Indian Airforce
Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa with the airmen of 152 Helicopter UnitCredits: Press Information Bureau

The Indian Air Force (IAF) led by Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa paid tribute to the airmen who made the ultimate sacrifice for the country during Operation Safed Sagar of Kargil war. Three Mi-17 V5 helicopters of 152 Helicopter Unit flew over the Sarsawa Air Force Station in Uttar Pradesh in the 'Missing Man' formation where Air Chief Dhanoa, Air Marshal R Nambiar and Lt Gen YK Joshi, commander of the Indian Army's 14 Corps paid homage to Sqn Ldr R Pundir, Flt Lt S Muhilan, Sgt RK Sahu and Sgt PVNR Prasad who laid down their lives while flying a sortie during Operation Safed Sagar.

It is to be noted that all the three officers are decorated Kargil war Veterans. Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa, then the Commanding Officer of the 17 Squadron carried out round the clock operations against Pakistan's northern light infantry and terrorists who had infiltrated inside the Indian Territory.

Air Marshal R Nambiar who is the current chief of the Western Air Command flew sorties and carried out laser-guided bomb attacks on Tiger Hill which was one the most critical peaks held by the enemy infiltrators. Lt Gen YK Joshi commanded the operations of 13 Jammu and Kashmir Rifles which spearheaded the capture of Point 5140 on Tololing Mountains. It was under his command Captain Vikram Batra immortalized himself responding to the call of duty.

Indian Airforce
Lt. Gen. Y.K. Joshi, GOC 14 Corps Commander (Extreme Left), Air Marshal R. Nambiar, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Air Command (2nd from left), Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa (2nd from right) and Group Captain, P. Bhola, CO 152 Helicopter Unit (Extreme right)Credits: Press Information Bureau

What is Missing Man Formation

The missing man is an aerial salute performed as part of a flypast of aircraft at a memorial event which is typically in memory of fallen airmen. The tribute sometimes is paid to a non-military personality as well although in Western countries.

Over the years, several variants of "Missing Man" formation have evolved. In India, the 3 flying aircrafts make an arrow formation with a gap between two aircraft depicting the missing man. In the United States, it is based on the "finger-four" aircraft combat formation having 4 aircraft. The aircrafts make a V-shape with flight leader at the point and his wingman on left.

Notably, on Monday Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa led a four aircraft, MiG-21 Missing Man formation flypast at the Air Force Station Bhisiana, to honour the valour of the men martyred during Kargil war.