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IAF announces appointments to two key posts

NEW DELHI NOV. 9. Two senior appointments were today announced by the Indian Air Force, reflecting an attempt to dismantle shibboleths while appointing personnel in key posts.

Implementing its recent resolve to appoint the "right man for the right job'', the IAF named Ashok Goel as Inspector General (Inspection and Safety). This is the first time a transport pilot takes over the post at Air Headquarters, which was so far considered the fiefdom of fighter pilots.

Air Marshal Goel was the first pilot to touch down transport planes at the high altitude Leh and Thois airfields.

He was also the team leader during the induction of the giant IL-76 planes in the IAF.

Air Marshal Goel replaces `Jimmy' Bhatia, a fighter pilot, who was posted as IG Safety after being removed from an active command.

As chief of the critical Western Air Command, Air Marshal Bhatia was believed to have flown over the Line of Control (LoC) during the 10-month-long stand-off with Pakistan and had later attempted to cover his tracks.

With the first-ever joint exercises with France due in February, Ajit Bhavnani, a veteran pilot of the French-built Mirage fighter aircraft, has been appointed as Senior Air Staff Officer (SASO) of the Central Air Command, Allahabad.

The exercises between Mirage variants of both countries are scheduled at Gwalior, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Central Air Command.

Air Marshal Bhavnani's tenure will also be important in view of the imminent arrival of an additional lot of Mirage fighter aircraft from France. His presence should enable a much smoother stabilisation of the new fleet.

Like Air Marshal Goel, Air Marshal Bhavnani was the leader of the first batch of Mirage fighters in 1984 and subsequently commanded the first Mirage squadron.

He was also the base commander at Gwalior, home of the Mirage fleet.

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