Air Commodore Hilal Ahmad Rather, India’s Air Attache in France, has become an instant hero across the country ever since five Rafale jets of the Indian Airforce took off from the Dassault Aviation’s Bordeaux-Merignac facility on Monday.
The Indian Air Force officer who is a native of Anantnag in Kashmir has played a key role in ensuring the delivery of Rafale jets to the country. Rather, son of a retired DSP has spent the last few years arming the combat aircraft to suit Indian conditions. He is credited with helping the project management team to fit the Rafale aircraft with 13 Indian specifications weapons.
Air Commodore Rather, who is also India’s Air Attache in France, has been forefront at the readying the Rafale jets ahead of its induction into the Indian Air Force. The 52-year-old also supervised refuelling training of a team of 152 IAF technicians and 27 fighter pilots with French tanks on Tuesday.
A fighter combat leader and a qualified flying instructor, Rather joined India Air Force as a flight lieutenant in 1993 and went on to become wing commander in 2004, group captain in 2016 and air commodore in 2019.
The officer from Kashmir has commanded Mirage-2000 Squadron and a front line Air Force base in Gwalior. His immense experience in flying jets like MIG 21, Mirage-2000 and Kiran helped him to coordinate with the French project management team in Bordeaux over 35 advanced functions of the Rafale jet.
Air Commodore Hilal Ahmad Rather has an impeccable record of 3,000 accident-free flying hours on different fighter platforms of the Indian Air Force.
Rather, who is an alumnus of Sainik School, has earned a Sword of Honour – the highest award to a cadet during his training at the National Defence Academy.
Rather is also graduate from defence services staff college (DSSC). He also graduated from air war college (USA) with distinction. Air Commodore Hilal is the recipient of Vayu Sena Medal and Vishisht Seva medal.
Reportedly, Hilal’s father was a senior police officer in the Jammu and Kashmir police, when he got commissioned into the IAF in 1988. The family often had faced threats. Rather had to rent out a two-room flat in Nagrota in Jammu two days before his marriage in 1993 for safety reasons.
Along with Rather, Indian ambassador to France Jawed Ashraf was also crucial in ensuring delivery of Rafale jets to India. The five combat jets, which took off from France, have now landed at Ambala Air Force station on Wednesday.