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Suspense continues over name of next IAF chief

Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria is due to retire on September 30

PTI05-10-2020_000098A Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria| PTI

With barely a week left in the tenure of the incumbent chief of the Indian Air Force, the suspense continues over the name of his successor. Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria is completing his innings on September 30 after two years of service in the Air Headquarters. And, military observers believe that keeping the announcement close to the last date, is certainly not good for the forces, as it gives room for unnecessary speculations.

Traditionally, the government declares the name of the succeeding chief two to three months before the superannuation of the current chief. The idea is to give sufficient time for the new person to understand and coordinate with the present chief for the continuation of the work.

Incidentally, Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria took over the reins of the world's fourth-largest air force on the day of his retirement i.e. September 30, 2019, and the elevation to the post gave him two more years in service. While other officers retire in the evening, Service Chiefs retire before noon and it allows the successor to take charge on the same day. "Even ACM Bhadauria's name was announced on September 19, 2019. And, his announcement came as surprise to everyone as he was scheduled to retire with then IAF chief ACM B.S. Dhanoa. So, are we heading for a similar surprise?" said a key defence ministry official.

Officials sources claimed that the defence ministry has already sent names of four short-listed air marshals to the Appointment Committee of Cabinet (ACC).

Air Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari, Air Marshal Amit Dev, Air Marshal Manavendra Singh and Air Marshal Sandeep Singh are in the race to succeed Air Chief Marshal (ACM) Bhaduria.

Air Marshal Chaudhari, presently the vice chief of IAF, is the senior-most among others in the race. He was commissioned in the fighter stream of the IAF on December 29, 1982, and has a flying experience of more than 3800 hrs on a wide variety of fighter and trainer aircraft, including missions flown during Op-Meghdoot and Op-Safed Sagar.

Operation Meghdoot was the codename for the Indian Armed Forces' operation to seize control of the Siachen Glacier in Kashmir in 1984. And Operation Safed Sagar was for IAF's role in the 1999 Kargil conflict. Air Marshal Amit Dev, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Shillong-based Eastern Air Command, is the next in line. A fighter pilot, Air Marshal Dev has a vast career of 38 years, in which has commanded a fighter aircraft squadron, air defence direction centre and an operational fighter base.

The Chief of southern air command, Air Marshal Manavendra Singh, is a helicopter pilot with over 6,600 hours of flying experience in various sectors like the Siachen, the North East, Uttarakhand, the Western desert. Air Marshal Sandeep Singh, who is heading the Gandhinagar-based South Western Air Command can also be considered for the top post. In his long career of 37 years, he has commanded a fighter aircraft squadron and was a project test pilot for the Su-30MKI. Due to his proficient knowledge of the Su-30MKI platform. He served as the deputy chief of the air force as well.

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