New Delhi: Air Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria, who played a key role in negotiating the Rafale deal, will be the next Chief of Air Staff, the government announced on Thursday.
Bhadauria, who took over as the Vice Chief of the Indian Air Force in May this year, will take charge from the incumbent Chief B S Dhanoa on September 30 on his superannuation.
“Government has decided to appoint Air Marshal RKS Bhadauria, PVSM, AVSM, VM, ADC, presently Vice Chief of Air Staff as the next Chief of the Air Staff,” Defence Ministry’s Principal spokesperson, said on Twitter.
“He commanded Flight Test Squadron at Aircraft & System Testing Establishment (ASTE) & was the Project Director of National Flight Test Centre on Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) project. As DCAS, he was instrumental in the finalisation of contract of Rafale aircraft for IAF,” the IAF tweeted.
Bhadauria, the senior most officer in the Air Force after Dhanoa, was to retire on September 30, the same day as Dhanoa.
An Air Force official said in this case, the incumbent chief may demit office in the forenoon, paving way for Bhadauria to take charge in the noon.
A former Air Marshal recalled a similar incident when N C Suri took over as the Chief of Air Staff from S K Mehra on July 31, 1991, the day he was supposed to superannuate. Mehra demitted office in the forenoon and Suri took charge in the noon.
Besides Bhadauria, Air Marshal R Nambiar, the AOC-in-C of the crucial Western Air Command, Air Marshal B Suresh, the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief (AoC-in-C) of the Thiruvananthapuram-based Southern Air Command, were also in the contention for the top post.
An alumnus of the National Defence Academy, Bhadauria was commissioned into the fighter stream of the IAF in June 1980 and won the coveted ‘Sword of Honour’ for standing first in the overall order of merit.
He has held various command, staff and instructional appointments at different levels, including the present one as Vice Chief of Air Staff.
During his nearly four-decade career, Bhadauria commanded a Jaguar squadron and a premier Air Force Station. He devised a method for carrying bombing from the Jaguar aircraft using the Global Positioning System (GPS). This was especially relevant for the bombing role of Jaguar aircraft in Operation Safed Sagar in 1999.