Air Chief Marshal Denis Anthony La Fontaine


03 Jul 1985 - 31 Jul 1988

Air Chief Marshal Denis Anthony La Fontaine became the Air Chief on the sudden demise of Air Chief Marshal LM Katre. La Fontaine was the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Western Air Command at that time.

La Fontaine was born in Madras on 17 September 1929. Educated at St. Anthony's High School at Lahore and at St. George's College at Musoorie, he enrolled into the Indian Air Force in October 1947. He did his training on the Tigermoth aircraft, and then on the Harvards, Spitfires and the Tempests aircraft. He was commissioned into the flying branch at Ambala in April 1950.

La Fontaine's first posting was to the No. 7 Battle Axes Squadron flying the Tempests. When No. 7 converted to the De Havilland Vampires in 1951, La Fontaine was one of the first pilots in the Indian Air Force to undergo training in flying the jets, which were the first jet fighters operated by any country in Asia. Soon after, La Fontaine was selected to undergo the All Purpose Instructors Course. Over the next three years, he spent his career imparting Beginner, Intermediate and Operational Instructions in flying in a variety of aircraft including the Tigermoth, Harvard, Spitfire and Vampires.

In 1956, he returned to operational flying, when he was posted to the No. 2 Squadron flying the Toofanis. Then La Fontaine moved onto No. 29 Sqn Scorpions as a Senior Flight Commander. Command of his own unit came in 1960, when he was promoted to Squadron Leader and was entrusted to raising a new squadron, No. 47 (Black Archers). This Squadron, flying the Toofani, became the first Fighter Combat Squadron to win the Mukerjee Trophy in its first year of raising. After the upgradation of ranks of the Squadron Commanders of Fighter Squadrons, to Wing Commander, La Fontaine took over command of No. 14 Fighting Bulls Squadron at Kalaikunda.

Flying the subsonic Hawker Hunter, he was involved in the Indo-Pak Ops of 1965. After the operations, as a Group Captain, La Fontaine was the Chief Instructor at the Air Force Academy. He was responsible for developing a system of graded performance standards that improved the quality of flying training. At the outbreak of the 1971 War, he was deputed as a Senior Staff Officer to the Maritime Air Operations Cell in Bombay to help out civil airline operations. Throughout the 1970s, he held a variety of staff appointments with Western Air Command. He was Ops 1, Air 1 and later Senior Air Staff Officer (SASO) of WAC. In between these staff appointments, he also held some operational appointments in the form of command of two fighter bases.

As Air Marshal, he first was Air Officer Commanding-in-Charge of Personnel in Air Headquarters. His first AOC-in-C command came with at Central Air Command. Later shifted to command the Western Air Command. On the untimely demise of the then CAS, Air Chief Marshal LM Katre, La Fontaine took over as the Chief of the Air Staff. After becoming CAS, he oversaw the IAF inducting state-of-the-art defence fighters like the Mirage 2000 and the MiG-29. Both were procured primarily to counter the Pakistani F-16 threat. The IAF was involved in operations for the first time since 1971, when it undertook supply and relief sorties over Sri Lanka. Later, after the induction of the IPKF, the IAF was involved in supply and COIN operations. However La Fontaine could not oversee the complete operations of the IPKF. He retired in 1988, succeeded by Air Chief Marshal SK Mehra. In the course of his career he was decorated thrice. He was a recipient of the PVSM, AVSM and VSM for distinguished service. LaFontaine now leads a retired life in a farmhouse at Brahmanapally Village in Medak District.
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