Lt Col V S Thappa (inset) and on the jeep during the R-Day rehearsals in New Delhi. Photo: DRDO
By Anantha Krishnan M
Express News Service
Bangalore: Lt Col V S Thapa, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) external Test pilot, hailing from Dehradun, will command this year's Defence Research and Development Organisation's (DRDO) Republic Day parade contingent in New Delhi. Thapa, is presently posted on a special assignment to Bangalore-based Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) – which is the abode of home-grown UAVs, including Nishant and Rustom.
Speaking to Express from Delhi, Thapa said that it was a very esteemed occasion for him to command the unit. “It is a lifetime opportunity that has come my way and I am working hard to make it a success. The rehearsals have been good and we have fine-tuned everything before the big day,” the 44-year-old Thapa said.
Thapa hit the headlines after conventionally flying Rustom-1 UAV for the first time in October 2010, and so far has piloted (externally) nine flights of Rustom-1. An officer from the Regiment of Artillery of the Indian Army, Thapa is certified as an external pilot from Israeli Aerospace Industries, Malat, Israel. He is part of Army's UAV team since 2000 and has handled Searcher Mk-I Alpha and Searcher Mk-II UAVs. Thapa is married to Puja with the couple having a daughter Bani, studying in 7th standard.
DRDO sources tell Express that Thapa was selected to lead the R-Day contingent after a vigorous selection process. “There were four other officers in the race and Thapa was selected after scrutinizing various parameters,” sources said.
ADE Director P S Krishnan said that the lab couldn't have asked for more with a member of his team being chosen to command the DRDO R-Day team. “A double honour for us, with Thapa and Rustom-1 chosen for the parade. The UAV by itself can be used for various reconnaissance purposes, though it is a technology demonstration vehicle for Rustom-2,” Krishnan said.
In addition to Rustom-1, Thapa will have in his company missiles Agni-4 and Prahaar, in addition to a tableau depicting gen-next technologies used while handling hazards of snow and avalanches.
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