The shoulder and chest patches or badges, which are worn on the flying overalls by pilots to showcase achievements of their squadron but are not part of official uniforms, however, have not been approved by higher authorities in the IAF.
“The ‘Falcon Slayers’ bit is fine because the MiG-21 being flown by Varthaman (who has now been posted to another airbase in Rajasthan) shot down an F-16 with an R-73 air-to-air missile before his fighter was also downed that day. It was truly creditworthy,” an officer said. “But the ‘AMRAAM Dodgers’ part has not gone down well. It could have been ‘AMRAAM Defeaters’ or something else. The patches will need to be re-worked,” he added.
All squadrons have special patches made to commemorate their feats, as also instil pride in the current and future generations of pilots. The No. 22 Squadron of IAF, for instance, got the sobriquet of ‘Sabre Slayers’ after its Gnats shot down Pakistani Sabre fighters during the 1971 war.
During the dogfight on February 27, the older Russian-origin MiG-21s from No. 51 Squadron at Srinagar took the battle to the much more advanced Pakistani F-16s, armed with AIM-120C advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAMs), and thwarted their attack. The MiG-21s were backed by Sukhoi-30MKIs.
The young, gung-ho MiG-21 pilots are obviously proud. The No. 51 Squadron patch shows a MiG-21 in the foreground, with an F-16 in the cross-hairs in the background. The Sukhoi-30MKI squadron, too, has the sobriquet ‘AMRAAM Dodgers’ in its new patches, which show its fighters successfully evading the AMRAAM missiles fired by the F-16s. “Both squadrons will now need to order re-designed patches,” another officer said.