01 Sep 1978 - 31 Aug 1981
Air Chief Marshal Idris Hasan Latif was appointed as the Chief of the Air Staff on the retirement of Air Chief Marshal H Moolgavkar on 31 August 1978. Latif was born on 09 June 1923 at Hyderabad. Educated at the Nizam's College, Hyderabad.
Idris Latif joined the Royal Indian Air Force in 1941 at the age of 18 and was commissioned in 1942. On completion of his training at Ambala, he was posted to the No. 2 Coastal Defence Flight in Karachi, where he flew vintage biplane aircraft like the Wapiti, Audaxes and Harts, on Anti-Submarine flights over the Arabian Sea.
During 1943-44, he was one of the few Indian pilots to be seconded to the Royal Air Force in the United Kingdom. There he underwent training on more contemporary aircraft like the Hurricane and Spitfire, with the Operational squadrons of the RAF. He returned to India in 1944 and took part in the Burma campaign, flying the Hawker Hurricane for No. 3 Squadron.
When Partition brought with it the division of the Armed Forces, Latif as a Muslim officer was faced with the choice of joining either India or Pakistan. He was very clear that his future lay with India.
After the war, Latif on promotion to Squadron Leader became the Commanding Officer of No. 4 Oorials, flying the Hawker Tempest. He led the first fly past over New Delhi, after India turned a republic in 1950. Afterwards Latif had the honour of being nominated to Indonesia along with two other officers to help induct Vampire fighters into the newly-born Indonesian Air Force. After returning from this assignment, Latif attended the Defence Services Staff College at Wellington.
In 1961, Latif was sent to the United States of America as the Air Attaché to the Indian Embassy. Latif also held the dual responsibility of Air Attaché to the Indian High Commissioner's Office in Canada. Even though international assignments as Air Attaché are limited to duration of three years, Air Marshal Arjan Singh asked Latif to continue as Air Attaché for a second tenure.
Latif returned from the USA in 1965, just as war clouds were brewing in the Indian subcontinent. Latif was posted to Eastern Air Command as the Air Defence Commander and later was the Senior Air Staff Officer. Soon after in 1966, Latif took over as Station Commander Lohegaon Airbase at Pune. Lohegaon had the unique distinction of having, fighters, bombers, four-engine transport aircraft and World War-II Liberator aircraft, all of which Latif flew from time to time. After Air Chief Marshal PC Lal became CAS, Latif moved to Air HQ in the newly created post of Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Plans) in the rank of Air Vice Marshal, and in this capacity he carried out the onerous tasks of making first line assessment of frontline combat squadrons and the modernisation plans of the Air Force. For his role, Latif received the PVSM in 1971.
During the 1971 War, Latif was still the ACAS (Plans). He was keenly involved in flying to the frontline squadrons and getting first hand information on the progress of the war and the requirements of the units if any. Latif was in the Eastern Sector at Shillong when the surrender in East Pakistan took place. In 1974, Latif became an Air Marshal and held the appointment of Air Officer-in-Charge of Administration at Air HQ. He then became AOC-in-C Central Air Command. One of the memorable landmarks of this tenure was the Air Force relief operations under his stewardship during the Patna floods in 1975. Under his guidance, the helicopter pilots flew as many as 20 sorties per day to carry out humanitarian tasks. After a short while, he took over Maintenance Command. Latif then joined Air HQ as the Vice Chief of the Air Staff, a post which he held till 1978, when he took over as Chief of the Air Staff of the Indian Air Force.
As Chief of the Air Staff, Latif was involved fully in the re-equipment and modernisation plans of the Air Force. He convinced the government to approve the procurement of the Jaguar strike aircraft, a proposal which was lying dormant for over 8 years. He also held negotiations with the Russians and saw the induction of the MiG-23 and later, the MiG-25 aircraft into the IAF.