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Marshal Arjan Singh: IAF’s 1965 war hero and the only five-star ranked

Arjan Singh was the only officer to attain the highest post of Marshal, the Air Force equivalent to the Army’s five star field marshal.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) will observe the 103rd birth anniversary of Marshal of Air Force Arjan Singh on Friday.
Arjan Singh was born on 15 April 1919 and since his early days as a student, he has been an achiever.
An ace swimmer, he held an all-India record in free style swimming in one mile and half mile events.
Arjan Singh was 19 years of age when he was selected for training at RAF Cranwell in 1938.
He was promoted to the rank of Squadron Leader in 1944.
On August 15, 1947, he achieved the unique honour of leading a fly-past of over a hundred IAF aircraft over the Red Fort in Delhi.
The Marshal was the IAF Chief when Independent India carried out its first offensive air strikes in September 1965 during the India-Pakistan war.
On September 1, 1965, IAF Chief Air Marshal Arjan Singh was called in by Defence Minister YB Chavan and asked how quickly the IAF could be ready for operations. “In an hour,” he said.
Just before sunset the same day, 26 fighter-bombers, including 12 Vampires of the early 1940s British vintage and 14 Mystere-IV procured from France, had taken off from Pathankot for the Chhamb-Jaurian sector in J&K.
Singh assumed office as the Chief of the Air Staff, on 1 August 1964. For his distinguished service in commanding the IAF during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan and in 1966 became the first IAF officer to be promoted to Air Chief Marshal.
In the year 2002, he was appointed as Marshal of the Indian Air Force.
Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw and K M Cariappa were the only two army generals honoured with the rank of field marshal.
What planes did Arjan fly? In his career, Arjan Singh flew more than 60 different types of aircraft ranging from Pre World War II era bi planes to the supersonic MIG-21. He flew his first solo on MIG-21 as Chief of the Air Staff and remained a flyer to the end of his tenure in the IAF, visiting forward squadrons & units and flying with them.
Marshal of the IAF Arjan Singh passed away on 16 Sep 2017. His dynamic personality, professional competence, honesty of purpose in his service to the IAF and the country truly sets him apart as a leader and an icon of the Indian Air Force.