Islamabad: Five air marshals are in the race to become the next chief of the Pakistan Air Force when Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman retires on March 18 after completing his three-year term.

If the principle of seniority is upheld, as was done for the appointment of the naval chief some months ago, the senior-most Air Marshal should get the President’s nod to succeed Suleman, an unnamed top official was quoted as saying by The News daily.

Vice chief of air staff, Air Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt, tops the seniority list and is tipped to be the next chief of PAF, the report said.

Others tipped for the post include Air Marshal Farhat Hussain Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex at Kamra, Deputy Chief of Air Staff (Operations) Air Marshal Waseemuddin, Deputy Chief of Air Staff (Administration) Air Marshal Mohammad Hassan and Deputy Chief of Air Staff (Support) Air Marshal Asim Suleiman.

Khan earlier headed the project for the JF-17 combat jet developed jointly by Pakistan and China and served as Air Attache in New Delhi some time ago.

The new PAF chief is expected to be appointed following consultations between the President and Prime Minister.

It is unlikely that the current incumbent, Air Chief Marshal Suleman, will be given an extension, the report said.