Bengaluru: India’s new Vice Chief of the Air Staff (VCAS) Air Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria took command at the Air Headquarters in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Fondly known as ‘Chottu Sir’ among aviators and friends, Air Marshal Bhadauria is the man who played a significant role during the development and induction phases of Light Combat Aircraft, Tejas.
In fact, the No 45. Squadron Flying Daggers, operating the Tejas would not have found its permanent home at Air Force Station Sulur as per the script, but for the push given by the VCAS, while he was heading Southern Air Command (SAC) at Thiruvananthapuram.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) top brass is said to have been convinced by the logic put forth by Air Marshal Bhadauria to push the Flying Daggers from Bengaluru to Sulur ahead of the schedule.
No 45. Sqn was raised in Bengaluru on July 1, 2016, and then moved to Sulur during June\July of 2018.
“With only a few fighters available for the squadron, many wanted the squadron movement to be a bit later. But, Air Marshal Bhadauria was firm and he wanted the pilots and crew to be part of the setting up process. He insisted that the squadron grows as a young unit together at the new base (AFS Sulur) at the earliest,” said an official.
During his stint at SAC, Thiruvananthapuram, Air Marshal Bhadauria was instrumental in strengthening the Air Defence Network of the Southern Peninsula. He was also in the forefront of rescue and relief efforts of IAF during Cyclone Ockhi and Theni fire.
Before moving to Delhi as the No. 2 of IAF, he had a nine-month short stint as the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief (AOC-in-C) of IAF Training Command in Bengaluru.
Sources at the Training Command say that during his official visits to various stations, he ensured that he flew with the wards there.
“Probably he stays apart from the rest by being the only AOC-in-C who has flown with all flying academies (Dundigal, Bidar, Hakimpet and Yelahanka) under his command. This was a huge morale boost to the boys,” said an official.
A passionate aviator, Air Marshal Bhadauria is said to have maintained a direct involvement with every unit.
His recent stint in Bengaluru saw him making the changes required at faster pace so that training was closer to operational mode.
“Lots of contemporary technology and knowledge have flown in into the Training Command structure under his guidance. The decisions were swift and he kept the operational needs as the benchmark always,” said an official.
He was particular that the IAF training must be fine-tuned towards higher standards and more operational-oriented.
“The training of airmen and security matters got a boost. He was keen in increasing the comradeship among all sections,” said an official.
Hailing from Korth village near Agra, Air Marshal Bhadauria was commissioned in the fighter stream of IAF in 1980.
He has close to 4,300 hours of flying on 27 different types of fighters and transport fleet. He is a top-notch MiG-21 and Jaguar pilot, in addition to being an Experimental Test Pilot, a Cat ‘A’ Qualified Flying Instructor and a Pilot Attack Instructor.
A recipient of Param Vishist Seva Medal, Ati Vishist Seva Medal and Vayu Sena Medal, this top air warrior ensured that he stayed away from the media glare during most part of his career, even while the Rafale controversy was at its peak.
As the chairman of the Indian Negotiation Team, he as the Deputy Chief of Air Staff, played a key role that resulted in India inking the pact for 36 Rafale jets.
Interestingly, the first Rafale set to arrive in India later this year will have the tail number RB-008 – said to be a token of appreciation from the French side – for his negotiation skills.
Former director of National Aerospace Laboratories Shyam Chetty, who had earlier worked with Air Marshal Bhadauria on various national projects, including Tejas, terms him as a man who always took bold decisions.
“He is always willing to look at various options before firming up his decision. He was open to design ideas and a very strong supporter for indigenous programmes. He is very proactive and the aeronautical fraternity is elated at his elevation to the No. 2 position in the IAF,” said Shyam.
(The writer is an independent aerospace and defence journalist, who blogs at Tarmak007 and tweets @writetake.)