Arjan Singh, Marshal of the Indian Air Force, dies

Singh 98 the only officer of the IAF to be promoted to five-star rank was admitted to the Army's Research and Referral hospital this morning. Screengrab

98-year-old IAF Marshal Arjan Singh critically ill, admitted to the Army Hospital

Several personalities of the country mourned and expressed condolences over the death of Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh, who has passed away at a hospital in New Delhi on Saturday.

In 2002, Arjan Singh became the only IAF officer to be promoted to five-star rank, a distinction equal to the Field Marshal. During the war when Pakistan had launched "Operation Grand Slam" targeted at the crucial border town of Akhnoor in Jammu and Kashmir, it was Arjan Singh who led the air force with his professional skill and courage.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman both visited the 98-year-old on Saturday, as did Air Force chief BS Dhanoa.

"Arjan Singh's determined focus on capacity building in the IAF added great strength to our defence capabilities". Commissioned into the Royal Indian Air Force in December 1939, similarities between Manekshaw and Singh, in fact, are quite striking.

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He is said to be on life support at the Army Research and Referral Hospital in New Delhi. He was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) after suffering a massive heart attack in the morning. Singh had assiduously led the IAF during the 1965 war and denied success to Pakistani air force though it was better equipped with American support.

Born on April 15, 1919, in Lyalpur (now Faislabad, Pakistan), Singh completed his military training by the age of 19. He fought for British Indian Army in 1944 in world war 2 in Burma and was awarded Distinguished Flying Cross for "fearless and exceptional" service in 1944. The Indian armed forces have had only three Marshalrank officers, the highest honorary rank possible, till now.

He retired in August 1969, thereupon accepting ambassadorship to Switzerland. Honouring him, the West Bengal's Air Force base at Panagarh was renamed as Air Force Station Arjan Singh in 2016. Later on, he returned to India and served as the lieutenant-governor of Delhi in 1989-90. Arjan Singh was also awarded by Padma Vibhushan by the previous president, Shri Pranab Mukherjee.

"When asked how quickly the IAF will be ready for operations, he replied with his characteristic nonchalance,".in an hour". He had inspired the IAF despite constraints on the full-scale use of air combat power. Arjan Singh flew against the tribal forces before he was transferred for a brief stint with the newly formed No.2 IAF Squadron.

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