New Delhi: The baton of command at the Indian Air Force changed hands on Monday, with Air Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria taking charge as the 26th chief succeeding Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, who retired after 41 years of service.

Bhadauria was commissioned in the fighter stream of the Indian Air Force in June 1980, and has held various command, staff and instructional positions. He was vice chief of air staff, and set to retire on Monday, He was named Dhanoa’s successor on 19 September.

Now he will serve a two-year term as the head of the Indian Air Force. Bhadauria was one of the several contenders for the IAF chief’s post. The others in the running were Air Marshal R. Nambiar, the Air Office Commanding-in-Chief of the crucial Western Air Command, a veteran of the 1999 Kargil war. A third officer in contention was Air Marshal H.S. Arora, heading the Gandhinagar-based South Western Command.

Also watch: Air Marshal RKS Bhadauria takes charge as Chief of IAF

An alumnus of the National Defence Academy, Bhadauria won the coveted 'Sword of Honour' for standing first in the overall order of merit.

During his nearly four-decade long career, Bhadauria commanded a Jaguar squadron and a premier Air Force Station.

He is credited with devising a method for carrying out bombing operations from the Jaguar aircraft using the Global Positioning System (GPS) which came in handy especially during the 1999 Kargil war.

Bhadauria has clocked 4,250 hours of flying experience on 26 types of fighters and transport aircraft. He is also one of the few Indian air force pilots to have flown the French made Rafale jet which is to soon become part of Indian Air Force inventory. In July, during Exercise Garuda – a joint exercise between the Indian and French Air Forces - Bhadauria had flown the Rafale aircraft.

The Rafale trainer jet that the Indian Air Force took possession of on 19 September, bears his initials “RB" on its tail. This was in recognition of the role he played as deputy chief in India's negotiations with France to clinch the deal to buy the 36 Rafale fighter jets. As the air force chief, Bhadauria will have the opportunity to induct the aircraft into the Indian Air Force fleet when the jets finally come to India sometime early next year.

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