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Gaganyaan: IAF fighter pilots earn ‘astronaut wings’; two recipients of ‘Sword of Honour’

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STATE TIMES NEWS

New Delhi: IAF’s four fighter pilots undergoing rigorous training for the landmark Gaganyaan mission, and who earned the ‘astronaut wings’ on Tuesday, have a stellar resume. They have a flying experience in the range of nearly 2,000-3,000 hours and two of them are recipients of the prestigious ‘Sword of Honour’.
Names of Indian astronaut-designates — Gp Capt Prasanth Balakrishnan Nair, Gp Capt Ajit Krishnan, Gp Capt Angad Pratap Wg Cdr Shubhanshu Shukla were unveiled on Tuesday by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A spokesperson of the Indian Air Force told PTI that all four officers are fighter pilots and it is a matter of immense pride for the IAF.
Gaganyaan — the country’s maiden human space flight mission — envisages demonstration of human spaceflight capability by launching a crew of three members to an orbit of 400 km for three days mission and bring them back safely to earth, by landing in Indian sea waters, according to ISRO website.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in a post on X extended his wishes to the four pilots for getting selected for the groundbreaking mission.
“The aspirations and ambitions of New India is set to take a giant leap as PM Shri @narendramodi unveils and hands over wings to the four Indian astronaut-designates.
I extend my best wishes to Group Captain Prasanth Balakrishnan Nair, Group Captain Ajit Krishnan, Group Captain Angad Pratap and Wing Commander Shubhanshu Shukla for getting selected for the #Gaganyaan Mission. I am confident that they will rise to the occasion and help India in realising the dream of its first #indigenous manned space flight,” he posted.
In a historic announcement, Prime Minister Modi unveiled the names of the four astronaut-designates who are currently undergoing rigorous training for Gaganyaan.
Bestowing them with the prestigious ‘astronaut wings,’ Modi hailed these astronauts as “four forces” representing the aspirations of India’s 1.4 billion people. He emphasised the significance of this mission, noting that after four decades, an Indian is poised to venture into space.
“This time around, the countdown, the timing, and even the rocket would be ours,” Modi said and bestowed the ‘astronaut wings’ to them.
Gp Capt Nair was born in Kerala in 1976 and is alumnus of the NDA, and a recipient of the ‘Sword of Honour’ — an honour given to the best all-round cadet — at the Air Force Academy, the spokesperson said.
He was commissioned in the fighter stream of the IAF in December 1998.
“A Cat A flying instructor and a test pilot with approximately 3,000 hrs of flying experience, he has flown a variety of aircraft, including Su-30 MKI, MiG-21, MiG-29, Hawk, Dornier and An-32,” the official said.
Gp Capt Nair is also “an alumnus of the United States Staff College and a DS at DSSC, Wellington and FIS, Tambaram, the spokesperson said, adding he has commanded a premier fighter Su-30 Sqn.
Gp Capt Krishnan, also an alumnus of the NDA, was born in Chennai in 1982. He is a recipient of the President’s Gold Medal and the ‘Sword of Honour’ at Air Force Academy.
“He was commissioned in June 2003 in the fighter stream of the IAF. A flying instructor and a test pilot with nearly 2,900 hrs of flying experience, he has flown variety of aircraft, including Su-30 MKI, MiG-21, MiG-21, Mig-29, Jaguar, Dornier and An-32,” the spokesperson said, adding, he is also an alumnus of DSSC, Wellington.
Gp Capt Pratap was born in Prayagraj in 1982. Also an alumnus of the NDA, he was commissioned in December 2004 in the fighter stream of the IAF.
He is a flying instructor and a test pilot with approximately 2,000 hours of flying experience and has flown Su-30 MKI, MiG-21, MiG-29, Jaguar, Hawk, Dornier and An-32, among other aircraft, the spokesperson added.
Wg Cdr Shukla was born in Lucknow in 1985 and an alumnus of the NDA who was commissioned in June 2006 in the fighter stream of the IAF. A fighter combat leader and a test pilot with nearly 2,000 hours of flying experience, he has flown Su-30 MKI, MiG-21, MiG-29, Jaguar, Hawk, Dornier and An-32, among other aircraft.
The ISRO website says the pre-requisites for Gaganyaan mission include development of many critical technologies including human-rated launch vehicle for carrying crew safely to space, life support system to provide an earth-like environment to crew in space, crew emergency escape provision and evolving crew management aspects for training, recovery and rehabilitation of crew.

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