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New Delhi : The Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh breathed his last at the Army Hospital Research and Referral (R&R), New Delhi, at 7.47 pm on September 16, 2017. He was 98. He was admitted to the hospital on September 16 morning following a cardiac arrest. He was being treated at the Cardiothoracic and Vascular Sciences Centre of the hospital.
Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh, DFC, was entrusted with the responsibility of leading the Indian Air Force when he was only 44 year old, a responsibility he carried with elan. He was the Chief of IAF when it saw action in the year 1965. Arjan Singh was born on April 15, 1919, in Lyalpur of undivided Punjab. He completed his education from Montgomery. In 1938 when he got selected for the Empire Pilot training course at RAF Cranwell, he was still in college and was only 19 year old., according to a PIB release.
His first posting on being commissioned involved flying Westland Wapiti biplanes in the North Western Frontier Province as a member of the No.1 IAF Squadron.
Immediately after independence, he took over the command of Air Force Station, Ambala, in the rank of Group Captain. In 1949, after promotion to the rank of Air Commodore, Arjan Singh took over as the Air Officer Commanding of Operational Command, which later came to be known as the Western Air Command.
On August 1, 1964, Arjan Singh took over as the Chief of Air Staff (CAS) in the rank of Air Marshal. Arjan Singh was the first Air Chief who kept his flying category till his CAS rank. Having flown over 60 different types of aircraft from Pre-Second World War era biplanes to the more contemporary Gnats & Vampires, he had also flown in transports like the Super Constellation.
A testing time came in September 1965 when Pakistan launched Operation Grand Slam, in which an armoured thrust targeted the vital town of Akhnur. He was summoned to the Defence Minister’s office with a request for air support. When asked how quickly the IAF will be ready for operations, he replied with his characteristic nonchalance,”…in an hour”. And true to his word, the Air Force struck the Pakistani offensive in an hour. He led the IAF through the war showing unparalleled leadership.
Arjan Singh was awarded the Padma Vibhushan for his leadership during the 1965 War and subsequently the rank of the CAS was upgraded to that of Air Chief Marshal. Arjan Singh became the first Air Chief Marshal of the Indian Air Force. He retired in July 1969, thereupon accepting ambassadorship to Switzerland.
In recognition of his services, the Government of India conferred the rank of the Marshal of the Air Force on Arjan Singh in January 2002 making him the first and the only ‘Five Star’ rank officer of the Indian Air Force. In 2016, Air Force Station, Panagarh, was renamed as Air Force Station Arjan Singh, according to the PIB release.His demise marks an end of a glorious era of the Indian Air Force.