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Indian defence chief killed in helicopter crash

India's Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat was one of 13 people killed on 8 December after their Indian Air Force (IAF) Russian Mi-17V ‘Hip' helicopter crashed in foggy weather in mountainous terrain in the southern Tamil Nadu state, officials have confirmed.

Gen Rawat, along with his wife and 11 other military personnel, was on his way from the Sulur military air base to Wellington – less than 100 km away – where he was to address officers at the Defence Services Staff College when the rotary craft caught fire and crashed near the hill town of Coonoor.

One IAF officer on board survived the crash, and is being treated for severe burn injuries in a local military hospital.

The IAF has ordered an inquiry into the accident to determine its cause.

Gen Rawat was appointed as India's first CDS in December 2019 upon retiring as Indian Army Chief of Staff. His remit was to function as the principal military advisor to India's defence minister.

He was also tasked with boosting triservice co-ordination, creating American-style theatre commands, prioritising materiel procurements, and economising defence expenditure.

In his position as CDS, Gen Rawat also headed India's triservice cyber and space commands, and was a member of the Ministry of Defence's Defence Acquisition Council responsible for military procurement and modernisation.

An infantry officer with 43 years of military service, Gen Rawat was a counter-terrorism expert and had served along India's disputed border with China and on a United Nations mission in Africa, before heading the Indian Army in late 2016.

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