Rafale negotiator Air Marshal Bhadauria named next IAF Chief

In its belated decision, Modi Government goes by the Suri precedent of 1991 in selecting the IAF's most qualified Industry interface for the top job

September 19, 2019 By Vishal Thapar Photo(s): By IAF
Air Chief-designate Air Marshal RKS Bhadauria paying homage at the national War Memorial in New Delhi

The Narendra Modi Government on September 19 named Air Marshal RKS Bhadauria, the negotiator of the Rafale deal, to be the next Chief of Air Staff. Currently the Vice-Chief of Air Staff, he will take over from Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa on September 30 as the Air Chief.

While Air Marshal Bhadauria is the senior-most Air Marshal with an impressive service record, there was some uncertainty over his selection as Air Chief because as an Air Marshal, he was scheduled to retire on September 30, the same day as Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa.

SP's Aviation was the only publication to have discerned a succession plan when Air Marshal Bhadauria was appointed Vice-Chief in May this year barely five months ahead of his scheduled retirement

But there's a precedent of Air Chief Marshal NC Suri taking over from the retiring Air Chief Marshal SK Mehra as IAF Chief in 1991 under similar circumstances.

The Modi Government took its time mulling over its decision this time, as the selection of a service chief is announced about two months ahead of the retirement of the incumbent. In its belated decision just 11 days ahead of the retirement of Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa, the Modi Government - which in the past has made unconventional decisions on appointments of service Chiefs - has this time obviously gone by the Suri precedent in selecting Bhadauria.

Bhadauria was preferred over Air Marshals B Suresh, Raghunath Nambiar and HS Arora, the Air Officers Commanding-in-Chief of the Southern, Western and South-Western Commands respectively

Bhadauria was preferred over Air Marshals B Suresh, Raghunath Nambiar and HS Arora, the Air Officers Commanding-in-Chief of the Southern, Western and South-Western Commands respectively.

As Air Chief Marshal, Bhadauria will automatically get two more years in service. A 4-star officer retires at age 62 while a 3-star superannuates at 60. Bhadauria is expected to take over from Dhanoa in the forenoon of September 30 to enable him to pick up 4-star rank hours ahead of his scheduled retirement as a 3-star officer.

SP's Aviation was the only publication to have discerned a succession plan when Air Marshal Bhadauria was appointed Vice-Chief in May this year barely five months ahead of his scheduled retirement https://www.sps-aviation.com/story/?id=2542&h=IAF-s-Points-person-for-Key-Procurements-is-the-New-Vice-Chief-of-Air-Staff .

As the former Deputy Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Bhadauria was the lead negotiator for the 7.6 Billion Euro deal for 36 Rafale fighters signed in 2016. It was in acknowledgement of his role in removing complex hurdles in the deal that the French OEM Dassault put Air Marshal Bhadauria's initials (RB 008) as the tail number of the first Rafale fighter produced for the IAF

As the former Deputy Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Bhadauria was the lead negotiator for the 7.6 Billion Euro deal for 36 Rafale fighters signed in 2016. It was in acknowledgement of his role in removing complex hurdles in the deal that the French OEM Dassault put Air Marshal Bhadauria's initials (RB 008) as the tail number of the first Rafale fighter produced for the IAF. This fighter will be handed over to the IAF in France on October 8.

As chief experimental test pilot and project director of the National Flight Test Centre at the Aeronautical Development Agency, Bhadauria was also a key points person in the development of the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas. He is highly regarded in the aeronautical development establishment as a supporter of indigenisation.

Affectionately known as 'Chhotu Sir' in India's aeronautical complex, where he is well regarded for his ability to take tough decisions, his postings as Air Attache to Russia and Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Projects) added to his experience in equipment and procurement issues.

He is probably the most qualified interface with Industry to make it to the top post in the IAF. Affectionately known as 'Chhotu Sir' in India's aeronautical complex, where he is well regarded for his ability to take tough decisions, his postings as Air Attache to Russia and Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Projects) added to his experience in equipment and procurement issues.

It was also during his tenure as the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Southern Command that the first Tejas squadron (No. 45 Flying Daggers Squadron) was shifted to its base at Sulur in Tamil Nadu.

Air Marshal Bhadauria, who has also been the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the IAF Training Command, will be the first Jaguar pilot after Air Chief Marshal Tyagi to be Air Chief. He is originally from Korth village near Agra.