Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh, the hero of the 1965 Indo-Pak war, was on Friday made the first ever marshal of the Indian Air Force in recognition of his "extraordinary services".
Thirty-three years after he retired as IAF chief, the government conferred the highest rank in IAF on the 82-year-old Singh.
The rank is equivalent to that of a field marshal in the army. He will receive the honorary rank from President K R Narayanan on the Republic Day.
Singh follows the footsteps of General SHFJ Manekshaw and General K M Cariappa, who were elevated as field marshals in 1973 and 1986 respectively.
Singh had won accolades for his dexterous handling of the IAF in the 1965 war, giving India the crucial air supremacy in striking Pakistani targets. The IAF, under Singh, had acquitted itself so well during the 1965 war that he got a Padma Vibhushan Bar-one.
Singh was commissioned into the Royal Indian Air Force after he was rushed back to India from England soon after World War II broke out in 1939.
He fought on the Japanese front and was promoted thrice, and by 1944 he had become a squadron leader. In a rare distinction for an Indian pilot, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross before India gained independence.
In the absence of training facilities in India, he was sent to the Royal Air Force college at Cramwell, near London. Singh and his classmate Prithipal Singh were the last two Indians to be trained at Cramwell.
He also had a distinguished diplomatic career when he was appointed as India's ambassador to Switzerland in 1971, two days after retirement.
Singh was also India's high commissioner to Kenya before becoming a member of the new minorities commission for four years till 1981.
He was back in the limelight after eight years when he was sworn in as the lieutenant governor of Delhi on December 14, 1989.
Singh was born in Lyallpur, now in Pakistan, on May 15, 1919 and had a brilliant academic career. He got his primary education at Lyallpur and for higher education he joined the Government College in Lahore.
"I took to flying like a bird. There is nothing to compare the feeling of being high above the earth. It's heavenly," he was quoted as having said in a newspaper interview.
Many officers and airmen who served with him still fondly remember the marshal as a hands-on, non-formal, incisive and humane person.
Singh belongs to the breed of rare individuals who had the difficult task of shaping the IAF not only in its nascent years, but also at several difficult periods.
An avid aviator, he flew all types of aircraft in his serving years, including jets and supersonic jets.
Tell us what you think of this report