Air Marshal B. Suresh, Air Officer Commanding-inChief, Western Air Command, Indian Air Force, superannuated on 31 July 2020 after an illustrious career spanning nearly 40 years. The Air Marshal was commissioned as a Fighter Pilot in the Indian Air Force in the year 1980. An alumnus of the Rashtriya Indian Military College, Dehradun and National Defence Academy, Khadakvasla, the Air Marshal is a ‘Sword of Honour’ recipient from the Tactics and Air Combat Development Establishment. The Air Officer did his post graduation from the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington and from Cranfield University, Shrivenham, UK.
Air Marshal Suresh is a highly experienced Fighter Pilot and has flown a variety of aircraft. During his distinguished career, the Air Marshal held a number of coveted Command and Staff appointments. He commanded a Fighter Squadron which specialised in maritime and night air strikes and was deployed along the western border during the Kargil conflict. Before taking over the appointment of Director Operations (Joint Planning) which is responsible for Tri-service coordination, he commanded Tactics and Air Combat Development Establishment. The Air Marshal has commanded one of the largest air bases of the IAF in the western sector as an Air Commodore. He was also the Air Assistant to the Chief of Air Staff. As an Air Vice Marshal, he held the important appointed of Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Operations (Air Defence) for nearly four years, wherein he was also the Air Force member of the Tri-service Joint Operations Committee (JOCOM).
Widely acclaimed as a strategist and tactician of repute within Air Force circles, he is credited with having been the mastermind behind IAF’s superlative performance during Exercise Cope India 2004 – the first International bilateral exercise with the United States Air Force, held after a gap of nearly 40 years. He was again nominated as the ‘Exercise Director’ for the first ever bilateral exercise with the Republic of Singapore Air Force – Ex SINDEX 2004 – where once again, the IAF excelled. The role played by the Air Officer in ensuring IAF’s recognition internationally as a force to reckon with was acknowledged by awarding him the Presidential award of Ati Vishist Seva Medal (AVSM). He, as a Group Captain, was one of the youngest recipients of the Presidential Award.
After being promoted to the rank of Air Marshal in 2014, he was appointed as the Senior Air Staff Officer (SASO) of Western Air Command wherein he brought about remarkable improvements in the operational orientation and battle readiness of the Command with increased synergy with the three associated Commands of the Indian Army viz – Northern Command, Western Command and South Western Command. As Air Officer-in-Charge Personal (AOP) at Air Headquarters, his decisions and foresight left a significant impact. He was instrumental in initiating online conduct of Air Force Common Admission Test (AFCAT) and Scheduled Test for Airmen Recruitment (STAR) – the recruitment examination for officers and airmen respectively.
The Air Marshal was the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Southern Air Command prior to his appointment as Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Air Command. Under his leadership, Southern Air Command grew exponentially in capability and functionality. The entire ‘Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) efforts during the Kerala floods in 2018 were spearheaded by Southern Air Command under his leadership. This was one of the highest intensity HADR efforts undertaken by IAF in recent history.
During his tenure as the AOC-in-C Western Air Command, he ensured a high state of operational and security preparedness and laid the foundation for the induction of the formidable Rafale fighter into the IAF. He has also been instrumental in operationalisation, both by day and night, of IAF’s new inductions viz., Chinook heavy-lift helicopter and Apache attack helicopter. In a first of sorts, airfields in Ladakh sector were operationalised for night fighter operations, thus giving a tremendous boost to 24X7 capabilities of IAF.
The Air Marshal is a highly decorated officer having been awarded Vayu Sena Medal, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal and the Param Vishisht Seva Medal in recognition of his distinguished and dedicated service to the Nation. He was also appointed as Honorary Aide-de-Camp to the President of India.