Ar­jan Singh, IAF Mar­shal and war hero, dies aged 98

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - FRONT PAGE - Rahul Singh let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

NEW DELHI: Mar­shal of the In­dian Air Force, Ar­jan Singh, died on Satur­day af­ter he was put on ven­ti­la­tor sup­port in an “ex­tremely crit­i­cal state”.

In a state­ment, the In­dian Air Force (IAF) said Singh died at 7:47pm af­ter be­ing ad­mit­ted to the Army’s R&R hos­pi­tal fol­low­ing a car­diac ar­rest. The for­mer IAF chief had played a key role in In­dia’s vic­tory in the 1965 war against Pak­istan.

Singh was the IAF chief from Au­gust 1964-69. He was the first In­dian Air Chief to be el­e­vated to the rank of Air Chief Mar­shal on Jan­uary 16, 1966.

In recog­ni­tion of his life­long ser­vices, the gov­ern­ment con­ferred the rank of the “Mar­shal of the In­dian Air Force” on Ar­jan Singh on Jan­uary 28, 2002 mak­ing him the first and the only ‘Five Star’ rank of­fi­cer with the In­dian Air Force. Mar­shal of the Air Force is equiv­a­lent to a Field Mar­shal in the army.

Ear­lier in the evening, PM Naren­dra Modi and de­fence min­is­ter Nir­mala Sithara­man met Singh at the hos­pi­tal.

“My thoughts are with his fam­ily and those mourn­ing the demise of a dis­tin­guished air war­rior and fine hu­man, Mar­shal of the IAF Ar­jan Singh,” the PM tweeted.

Ac­cord­ing to the IAF’s of­fi­cial web­site, Singh’s “test­ing time came in Septem­ber 1965, when the sub­con­ti­nent was plunged into war. When Pak­istan launched its Op­er­a­tion Grand Slam, in which an ar­moured thrust tar­geted the vi­tal town of Akhnur, he was sum­moned into the de­fence min­is­ter’s of­fice with a re­quest for air sup­port.” “With a char­ac­ter­is­tic non-cha­lance, he replied ‘...in an hour.’ And true enough, the air force struck the Pak­istani of­fen­sive in an hour. He led the air force through the war show­ing suc­cess­ful lead­er­ship and ef­fort.”

He also held the view that the IAF should have been used in the 1962 In­dia-China war.

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. He re­tired in July 1969, there­upon ac­cept­ing am­bas­sador­ship to Switzer­land. He re­mained a flyer till the end of his ten­ure in the IAF, visit­ing for­ward squadrons and units and fly­ing with them.

In his ca­reer, Ar­jan Singh had flown more than 60 types of air­craft rang­ing from pre-World War II era bi­planes to Gnats and Vam­pires. On Au­gust 15, 1947, he led a fly past over the Red fort in Delhi. Six years ago, the vet­eran lost his wife Teji Ar­jan Singh on his birth­day, April 15. On the oc­ca­sion of his 60th an­niver­sary, while talk­ing about his di­a­mond ju­bilee se­cret, Singh told this cor­re­spon­dent, “I tell Teji daily I love her.”

PTI

Ar­jan Singh

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