In the 1965 war, Squadron Leader Padmanabha Gautam displayed exceptional courage by flying six offensive support mission into Pakistan and was honoured with the Mahavir Chakra. In the second Indo-pak war of 1971, Gautam now a Wing Commander got another opportunity to distinguish himself.
He was in a command of the 16 Squadron of the Indian Air Force, deployed to attack vital targets in Pakistan. On his very first mission to strike the heavily defended Mianwali airfield, The wing commander and his men were subjected to intense anti-aircraft fire. But Being an experienced fighter pilot, the wing commander flew at low levels, skilfully evaded the ground fire and bombed the target with great precision and accuracy. The raid severely damaged the airfield. A second raid on the airfield and another on the railway marshalling yards near Rawalpindi were equally successful.
Wing Commander Gautam was honoured with the Bar to the Mahavir Chakra.