Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh passed away on Saturday after suffering a massive cardiac arrest at the Research and Referral Hospital, New Delhi. He was 98
Singh was the only five-star air force officer. The military veteran was admitted to hospital following a cardiac attack on Saturday morning, as per the Press Information Bureau.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and the three service chiefs — General Bipin Rawat, Admiral Sunil Lanba and Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa — visited Singh at the hospital on Saturday.
An icon of the Indian military history, Singh had led a young troop of armed forces into the India-Pakistan war in 1965, when he was 44-years-old.
In 1965, when Pakistan had launched Operation Grand Slam with an armoured thrust targeted at the vital town of Akhnoor, Singh led the Indian Air Force through the war with courage, determination and professional skill.
He inspired the Indian Air Force to victory, despite the constraints imposed on a full-scale use of air force combat power.
According to India Today, “The Marshal was awarded the Padma Vibhushan for his leadership during the 1965 India-Pakistan war”.
Singh has flown more than 60 aircraft; he remained a flyer till his career with the air force ended.
Singh is the only officer from Indian Air Force and the entire Indian armed forces to be promoted to a five-star rank, which is equivalent to Field Marshal.
Field marshals Sam Manekshaw and KM Cariappa of the army were the two other officers with a five-star rank.
Born on April 15, 1919, in Lyallpur in Punjab in undivided India, his father, grandfather and great grandfather had all served in the cavalry.
Educated at Montgomery, British India (now in Pakistan), he had joined the RAF College, Cranwell in 1938 and was commissioned as a Pilot Officer in December the following year. Singh had led an Indian Air Force squadron into combat during the 1944 Arakan Campaign and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) that year. He was the Indian Air Force chief from 1 August, 1964 till 15 July, 1969.
After his retirement from the air force, Singh was appointed as the India’s ambassador to Switzerland in 1971 and concurrently served as the ambassador to the Vatican. He was also the high commissioner to Kenya in 1974.
Singh served as a member of the National Commission for Minorities and was also the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi. He was made Marshal of the Indian Air Force in January 2002. The fighter aircraft base at Panagarh in West Bengal was named in his honour on his birthday last year.