Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh, India's third air force chief, passed away at the age of 98 here on Saturday, marking the end of a life and career closely intertwined with events that shaped India after Independence.
Born on April 15, 1919, in what is now Faisalabad in Pakistan, he joined the Indian Air Force in 1938 at the age of 19 and went on to command the IAF during the 1965 war with Pakistan when he was 44. He earned a Padma Vibhushan for his exceptional leadership that saw the IAF shake off initial setbacks and counter Pakistan in air battles. The IAF history of its operations acknowledges it “suffered disproportionately higher losses“ than PAF. But says the force showed “resilience and determination“ to gradually turn the tables with effective counter-strikes till the ceasefire came into effect on September 22. He oversaw the transition of the IAF from propeller craft to a jet fleet and was given diplomatic assignments after he retired at the early age of 50.
His lifelong companion Teji passed away in 2011. The Indian armed forces have had only three Marshal-rank officers, the highest honorary rank possible, till now. The first, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, regarded as the architect of the swift military operation to liberate Bangladesh in 1971, died in 2008 at the age of 94.