Arup Raha,a veteran fighter pilot,took over as the 24th chief of the Indian Air Force on Tuesday,succeeding Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne.
In a brief ceremony,Raha,59,assumed the charge of the air force from Browne in presence of senior officers,including new Vice Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal R K Sharma and Deputy Chief Air Marshal S Sukumar.
Born on December 26,1954,he will remain the IAF chief for three years.
Soon after taking over,Air Chief Marshal Raha,in his message to the 1.75 lakh-strong force,said the IAF is on a trajectory of modernisation and is transforming into a strategic aerospace power with full spectrum capability.
“In this strategic transformation process,I expect sustained efforts and special attention from all air warriors to maintain high operational status of the legacy equipment,while operationalising the new inductions in a time-bound manner,” he said.
Raha said the force will continue to support the maintenance of security forces deployed for counter-insurgency operations.
“Sustained efforts in air maintenance in the northern and eastern sectors are being appreciated by the military,para- military,central agencies and state authorities,” he said.
Commissioned on December 14,1974 in the fighter stream of the IAF,Raha has held various command,staff and instructional appointments in his 39-year-old career.
He has also served as Air Attache at the Embassy of India in Ukraine.
Besides various technical courses,Raha has done Strategic Nuclear Orientation Course and Junior Commanders’ course.
The IAF chief,who is an alumni of the Sainik School,Purulia,said,”Accretion through new acquisitions,replacement of obsolete equipment with state-of-the-art inductions and upgrade of the vintage weapon platforms would bolster our capabilities. In-depth knowledge,proficiency and professional competence to harness the potential of new equipment would provide the necessary cutting edge in discharging our onerous tasks,” Raha said.
“This would obviously be achieved through exemplary leadership at all levels of the IAF,” he said.
The IAF Chief said the air warriors displayed exceptional dedication and commitment during ‘Op Rahat’ in flood-hit Uttarakhand rescuing thousands of people and saving precious lives.
“A record 3702 sorties were flown while 24,260 people were airlifted to safety,despite the challenges imposed by inclement weather,difficult terrain,high altitude and unprepared helipads,” he said.
“Our professionalism and grit has earned accolades from all quarters,not only in India but from abroad as well,” he said.
Raha said the people of the force were its “most valuable assets. A strong,motivated and cohesive team is the key to our success. I exhort all air warriors to follow the fine traditions of this great service and ensure that we ‘Touch the Sky with Glory’.”
He has commanded Central Air Command and Western Air Command.
Raha has also served as Directing Staff at Flying Instructors School,Tambaram (Tamil Nadu) as well as at the Gwalior-based Tactics and Combat Development Establishment of the IAF.
(“An earlier version of this story wrongly mentioned Raha went to Sainik School,Tillaiyya”.)