Bengaluru: Air Marshal Raghunath Nambiar, one of the finest aviators of the Indian Air Force (IAF), will take over as the Air Officer Commanding in Chief (AOC-in-C) of Western Air Command (WAC) on Friday.
According to sources, Air Marshal C Hari Kumar superannuated as the WAC chief on Thursday.
A Kargil war hero, Air Marshal Nambiar, takes over the command of WAC at a time when India and Pakistan are on a face-off over air strikes across the LoC.
Sources have confirmed to Onmanorama that Air Marshal Nambiar was part of the key planning team of the IAF when the Mirage-2000 fleet undertook air strikes on terror camps in Balakot on February 26.
His predecessor Air Marshal Hari, retired after 39 years of exceptional service in the IAF. Air Marshal Hari hails from Pandanad village of Chengannur in Kerala.
Nambiar hails from Kadachira near Kannur in Kerala and belongs to Ayillyath family, which has very close links with legendary Communist leaders A K Gopalan and E K Nayanar.
Born to late Squadron leader Padmanabhan Nambiar and Ayilliath Radha Nambiar, the officer is married to Luxmi. Their son Ashwin Nambiar, is a commercial pilot.
A bookworm, professional basketball player and a computer wizard, Nambiar was heading the Eastern Air Command, before this WAC posting. In IAF, Nambiar is often referred to as a ‘key strategist’ during many critical missions.
His heroics during combat missions in Kargil War in 1999 fetched him many laurels. He flew a number of daring missions undertaking pin-pointed strikes on Tiger Hill.
A veteran Mirage-2000 pilot, Nambiar holds the record of flying maximum number of hours on the same fighter in the IAF. Commissioned as a Flying Pilot in 1981, he currently holds over 5,100 hours of flying on 42 different types of aircraft. As on Friday, on Mirages alone, he has over 2,300 hours to his credit.
He was a key member of the IAF during the finalisation of the Rafale deal and in the past was part of the initial test-flying of Light Combat Aircraft Tejas.
Interestingly, Nambiar was the first pilot to land at the Kannur International Airport in 2016 - on an IAF Dornier-228 - as part of the landing trials.
And in December, 2018, when the airport was ready for commercial operations, it was his son Ashiwn who became the First Officer of the first domestic flight (GoAir) that landed in Kannur.
Nambiar is a recipient of Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Ati Vishist Seva Medal and two Vayu Sena Medals.