13 Facts About Marshal Of The IAF Arjan Singh, India’s Only Five-Star Air Officer Who Is No More

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Updated on 20 Sep, 2017 at 5:02 pm


Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh passed away at 7.47 pm today after suffering a cardiac arrest. He was 98 and the oldest serving officer. The third five-star ranked officer in the history of Indian armed forces and the only Air Force officer to hold the rank, Singh was being treated at the Army R&R hospital in New Delhi.



Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had visited him at the hospital.

Arjan Singh was born on April 15, 1919 in Lyallpur, Punjab (today Faisalabad of Pakistan) to a family of distinguished military personnel.

1. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather served in the militaries of the British Empire in various capacities making Singh a fourth-generation military man.



2. Arjan Singh was only 19 when he entered the Royal Air Force College at Cranwell. By age 20, in 1939, he had graduated as a pilot officer.


Flt Lieutenant Arjan Singh with other pilots during World War II. Wikimedia Commons

3. In 1944, Singh, then a Squadron Leader, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for his heroic action against the Japanese in Burma.


4. On August 1, 1964, Air Marshal Arjan Singh became the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) – the first Sikh to hold the position.


Four CAS of the IAF, including Arjan Singh, are in this frame. Twitter

5. He was also the first CAS to hold the designation of Air Chief Marshal (ACM) when the rank of Air Marshal was upgraded in 1966.

6. In the 1965 Indo-Pak war, Arjan Singh’s leadership as CAS proved to be a game changer for Indian forces.

When Pakistan launched Operation Grand Slam, he promised the then defense minister, Yashwantrao Chavan, that IAF will thwart the Pakistani offensive in just an hour. Within an hour the IAF had attacked Pakistan.



7. He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan for his contribution in the war.


The Awards and decorations of Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh. The first one on top is Padma Vibhushan. The last one on the second row is the Distinguished Flying Cross.

8. Arjan Singh remains the longest serving CAS of the IAF. He became the CAS in 1964 at age 44 and retired in 1969 at age 50.


9. He served as ambassador to Switzerland in 1971, as High Commissioner to Kenya in 1974 and, later, as the Lt Governor of Delhi in 1989.


10. In 2002, President K.R. Narayanan promoted him to the rank of Marshal of Indian Air Force.


11. In 2016, the IAF named its Panagarh (West Bengal) air base after Arjan Singh on his 97th birthday.

At the time, he was the only living officer to have a base named after him.



12. The senior-most officer of the Indian Armed Forces flew over 60 different kinds of aircraft till the day he retired in 1969.


13. It was during his tenure as CAS that the IAF acquired its first supersonic fighters, strategic reconnaissance aircraft, tactical transport aircraft and assault helicopters.

India is mourning the passing of this superhero.


The topmost officer of the Indian armed forces left for his heavenly abode at 1947 hours. It is a coincidence that on August 15, 1947, he led the fly past of over 100 IAF aircraft over the Red Fort in New Delhi.

Our salute to Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh.