New Delhi: Air Marshal Raghunath Nambiar, a Kargil War veteran who won a gallantry award for his heroic bombing of Tiger Hill captured by Pakistani soldiers in 1999, took over Friday as the chief of the Western Air Command, in charge of the air space along the Pakistan border. He was serving was the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Air Command.
His predecessor as AOC-in-C, Air Marshal Chandrashekharan Hari Kumar, retired Thursday after a career spanning over 39 years. He was the man who oversaw the 26 February air strikes in Pakistan’s Balakot which targeted the main training centre of Masood Azhar’s Jaish-e-Mohammed.
An accomplished officer
Born to Squadron Leader Padmanabhan Nambiar and Ayilliath Radha Nambiar, Air Marshal Nambiar is an alumnus of the National Defence Academy and was commissioned in the IAF as a fighter pilot in June 1981.
He has many distinctions to his credit, including being part of the team that carried out the first test flight of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft ‘Tejas’ way back in 2002. Last year, while he was posted as deputy chief of the Indian Air Force, he was the first Indian pilot to test fly the Rafale in Paris.
He is an experimental test pilot and has flown 42 types of aircraft as pilot in command. He has the distinction of having the highest number of flying hours on the Mirage 2000 in the IAF, with over 2,300 flying hours, and a total of 5,100 hours of flying experience.
Air Marshal Nambiar has been a flight commander of a Mirage 2000 squadron, the senior test pilot and commanding officer of the flight test squadron at the Aircraft System Testing Establishment (ASTE).
He has commanded the oldest squadron of the IAF, the prestigious No. 1 Squadron. He flew the Mirage 2000 in combat during the Kargil conflict and has flown 25 operational missions.
Known as an out-and-out operations man within the force, the Air Marshal is credited for shooting five of the eight laser-guided bombs on the Pakistani positions during the Kargil War from his Mirage 2000.
Air Marshal Nambiar was awarded the Vayu Sena Medal by the President of India for the Kargil operations. He was awarded a Bar to the Vayu Sena Medal for flight testing the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) in 2002.
He was commended by the Chief of Air Staff in 1991 and by the C-in-C of Strategic Force Command in 2005. He was awarded the Ati Vishist Seva Medal in 2015.
Air Marshal Nambiar was the first pilot to land at the Kannur International Airport Kerala in 2016 — on an IAF Dornier-228 — as part of the landing trials. In December 2018, when the airport was ready for commercial operations, it was his son Ashwin who landed the first commercial airliner in Kannur.