Arjan Singh, Marshal of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and India’s only five-star ranked air force officer, passed away on 16 Sept 2017 after being hospitalised earlier in the day after he was believed to have suffered a heart attack. The decorated officer was 98.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Air Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa were among the people who had paid him a visit earlier at the hospital.
Arjan, famous for his role in the 1965 India-Pakistan war, is the officer of the IAF to be promoted to five-star rank. On his 97th birthday last year, IAF had renamed the Panagarh airbase in West Begal after Arjan.
He served as chief of air staff till July 15, 1969. After retirement, he was envoy to Switzerland and Kenya and lt governor of Delhi. He was made marshal of air force in January 2002.
Arjan was one of the Indians who met President Barrack Obama when he visited to India in 2015.
Arjan was born on 15 April 1919 in Pakistan’s Faisalabad (which was then Lyallpur, Punjab) to a military family. He then joined a still-new Indian Air Force in 1938 at the young age of 19. A year later, he was commissioned from England’s Royal Air Force College Cranwell.
He is said to be remembered for his operational tenures on the Burma Front during World War II. For his performance, Singh became the first Indian pilot to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) by the Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia. He was described as “a fearless and exceptional pilot”, reports India Today.
After India became a republic in 1950, Arjan Singh held the command of Indian Air Force’s Operational Group till December 1952, and then again from December 1955 to April 1959.
In August 1964, Arjan Singh took charge as the IAF’s third Indian Chief of Air Staff at the age of 45. He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1965 for his contributions in the 1965 Indo-Pak War.
In 2002, a day ahead of India’s Republic Day, the former Indian Air Force chief was made the first-ever Marshal of the Indian Air Force in recognition of the extraordinary services rendered by him towards the development of the IAF into a highly professional service. He received the honorary rank from the President K. R. Narayanan.
The two recipients of the Field Marshal rank so far – Sam Manekshaw and K. M. Cariappa – were from the army.
The rank has been conferred on Arjan Singh, a full 33 years after his retirement as the IAF chief. He was among the few to have been conferred with Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for his outstanding leadership in the Burma campaign during the Second World War.
He was appointed the Chief of Air Staff in July 1964 and was the first IAF Chief to be promoted to the rank of Air Chief Marshal in December 1965 in recognition of his handling of the IAF during the Indo-Pak war.
During his six-year tenure, he brought about critical changes in the structure and functioning of the IAF to help chart a path of strong professional growth.
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