All Three Service Chiefs To Be From 61st NDA Batch

General Manoj Pande took over as the 29th Chief of the Army Staff on 30 April 2022 from General Manoj Mukund Naravane, who superannuated after four decades of an illustrious career. The three service chiefs of the Indian armed forces will be from the 61st batch of the National Defense Academy (NDA) at Khadakwasla, after the Army chief-designate Lt Gen Manoj C Pande takes over as the 29th Chief of Army Staff on April 30.

Navy Chief Admiral Hari Kumar and Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari are also from the same NDA course, defence officials said. While Lt Gen Pande is from the Lima squadron, the two other chiefs are from the Juliet squadron of NDA.

Officials said the three chiefs being course-mates would help in further improving the jointness among the three services and it would be of great importance when the three services are working towards the creation of integrated theatre commands.

When Lieutenant General Manoj Pande of the Bombay Sappers takes over as Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) from the incumbent, General Manoj Mukund Naravane of the Sikh Light Infantry on May 1, it will be for the third time in the history of the Armed Forces that all three Service Chiefs are from the same course of the National Defence Academy (NDA) at Kharakvasla.

Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari, who took over as Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) on September 30, 2021, Admiral Radhakrishnan Hari Kumar who assumed office of Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS) on November 30, 2021, and Lt Gen Pande belong to NDA’s 61st Course, that had commenced in January 1979.

All three were commissioned into their respective service around the same time – the CAS and COAS designate in December 1982 and the CNS in January 1983.

While Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari and Admiral Hari Kumar are said to be from NDA’s Juliet Squadron, the Army Chief-designate is from Lima Squadron. In fact, the current Army Chief, Gen Naravane is also from Lima Squadron. Cadets at NDA are divided into five battalions, with four battalions having four squadrons each and one battalion having two squadrons. Every squadron comprises 100–120 cadets.

When Gen Naravane had taken over as COAS in the afternoon of December 2019, it was the second time that all three service chiefs, including Admiral Karambir Singh and Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria were, from the same NDA course – the 56th.

The first instance of all three chiefs being from the same course was in the early 1990s, when Gen Sunith Francis Rodrigues, Admiral Laxmi Narayan Ramdas and Air Chief Marshal Nirmal were heading their respective services. All three were from the 1st Course at NDA. This course also produced three Maha Vir Chakra recipients during the 1971 Indo-Pak war.

The NDA is a tri-service training institution that undertakes a three year training regimen for cadets who join the academy after 10+2 and complete their graduation alongside basic military training before proceeding for pre-commission training at respective service academies.

According to the NDA’s roll of honour, it has produced a total of 35 past and present service chiefs so far, 13 being from the Army, 12 from the Navy and 10 from the Air Force. Lt Gen Pande would be the 36th Service Chief from NDA. Other officers to have become chiefs were direct entries to the Indian Military Academy, Air Force Academy and the Naval Academy. There have been several instances though of two service chiefs being from the same course at the same time.

Lt Gen Pande’s appointment at COAS is also unique as he is the first officer from the Corps of Engineers to become the Army Chief, a post traditionally held by officers from the Infantry, Armoured Corps or Artillery. There have been two Sappers who came close to becoming the Chief—Lt Gen JS Dhillion soon after Independence and Victoria Cross recipient Lt Gen Prem Bhagat in the early 1970s, but the then government of the day decided otherwise for various reasons.

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