Kolkata/New Delhi, April 15 (IANS) The IAF on Friday renamed its Panagarh airbase in West Bengal as Air Force Station Arjan Singh in honour of the country’s only living five-star military officer, Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh, on the occasion of his 97th birthday.
Eastern Air Command chief, Air Marshal C. Hari Kumar unveiled the new name at the entrance to the air force station, located in Burdwan, 112 km from Kolkata and now set to be IAF’s second C-130J Super Hercules hub after Hindan, near New Delhi.
“Air Force Station Arjan Singh, now with the induction of C-130J, would have a prominent role to play in our war waging capability, true to its name,” he said at the inauguration ceremony.
The renaming was announced by IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha on Thursday evening at a function in New Delhi to felicitate Arjan Singh, a defence statement said.
Constructed during the Second World War, by the Allied forces as part of their China-Burma-India campaign, the base also played a significant role in 1965 and 1971 wars against Pakistan. During the 1971 war, it was again activated and hosted two fighter squadrons of the Sukhoi-7 and the MiG-21 aircraft.
The airbase under Eastern Air Command would now oversee tactical and strategic air operations in eastern theatre with the Super Hercules aircraft.
At the age of 44, Arjan Singh took over the IAF in the rank of air marshal on August 1, 1964 and became the first Indian to lead the force in conflict when the India-Pakistan War broke out in 1965. Serving as chief of air staff till July 15, 1969, he was also the first in the post to be elevated to the rank of air chief marshal. The elevation, on January 16, 1966, was in recognition of IAF’s vital contribution in the 1965 war under his leadership.
After retirement, he was envoy to Switzerland and Kenya and lt. governor of Delhi.
In recognition of his lifelong services, the government of India conferred the rank of the Marshal of the Air Force on Arjan Singh in January 2002, making him the first and the only ‘five star’ officer with the IAF.