Squadron Leader Saurabh Raghuvanshi, Flying (Pilot) was on the posted strength of MiG 21 Bison Squadron at Air Force Station Srinagar. He was a Qualified Flying Instructor and had over 1450 hrs of service flying to his credit.
On 27 May 14, the officer was planned to fly as No.4 in a four aircraft strike mission towards Exercise Talon in the Northern region. The mission was flown to validate the efficacy of Low Level Light Weight Radar (LLLWR) Air Defence preparedness against enemy raids. Having flown the route through the Himalayas and the Pir Pinjal valleys, the trail element, with Squadron Leader Raghuvanshi as the wingman, entered Srinagar valley with an aim to strike Awantipur airfield and descended to low levels. During the final run-in towards the target, a tactical action towards left was ordered approximately 10 km short of Awantipur airfield. Almost simultaneously, Squadron Leader Raghuvanshi experienced a bird hit on the front windshield of his canopy. The bird impact was so hard that it broke the windshield and impacted his face. The face injury nearly incapacitated him. In spite of the serious injury and critical time available to him due to the extreme low altitude, he visualized the future flight path of the aircraft that would have killed numerous villagers on ground causing loss of lives and property. Without fearing for his life, he courageously steered the aircraft away from the village and ejected in a clear area. The precious time lost in this effort of saving lives an upholding the virtues of ‘service-before-self’ resulted in the life saving mechanism of the ejection system not getting sufficient time to operate successfully. The brave pilot succumbed to the injuries instantaneously on impacting the ground.
The officer displayed exceptional valour, professional skills and unparalleled leadership in the face of extreme danger. He saved numerous innocent lives of his countrymen and national property by his heroic act. For this act of exceptional courage and supreme sacrifice, Squadron Leader Saurabh Raghuvanshi has been awarded with Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry).