Wing Commander Abhinandan will join Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa, on 3 September for a sortie in a MiG-21 Bison combat aircraft during the formal induction ceremony of the country’s first Apache AH-64 multi-role combat helicopter, digital news platform The Print reported.
The ceremony is likely to take place at the Pathankot Air Force Base in India’s Punjab state, according to the India Today news portal.
The IAF’s Bengaluru-based Institute of Aerospace Medicine had given Wing Commander Abhinandan permission to start flying late last month.
He has been flying the MiG-21 Bison at an air force station in India’s Rajasthan state five months after he suffered back and rib injuries due to a hard landing and subsequently beatings received in Pakistani custody in February.
“He has been flying for the last two weeks and is an inspiration for all of us. He has always been eager to fly,” The Print quoted a source as saying.
The Pakistan Army had captured the 36-year-old IAF wing commander on 27 February after his MiG-21 Bison was shot down during a dogfight with Pakistan Air Force jets.
Before his aircraft was hit, Wing Commander Abhinandan downed a Pakistani F-16 fighter plane. He drew admiration not just for this feat, but also for his composure during his captivity in Pakistan. Pakistan released him on the night of 1 March.
The dogfight between Indian and Pakistan fighter pilots had taken place in the Nowshera Sector in India’s Jammu and Kashmir state a day after the Indian Air Force had claimed success in pulling off a pre-emptive missile strike on a training camp run by the globally banned Jaish-e-Mohammad terror outfit in Pakistan’s Balakot region.
Eight AH-64 helicopters, the most modern variant of the Apache, were delivered to India by US-based aviation manufacturer Boeing in July and August.
India’s Defence Ministry finalised the order for production, training and support of 22 AH-64 Apache attack helicopters in 2015.
Boeing has committed to handing over the entire fleet of 22 Apaches to the IAF for operation by 2020.