New Delhi: Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria, who played a key role in the negotiations with France to secure a deal of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft, took over as the new air chief on Monday with an assertion that India is ready for any kind of threat.
Bhadauria, who succeeds Birender Singh Dhanoa, took over at a time when Pakistan has escalated war hysteria, with its Prime Minister Imran Khan even threatening a nuclear war.
The 26th chief of the Indian Air Force (IAF) has over 4,250 hours of flying experience with 26 different fighter and transport aircraft. He was also extensively involved in the flights of the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas’ initial prototypes.
In recent times, Bhadauria was the key negotiator in the deal for 36 Rafale fighters which India is acquiring from Dassault company of France.
As a special recognition of his role in clinching the deal, his initials RB-01 have been inscribed on the tailfin of the first fighter Rafale jet which will be ceremonially received by India on August 8 in France. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is scheduled to fly to France to receive the aircraft.
Soon after taking over from Dhanoa who retired on Monday, Bhadauria said the induction of the Rafale fighter would be a game-changer for India as it would give a big boost to the IAF’s capability.
He said efforts would be made to make the new fighter plane operational at the earliest.
An alumnus of the National Defence Academy where he won the coveted ‘Sword of Honour’ for standing first in the overall order of merit, Bhadauria was commissioned into the IAF’s fighter stream in June 1980.
He has to fill the shoes of his predecessor Dhanoa, who is credited with successfully planning and executing the air strikes on the Jaish-e-Mohammad terror camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan, on February 26 in retaliation to the Pulwama terror attack carried out by the Pakistan-based outfit.
Talking to a channel amidst threats by Pakistan, Bhadauria said the IAF is ever prepared to undertake a strike of the nature of Balakot.
“We were prepared at that point of time. We are ever more prepared now. We are fully capable of meeting any challenge, any requirement and any mission,” he said.