The race has started. As the government has launched the process of selecting the next Air Force and Navy chief, the corridors of the southern bloc of the nation’s capital are teeming with names of candidates.
While the chief of the Indian Air Force, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, is due to retire by the end of next month, the Defense Ministry has shortlisted the names of four more senior air officers for the highest post.
Traditionally, the government declares the name of the successor leader two to three months before the retirement of the current leader. The idea is to allow enough time for the new person to understand and coordinate with the current leader for further work. Soon, the Defense Ministry will send these four names to the cabinet nominating committee.
Air Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari, Air Marshal Amit Dev, Air Marshal Manavendra Singh and Air Marshal Sandeep Singh are racing to succeed Air Chief ( ACM) Bhadauria.
Interestingly, the announcement of ACM Bhadauria’s appointment came ten days before his retirement – he was due to retire on September 30, 2019, along with then Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa. Raising the post of ACM Bhadauria gave two more years of service.
Air Marshal Chaudhari, currently vice-chief of the IAF, is the race’s most senior officer. Commissioned in the fighter component of the IAF on December 29, 1982, Air Marshal Chaudhari has flying experience of over 3,800 hours on a wide variety of combat and training aircraft, including missions carried out during Operation Meghdoot and Operation Safed Sagar. Operation Meghdoot was the code name for the Indian Armed Forces Operation to take control of the Siachen Glacier in Kashmir in 1984, and Operation Safed Sagar was the IAF’s role in the Kargil conflict in 1999 .
Next is Air Marshal Amit Dev, who is the commander-in-chief air officer of Eastern Air Command based in Shillong. As a fighter pilot, he has over 2,500 hours of flying experience on a variety of fighter jets, including the MiG-21 and MiG-27. During a sprawling 38-year career, he commanded a fighter squadron, an air defense management center and an operational fighter base. Recently, he performed a sortie in the Rafale fighter plane while inducing the fighter plane to his second squadron at Hasimara Air Base in West Bengal.
The chief of the Southern Air Command based in Thiruvananthapuram, Air Marshal Manavendra Singh is a helicopter pilot, with over 6,600 hours of flying experience in various sectors such as Siachen, Northeast, l ‘Uttarakhand and the Western Desert.
Air Marshal Sandeep Singh, who heads Jodhpur-based South Western Air Command, may also be considered for the top post. During his 37-year long career, he commanded a squadron of fighter jets and served as a project test pilot for the Su-30MKI. Due to his extensive knowledge of the Su-30MKI platform, Air Marshal Sandeep Singh was the primary liaison for the implementation of various weapons and systems by DRDO. He was also deputy chief of the air force.
The government will also have to decide on the next head of the Indian Navy. Admiral Karambir Singh, the current naval chief of staff, will complete his term in November. Admiral Karambir Singh took the reins of the Indian Navy as the 24th Chief in May 2019, becoming the first helicopter pilot to lead the force.
The Navy has an interesting race, as the most senior naval officer after the Navy Chief of Staff retires on the same date. Vice-Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla, who heads Southern Naval Command, is due to retire on November 30, the same day Admiral Karambir Singh ends his term. Specialist in navigation and direction, Vice-Admiral Chawla commanded the C-01 coastguard vessel, the Vidyut INS Vinash class missile boat, the Kora INS Kora class missile corvette, the frigate Stealth Tabar and the aircraft carrier Viraat have served almost four decades. Since the IAF has a “precedence” of an officer appointed chief on the day of his retirement, the Navy can also expect the same. But commanding Southern Naval Command, which is not an operational command, takes away the advantage. Instead, his juniors were given operational command. Traditionally, naval officers who commanded operational command such as East or West commands are the preferred batch.
Next is Vice-Admiral R. Hari Kumar, commander of Western Naval Command based in Mumbai. He specializes in artillery and commanded five ships, including a Destroyer and the INS Viraat aircraft carrier. He has held important positions both ashore and afloat and has also served as a naval adviser to the government of Seychelles.
Next is Vice Admiral Dinesh K Tripathi, Chief of Staff at Naval Headquarters, who also served as Director General of Naval Operations at Naval Headquarters.
Naval officers believe the real race is between Vice Admiral Chawla and Vice Admiral Hari Kumar.
The “principle of seniority”, which was formerly the convention for selecting leaders in the three services, is no longer the only criterion followed by the Center, especially after the selection of General Bipin Rawat as chief of the armed forces, ignoring two of them. , and Admiral Karambir Singh as Chief of the Navy over Vice Admiral Bimal Verma.
Many military personnel believe that the “seniority principle” is the best guarantee against the politicization of top appointments. In addition, in the military, the line of succession has always been clear, as the potential candidate is prepared to become the leader. However, many countries around the world do not follow the principle of seniority. The military powers of the United States, France, Germany, China and even Pakistan are not following him. However, the UK is still following the practice.