly to save the aircraft and people of a village in close vicinity of the Pokharan range.
During recovery, the rear pilot could not see the runway due to the perspex being obscured. Without the front pilot taking over and landing, the aircraft would have to be abandoned.
There were significant chances of ejection system failure due to damage to the same. Displaying gallantry and upholding the virtues of "service-before-self", Wg Cdr Ahlawat used his one hand to open his left eye, took over the controls with the other hand and despite incapacitating injuries, limited binocular vision and with the canopy perspex blown off, he executed a safe landing on the nearest runway of an Indian Air Force Base.