It’s not just during times of war when a solider’s life is at risk. We may not realize the seriousness of the situation, but our soldiers live through endless perils everyday and their unconditional sacrifice for the motherland is what makes them the brave sons of our country.

Squadron Leader Rijul Sharma is one such brave soldier who was awarded the Vayu Sena medal for gallantry on the eve of this Republic Day for his exemplary display of courage.

Last year, in June, Squadron Leader Sharma was flying an Air Test sortie on a MiG 29 aircraft to test its performance. The aircraft was flying 110 kms away from the base at supersonic speed, when a mishap occurred. The canopy of the aircraft, a transparent enclosure over the cockpit, got damaged exposing the pilot to the elements.

The broken aircraft exposed Sharma to very low temperatures at an altitude of 10 kms. To worsen the situation, the broken pieces from the canopy struck Sharma’s right shoulder, causing severe injury.

In this situation with a shoulder severely injured, it was difficult for him to manoeuvre the aircraft. Not only was he exposed to a low temperature which caused aero-medical problems such as decompression sickness, he was also in the risk of being unconscious.

Despite all these difficulties, instead of ejecting from the plane, Sharma decided to recover the aircraft and descended to 3 kms, slowing down its speed. Struggling with low frontal visibility and very high cockpit noise, he continued managing the broken aircraft and simultaneously avoided flying too close to oil installations and populated areas, and successfully executed a safe emergency landing. 

Popular defence journalist Shiv Aroor tweeted Sharma’s achievement: 

Salute to your bravery, sir!