India’s most distinguished air force officer Marshal Arjan Singh died on Saturday following a heart attack at  New Delhi’s Army Hospital Research and Referral. Singh who was the only officer of the Indian Air Force to be given a distinction of Marshal, a five–star general rank which is the highest position in the forces, died at the age of 98.

Singh, who was appointed as the air force chief at the age of 44, played a key role in the 1965 Indo-Pak war. He was later awarded the Padma Vibhushan for his leadership during the war. 

Here is all you need to know about the country’s most respected air force officer:

  • Born on 15 April 1919, in Lyalpur of undivided Punjab, Singh completed his education from Montgomery. At the age of 19, he got selected for the Empire Pilot training course at RAF Cranwell while he was still in college
  • 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.
  • In 1944, when he was promoted to the rank of Squadron Leader, Arjan Singh aflew Close Support missions during the crucial Imphal Campaign and later assisted the advance of the allied forces to Rangoon, Burma. He later received the Distinguished Flying Cross and was given the unique honour of leading the fly-past of more than a hundred IAF aircraft over the Red Fort in Delhi in 1947.
  • In 1964, Arjan Singh took over as the Chief of Air Staff (CAS) in the rank of Air Marshal. He was the first Air Chief who kept his flying category till his CAS rank. 
  • He has flown over 60 different types of aircraft from Pre-Second World War era biplanes to the more contemporary Gnats & Vampires as well transports like the Super Constellation.
  • During 1965 War, he played a key role in leading the IAF through the war for which he was later awarded the Padma Vibhushan.
  • 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 & units and flying with them. 
  • He was conferred the rank of the Marshal of the Air Force in January 2002 for his meritorious service. In 2016 Air Force Station, Panagarh was renamed as Air Force Station Arjan Singh.

(with all inputs from PIB)