Wing Commander Arun Tillu Samtani (17002) Flying (Pilot) is the Commanding Officer of the Mi-35 Squadron of the IAF Contingent Sierra Leone-2000 for the United Nations in Sierra Leone.
'Op Khukri', a joint Army Air Force Operation of the United Nations forces was executed to extricate 222 UN Peace Keepers held hostage for more than 75 days by Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels at Kailahun in Eastern Sierra Leone. MiÃ‚Â35 helicopters of the IAF contingent were tasked to provide fire support to own troops at all times from dawn to dusk during this operation.
On 16 July 2000, Wg Cdr AT Samtani was tasked to carry out strike on RUF reinforcements coming through Manowa Ferry to impede the advance of UN troops heading from Kailahun to Daru and suppress the RUF fire at UN ground forces road convoy. Undeterred by the enemy anti aircraft guns and heavy machine guns fire, Wg Cdr AT Samtani attacked enemy positions with rockets and front guns with pinpoint accuracy, inflicting heavy damage on rebel positions. Throughout the period of operation, Wg Cdr AT Samtani relentlessly carried out strikes at RUF positions with clinical accuracy at RUF strongholds of Kailahaun, Giehun, Pendembu and Kuiva that were located along the axis of advance of UN ground forces. Wg Cdr AT Samtani flew eight missions involving 14 hrs of flying in less than two days under extremely adverse weather and terrain conditions and under the threat of continuous firing by the rebels.
For this act of exceptional courage and professionalism, the Hon'ble President of pleased to award 'Vayu Sena Medal' (Gallantry) to Wing Commander Arun Tillu Samtani.