In 1949, Air Commodore Arjan Singh took over as the Air Officer Commanding of Operational command, which later came to be known as Western Air Command. Arjan Singh had the distinction of having the longest tenure as the AOC of Operation Command, from 1949-1952 and again from 1957-1961. Promoted to Air Vice Marshal, he was the AOC-in-C of Operation command. Towards the end of the 1962 war, he was appointed the DCAS and became the VCAS in 1963. He was the overall commander of the joint air training exercises “Shiksha” held between the IAF, RAF and RAAF thus laying the foundation of acquisition of new RADAR systems for IAF and training of IAF officers in USA for advanced gunnery course. He was also instrumental in planning and setting up of Armament Training Wing at Jamnagar, and later the Air Force Academy in 1967.
As Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Arjan Singh led the IAF in the 1965 War against Pakistan, wherein the IAF was able to blunt the Pakistani armoured thrust at Chamb, gained air superiority over the PAF and helped the Indian Army score Strategic victories.
Arjan Singh was awarded the Padma Vibhushan for leading Indian Air Force during 1965 war. Subsequently, in recognition of the Air Force’s contribution in the war, the rank of CAS was upgraded to that of Air Chief Marshal and Arjan Singh became the first Air Chief Marshal of the Indian Air Force. On completion of five years as the Chief of the Air Staff in two ranks, Arjan Singh retired on 16 Jul 1969.
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.
In 1971, Arjan Singh was appointed as India’s Ambassador to Switzerland. Three years later, he was appointed as the country’s High Commissioner to Kenya. He also served as a member of the minorities commission in 1978 and later, as the Chairman of Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi, an Institute of great repute, which he served with great distinction till 1983. In 1989, he was appointed the Lt Governor of Delhi.
Arjan Singh has remained a source of inspiration to fellow Indians and Officers. His simple formula for success is summed up in a few words by him.
Firstly, you should be thorough in your profession of everyone;Secondly, complete the job at hand to the satisfaction of everyone;Thirdly, you must have implicit faith in your subordinates;And fourthly, your efforts should always be honest and sincere.YB Chavan, Defence minister of India during the 1965 war described him as the jewel of a person, quietly efficient and firm, unexcitable but a very able leader.
After retiring from the IAF, Arjan Singh remained active and supportive of various causes for the welfare of air force veterans. Towards this end, he set up a trust in 2004 by contributing Twenty million rupees from his personal wealth to it.
On 17 April 2007, Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, wrote to Arjan Singh and honoured him as Marshal of the Air Force and mentioned that the nation looked up to him as a source of continuing inspiration, wisdom and strength to the Indian Armed Forces.
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.