R.K.S.Bhadauria is set to take over as the IAF chief on 1 October after the retirement of Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa later this month.
R.K.S.Bhadauria is set to take over as the IAF chief on 1 October after the retirement of Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa later this month.

The story behind ‘RB 01’: The first tail number of an IAF Rafale

  • Air Marshal Bhadauria has played an important role in negotiations for procuring 36 Rafale jets in the flyaway condition
  • On 20 September, the IAF technically accepted the first Rafale aircraft from Dassault Aviation at its manufacturing facility in Bordeaux, France


Indian Air Force (IAF) will get its first of the 36 Rafale jets which will be formally be handed over to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on 8 October.

An interesting feature is that IAF’s first Rafale will bear the tail number ‘RB 01’. According to defence sources 'RB' stands for Air Force chief-designate Air Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria,

Air Marshal Bhadauria has played an important role in negotiations for procuring 36 Rafale jets in the flyaway condition.

R.K.S.Bhadauria is set to take over as the IAF chief on 1 October after the retirement of Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa later this month.

When queried, the IAF didn't deny that 'RB' imprinted on the tail fin of the fighter jet stood for the new Air Chief.

"Every aircraft with the IAF has a unique tail number in a series. Fighter and trainer aircraft have separate set of alphabets as initials. Thereafter, numbers are in a series," a senior IAF official told IANS.

On 20 September, the IAF technically accepted the first Rafale aircraft from Dassault Aviation at its manufacturing facility in Bordeaux, France.

India has signed a 59,000 crore inter-government agreement with France and Dassault Aviation to procure 36 multi-role combat aircraft.

The planes would now officially be inducted on October 8 into the IAF when Defence Minister Rajnath Singh visits France but the planes would start arriving in India only in May 2020 after validation of the India Specific Enhancements and training of pilots and personnel.

The Indian planes have been equipped with a lot of India-specific enhancements, which have been fitted at a cost of around one billion euros.

Though small batches of Indian pilots have already trained on the French Air Force planes, the Indian Air Force would train 24 pilots in three different batches till May 2020 for flying the Indian Rafale fighter jets.

The Indian Air Force will deploy one squadron each of the Rafale combat aircraft at its airbases in Ambala in Haryana and Hashimara in West Bengal.

Air Marshal Bhadauria is an alumnus of National Defence Academy. He won the coveted 'Sword of Honour' at the NDA for standing first in the order of merit and was commissioned into the IAF's fighter stream in June 1980.

Apart from his proficiency with various aircraft, Bhadauria is also an Experimental Test Pilot, a Cat 'A' Qualified Flying Instructor and a Pilot Attack Instructor. His many command, staff and instructional appointments, include heading a Jaguar Squadron and a key Air Force Station, commanding the Flight Test Squadron at Aircraft & System Testing Establishment, and being the Chief Test Pilot and Project Director of National Flight Test Centre on Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) project.

Bhadauria also served as Air Attach in Russia, the Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Projects), Commandant of the National Defence Academy, Senior Air Staff Officer at the Central Air Command, the Deputy Chief of the Air Staff and then Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Southern Air Command.

Before taking over as the Vice Air Chief on May 1, he headed the Training Command in Bengaluru.

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