Three weeks before the Air Force Day, Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh succumbed to old age at the Research and Referral hospital in Delhi on 16 September 2017. He was two years shy of a century. FORCE had a bit of a connection with the grand old man; not just of air force, but the nation. People like him do not belong only to their fraternity. While, regrettably, FORCE never had the opportunity to get to know another legend, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, it had the privilege of meeting Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh a few times, twice at his residence with his wife.
He was a legend alright. Tales about his valour (for instance, some say that Lord Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander, Southeast Asia Command was so moved by his heroism in the Burma campaign that he flew down to the Arakan region to pin the Distinguished Flying Cross on him right there in the battlefield), leadership (rumours say that he was almost court-martialled for employing some unconventional training methods on a young cadet, primarily to boost his confidence) and generosity abound. Who cares how accurate they are, as long as they are delectably harmless. To his credit, Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh never claimed any of these stories. In the two interviews he did with FORCE, he was too humble to lay claim to any achievements and magnanimous enough to give credit to his subordinates.
Sure enough, in the IAF special issue to mark the 85th anniversary of the service, Marshal of the Air Force had to take the cover position. May he rest in peace!
The rest of the issue focuses on the IAF vision of strategic reach, which implies a balanced mix of combat, rotary, flight refueller, unmanned and early warning platforms, plus network-centricity, smart weapons, cyber and electronic warfare capabilities and dynamic futuristic training. These are some of the issues that we have tried to address through articles, reports and guest columns in this special issue.
Readers would notice that October issue is bigger than our regular ones. The reason is simple. Given the primacy of air power in future conflicts, one needed these many pages to do justice to matters air force.
Of course, we have not forgotten our regular features. We have a report on the recent conference on border management, an update on Indian Artillery, a show report on DSEi and news from the services and the industry.
FORCE was once again invited by European missile-maker MBDA to visit two of its facilities in France and Britain. While the first report is being carried as Bottomline, two more reports will follow in the next issue. Cheers to the festive season!