Sitrep | Managing two exacting careers with style | punjab | Hindustan Times
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Sitrep | Managing two exacting careers with style

Wing Commander Satish Bhatia combined a successful sporting career with the dedication and professionalism of a transport pilot

punjab Updated: Sep 10, 2017 18:29 IST
Mandeep Singh Bajwa
The then air chief marshal SK Kaul (left) presenting the symbolic key to wing commander Satish Bhatia (right) before the latter took off on the aircraft’s last flight.
The then air chief marshal SK Kaul (left) presenting the symbolic key to wing commander Satish Bhatia (right) before the latter took off on the aircraft’s last flight.(Wing Commander Satish Bhatia )

Satish Bhatia became the world junior badminton champion in 1960. Thereafter, he joined the Indian Air Force (IAF) in 1964 as a transport pilot, flying some 6,000 hours on different aircraft, became the national champion and played in the Olympics. His is a story of successfully managing the demands of playing international sport and flying transports in two wars and other conflicts. He flew Devons and Dakotas initially from Bengaluru. During the 1965 war, Bhatia flew ammunition and stores to airbases in the North. Meanwhile, he became India’s number 1 with the IAF helping him to the extent of giving him a Harvard trainer to fly solo to play tournaments. Flying Dakotas from Lucknow with 11 Squadron in 1970-74, Satish operated from Panagarh to drop paratroopers at Tangail during the Bangladesh Campaign. The following year, he played in the Munich Olympics. A move to Chandigarh followed in 1974, operating AN-12s with 25 Squadron. These were exciting times with stints flying troops and supplies from Bengaluru during the Sri Lanka intervention.

Bhatia found the landings at Jaffna most hazardous being fired upon frequently by the LTTE. Also significant was flying in the rapid deployment force into Maldives to quell the 1988 coup attempt. All this on top of the regular biweekly logistic flights to Ladakh and the grueling 12-16 hour Assam courier. He also undertook long special flights to Europe.

After being Flight Safety Officer with Eastern Air Command, he commanded a sub-unit, again with 25 Squadron, retiring as a Wing Commander in 1995. This was not before he had the privilege of piloting the majestic AN-12 on it’s last flight. In retirement, he’s kept himself busy with work for the Air Force Association for which the Air Chief will honour him shortly. Social work and sports commitments keep him busy too. In all his endeavours, his wife Madhu has been a tower of strength.

Supporting moves on Doklam

Apart from the firm defensive stand taken by troops on the ground, other hidden military measures aided diplomatic efforts in bringing about a resolution to the Doklam standoff. I shall await the fullness of time before revealing details. Suffice it to say that local reserves were on standby in jump-off positions to seize commanding heights, dominating ridgelines and ground of tactical and strategic importance in all the areas where our forces are in virtual confrontation with Chinese forces. These include both the western and eastern sectors, the latter containing areas opposite both Sikkim-Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh. These moves were on a par with the deployment of 39 Mountain Division in a concentration area north of Poonchh during the Kargil War. The clear threat was to eliminate the Haji Pir Bulge as was done in 1965. The coercive effect of military pressure worked on both occasions.

Strengthening cyber operations

The best cyber operatives, whether security experts or ethical hackers are either born or evolve through their own genius. Its rather difficult to train them in the narrow confines of government agencies. One way out could be to recruit such talented professionals as part-timers in armed forces reserve units and utilise their services for national purposes. A change of Services mindset would be required of course to make the best use of such talent to meet the looming Chinese cyber threat.

(Please write in with your narratives of war and military life to msbajwa@gmail.com or call/WhatsApp on 093161-35343)