They include Air Commodores Hilal Ahmed Rather and Kirti Khajuria, according to authoritative sources.

 

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Rather is a native of Bakshiabad area of Anantnag district in Kashmir while Khajuria hailed from Tikri in Udhampur district of Jammu. Both of them are students of Sainik School Nagrota in Jammu.

 

Rather, who is presently posted as India’s Air Attache in France, has played key role in ensuring delivery of Rafale jets to the country. He has an impeccable record of 3000 accident-free flying hours on Mirage-2000, MiG-21 and Kiran aircraft. His name will now forever be associated with delivery of French made Rafale jets in India.

 

For his services, Rather had received Vayu Sena Medal in 2010 followed by Vishisht Seva Medal in 2016 for his distinguished services and devotion to duty.

 

Kirti Khajuria, who was commissioned as a fighter pilot in Flying Branch of the Indian Air Force on June 11, 1988, is recipient of Vishisht Seva Medal for distinguished services of a high order. Presently, he is posted at the Indian Air Force headquarters in New Delhi.

 

Khajuria is an alumnus of the National Defence Academy and Defence Service Staff College, He is a qualified Flying Instructor and Fighter Combat Leader and has flown nearly 2700 hours on various fighter and commanded the first Integrated Air Command and Control System (IACCS) Node of the IAF. He has also held the staff appointments of Joint Director (Training) and Director Weapons at Air Headquarters and was involved in major weapons procurement during 2012-15.

 

As Air Officer Commanding (AOC), Khajuria ensured that all aspects of Operations, Maintenance and Administration were supervised effectively all the while allowed various station appointments a free hand and giving necessary advise and course correction, when required.

 

Hilal Rather has consistently strived to improve the system through simple and innovative solution to some perennial problems. Through his innovative approach, he proposed a simple Digital Video Recording and Debrief system for the Mirage-fleet. He locally fabricated a number of innovative, simple, inexpensive and effective alternatives Ground Support System, which enhanced maintenance safety greatly.