Service No : 10456 F(P)
Date of Birth : August 27, 1945
Place of birth : Mumbai (Mah)
Last Rank : Flight Lieutenant
Unit : 220 Sqn AF
Arm/Regt : Indian Air Force
Operation : Op Cactus Lily
Awards : VrC
Martyrdom : December 4, 1971
Flt Lt Pradeep Vinayak Apte hailed from Mumbai in Maharashtra and was born on 27 Aug 1945. Son of Shri VR Apte, he got selected to join the prestigious NDA after his schooling and joined the 27th NDA course. He was commissioned into the Indian Air Force on 29 Oct 1966 at the age of 21 years.
He was commissioned in the fighter stream of the IAF and got trained as a fighter pilot. After completing his flying training, Flt Lt Apte served with various flying squadrons located at different Air Force bases. By 1971, Flt Lt Apte had put in about 5 years of service and evolved into a professionally competent fighter pilot having expertise in various air operations.
Offensive Air Operation (Indo-Pak War) : 04 Dec 1971
In December, 1971, Flt Lt Pradip Vinayak Apte was serving with 220 Squadron which was operating HF -24 Marut a fighter bomber aircraft. The 220 Squadron was raised on the 23rd of December, 1957 and was known as the ‘Desert Tigers’. The Squadron was initially equipped with Vampire aircrafts, but later in April, 1969, the Squadron got armed with the indigenous HF-24 Marut fighter-bomber aircrafts. As the PAF attacked 11 Air Force bases on 03 Dec 1971, the Indian Air Force decided to launch counter offensive operations on the eastern as well as western front. 220 Sqn was tasked to undertake offensive missions against the targets on the western front. The first wave of attacks were launched on 04 Dec 1971. Flt Lt Apte was tasked for a strike mission on 04 Dec.
On 4th December 1971, Flt Lt Apte was detailed as No 2 on a tactical reconnaissance mission in Naya Chor Umarkot-Dhornaro area. Near Naya Chor he observed enemy vehicle convoys moving towards Dhornaro Railway Station. He immediately went in for a front gun attack and scored direct hits on the vehicles. In this mission he then flew directly over Dhornaro Railway Station and once again he spotted a goods train being unloaded. He attacked the train despite concentrated ground fire and caused considerable damage. Not content with this, Flt Lt Apte then pressed on with his third attack, knowing fully well that the enemy air defence batteries were targeting him. However while pulling up his aircraft, it took a direct hit and suffered sever damage. Using his superior flying skills, Flt Lt Apte brought the damaged aircraft under control and headed for base, about 100 miles away. But he could not succeed and had to abandon the aircraft under compelling circumstances. He went down with the aircraft and was martyred.
Flt Lt Apte was a valiant soldier and committed air warrior, who laid down his life in the line of his duty following the highest traditions of the IAF. Flt Lt AV Apte was given the gallantry award, “Vir Chakra” on 26 Jan 1972 for his outstanding bravery, devotion to duty and supreme sacrifice.
Citation for the Vir Chakra awarded to him reads:-
During the operations against Pakistan in December, 1971, Flight Lieutenant Pradip Vinayak Apte was serving with a Fighter Bomber Squadron. On 4th December 1971, he was detailed as Number Two on a tactical reconnaissance mission in Naya Chor Umarkot-Dhornaro area. Near Naya Chor he observed enemy vehicle convoys moving towards Dhornaro Railway Station. He immediately went in for a front gun attack and scored direct hits on the vehicles. In this mission he then flew directly over Dhornaro Railway Station and once again he spotted a goods train being unloaded. He attacked the train despite concentrated ground fire and caused considerable damage. He pressed on with his third attack, but while pulling up his aircraft was hit and damaged by ground fire. He brought the damaged aircraft under control and headed for base, which was about 100 miles. Under compelling circumstances, he abandoned the aircraft. In this operation, he made the supreme sacrifice.
Throughout, Flight Lieutenant Pradip Vinayak Apte displayed gallantry and determination of a high order.