The 38-year-old Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman who is in Pakistani custody after his jet went down during a mission amid the faceoff between India and Pakistan is the retired fighter pilot Air Marshal Simhakutty Varthaman’ son
Abhinandan was commissioned as a fighter pilot on June 19, 2004, and is married and has two children and he hails from Tamil Nadu’s Tiruvannamalai district. He completed his education in Delhi since his father was posted in the Capital.
Abhinandan father, Air Marshal Simhakutty Varthaman, was a distinguished fighter pilot and played a significant role during the 1999 Kargil conflict, when he, as a Group Captain, was the chief operations officer (COO) at the Gwalior airbase. He has been honoured with the Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM), a military award for “most exceptional order” in peace-time service.
Air Marshal Varthaman retired as the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Shillong-based Eastern Air Command. He also held the charge of the Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Intelligence). He has also served as air attaché to France. In 2017, the government constituted a committee under the Air Marshal to assess the viability of building stealth fighters jointly with Russia.
Raju Srinivasan, an IAF veteran, said he was acquainted with Air Marshal Varthaman’s professional calibre. “He was an experienced experimental test pilot and had flown many of the aircraft in the IAF’s inventory. He was a very professional officer. I don’t know much about his son, Abhinandan. Air Marshal Varthaman is a much-decorated IAF officer and a thorough gentleman.”
The Wing Commander’s father in his message about his son said, “Thank you, my friends, for your concern and wishes. I thank God for his blessings, Abhi is alive, not injured, sound in mind, just look at the way he talked so bravely, a true soldier. We are so proud of him. I am sure all your hands n blessings are on his head, prayers for his safe return, I pray that he does not get tortured, and comes home safe n sound in body and mind. Thank you all for being with us in this hour of need. We draw our strengths from your support and energy.”