Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma

Wg Cdr Rakesh Sharma was born on 13 Jan 1949 at Patiala Punjab, and was schooled at St. George’s Grammar School, Abid Road Hyderabad.  He was commissioned into the Indian Air Force as a Pilot Officer in 1970.  Wg Cdr Rakesh Sharma, then a Squadron Leader embarked on a historic mission in 1984 as part of a joint space program between the Indian Space Research Organisation and the Soviet Intercosmos space program. He spent eight days in space aboard the Salyut 7 space station.  Launched along with two Soviet Cosmonauts aboard Soyuz T-11 on 03 Apr 1984 was 35 year old Rakesh Sharma.  He was conferred with the honour of ‘Hero of Soviet Union’ upon his return from space.  The Government of India conferred on him its highest peacetime gallantry award, the Ashoka Chakra.

Air Chief Marshal Lakshman Madhav Katre

Air Chief Marshal Lakshman Madhav Katre was born on 26 Jan 1927 in Madras. He was commissioned on 09 Apr 1945 and started his illustrious career in the IAF as a Pilot Officer in 1 Sqn. Later on, he commanded 17 Sqn and 7 Sqn. He served as Commandant, Air Force Academy, Dundigal, where he expanded the facilities to cater for the training of Ground Duty branches and reoriented the flying activity for advanced training on jet aircraft. He served as AOC-in-C Eastern Air Command and subsequently, AOC-in-C Western Air Command. He took over as Chief of Air Staff on 04 Sep 1984. He passed away untimely on 01 Jul 85 while still in harness.

Air Chief Marshal Idris Hasan Latif

Air Chief Marshal Idris Hassan Latif was born on 09 June 1923 at Hyderabad. He was educated at the prestigious Nizam College, Hyderabad. He was commissioned into the RIAF in 1942 and took part in the Burma Campaign on the Arakan Front during World War-II. He served as the Air Attaché at the Indian Embassy in Washington DC and held the dual responsibility of Air Attaché to the Indian High Commissioner's office in Canada.  In his stint with the IAF, he held key appointments of ACAS (Plans), AOA, AOC-in-C Central Air Command and Maintenance Command, VCAS and was appointed Chief of the Air Staff in 1978. After retirement from the IAF, he served as Governor of Maharashtra and as Indian ambassador to France. He passed away on 27 June 2008.

Air Chief Marshal Dilbagh Singh

Air Chief Marshal Dilbagh Singh was born on 10 March 1926 at Gurdaspur District, Punjab. He was commissioned in the RIAF as a pilot in 1944. His operational flying career spanned from the Spitfire to raising the first MiG-21 Sqn in India. He had earlier made the first official “Supersonic Bang” over India in New Delhi when the Mystere IV-A was showcased for a public demonstration. He commanded 2 Sqn, flying Spitfire XVIII and 1 Sqn, flying the Mystere IV-A and also Air Force Base Lohegaon. He held the appointment of AOC-in-C Western Air Command before he took over as the Chief of the Air Staff from 1981 to 1984. After retirement, he went on to serve as India’s Ambassador to Brazil from 1985 to 1987. He passed away in February 2001.

Air Chief Marshal Om Prakash Mehra

Air Chief Marshal Om Prakash Mehra was born on 19 Jan 1919 at Lahore. He finished schooling at the Central Model School in 1933 and joined Government College University, Lahore. After a short spell of flying Tiger Moths at the Northern India Flying Club, Walton, he joined the RIAF as Pilot Officer on 30 Nov 1940. During his stint in the IAF, he commanded the prestigious 1 Sqn and served as Commandant, Elementary Flying Training School at Ambala. In 1963 he took over as AOC-in-C Maintenance Command, in which capacity he served during the 1965 war. He served as Deputy Chief of Air Staff before taking over as Chairman Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. On 15 Jan 1973 he took over as the Chief of Air Staff, succeeding Air Chief Marshal PC Lal. He was a recipient of Padma Vibhushan and went on to serve as Governor of Maharashtra (1980) and later, as Governor of Rajasthan (1982).

Air Chief Marshal Pratap Chandra Lal

Air Chief Marshal Pratap Chandra Lal was born in December 1916 at Allahabad, in a family of lawyers. He had an early interest in aviation, and became the youngest Indian to earn Amateur Pilot’s Licence at the age of 17, in January 1934.The outbreak of war in 1939 resulted in the expansion of Royal Indian Air Force and all those with pilots’ licenses were invited to join up. Thence began his glorious journey in the Indian Air Force. He served the IAF from 1939 until his retirement in 1973. During his illustrious career, he commanded No. 7 Sqn (in the Burma campaign), was AOC-in-C of HQ Western Air Command, Managing Director and Chairman of HAL, the VCAS and the Chief of Air Staff during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan.  After his retirement from the IAF, he served as the Joint Chairman of Indian Airlines and Air India till 1980.   Air Chief Marshal Pratap Chandra Lal passed away in 1982.

Air Vice Marshal Harjinder Singh

BORN: 04 FEB 1909 | DIED: 06 SEP 1971

Harjinder Singh joined the Indian Air Force (IAF) as a Hawai Sepoy (Air Soldier), a rank lower than that of a soldier. He was commissioned into the Royal Air Force on 03 Sep 1942. One of his many initiatives was the construction of an aircraft at IAF Station Kanpur in early 1958.  He was an engineering genius who had a vision ahead of his time. He rose to the rank of Air Vice Marshal and became the first Commander-in-Chief of the prestigious Maintenance Command at Kanpur. He passed away untimely on 06 Sep 1971.

Fg Offr Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon

BORN: 17 JUL 1943 | DIED: 14 DEC 1971

Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon was born on 17 Jul 1943 in the village of Rurka in Ludhiana District, Punjab.  He was the son of Hony Flight Lieutenant Tarlochan Singh Sekhon.  He was commissioned into the flying branch of the Indian Air Force on 04 Jun 1967. He was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra, India’s highest military decoration, in recognition of his lone defence of Srinagar Air Base flying a Gnat against Sabres during a Pakistani air raid in the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971.

Air Marshal Subroto Mukerjee

BORN: 05 MAR 1911 | DIED: 08 NOV 1960
Subroto Mukerjee was the youngest child of a close-knit and well known Bengali family. At the age of 18, he was one of the first six Indian boys selected to undergo two years of flying training at the Royal Air Force College Cranwell. On 08 October, 1932 he was one of the six Indian Cadets who received their commission. He became the first Indian to command a Flight, a Squadron, a Station, and finally, the Service itself. He participated in NWFP Operation in 1942 and was Mentioned-in-Dispatches. In Jun 1945 he was awarded with ‘Order of the British Empire’ (Military Division). He took over as Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Air Force in 1954. He passed away in 1960.

Air Cmde Mehar Singh

BORN: 20 MAR 1915 | DIED: 11 MAR 1952
Air Cmde Mehar Singh was born in the district of Lyallpur on 20 Mar 1915. Mehar Singh was attracted by the idea of flying at a very young age which led him to join Royal Air Force College Cranwell, England in 1934, and soon Mehar Singh earned the respect of his fellow airmen with his flying skills. Formally known as Baba Mehar Singh, he earned an image of a strict disciplinarian amongst his subordinates, but also looked after them with a lot of care and affection. As a 29 years old Squadron Commander he was awarded Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for effective leadership and personal bravery. Out of his many achievements, the mission led by Baba Mehar Singh carrying the first contingent of Indian Army in a Dakota aircraft to Srinagar in 1948 is the most memorable. Baba Mehar Singh retired in 1948 from the IAF. His life was cut short when he died in an air crash on 11 Mar 1952.