Chief of Air Staff | List of Air Chief Marshal of India

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Chief of Air Staff – Rank Introduction

Air Chief Marshal or Chief of Air Staff (Air Chf Mshl or ACM) is a Four-star officer Rank and is the most senior peacetime Indian Air Force Rank with NATO ranking code of OF-9.

The rank of Air Chief Marshal is equivalent to the rank of “Admiral” in Indian Navy Ranks and “General” is Indian Army Ranks.

In Indian Airforce only an Air Chief Marshal can hold the position of Chief of the Air Staff (CAS).

Read our article on How to Join Indian Air Force

Current Chief of Air Staff

Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria

Current Chief of Air Staff - Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria

Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria was born in 1959.

He is the 26th and the current Chief of the Air Staff of the Indian Air Force. He joined the office on 30 September 2019.

R K S Bhadauria is born in Korath, a village of tahsil Bah District Agra. He got his initial training from National Defence Academy, Pune, and also holds a Master’s degree in Defence studies from Command and Staff College.

On 15 June 1980 Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria was commissioned into the fighter stream of the Indian Air Force with the Sword of Honour.

Commands: Southern Air Command

Deputy Chief of Air Staff, Chief of the Air Staff, Vice Chief of the Air Staff, Training Command

Awards: Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal, Vayu Sena Medal

Chief of Air Staff | List of Air Chief Marshal of India

1. Air Marshal Thomas Elmhirst

Air Marshal Sir Thomas Walker Elmhirst was born on 15 December 1895 and he died on 6 November 1982.

He served as the senior commander in the Royal Air Force in the first half of the 20th century and the Chief of Air Staff of the Royal Indian Air Force.

Later he was elected as the Lieutenant-Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Guernsey from 1953 to 1958.

Below are the appointments of Air Marshal Thomas Elmhirst along with no. of days in office. 

Air Marshal Commanding, of the Royal Indian Air Force (1947–1948). Time in Office – 199 days

Chief of Air Staff and Air Marshal Commanding, of the Royal Indian Air Force (1948). Time in Office – 112 days

Chief of Air Staff and Commander-in-Chief, of the Royal Indian Air Force (1948–1950). Time in Office – 1 year 218 days

Chief of Air Staff and Commander-in-Chief, of the Indian Air Force (1950–1955). Time in Office – 28 days

2. Air Chief Marshal Ronald Ivelaw-Chapman

Air Chief Marshal Sir Ronald Ivelaw-Chapman, was born on 17 January 1899 and he died on 28 April 1978.

He served as the senior commander in the Royal Air Force in the middle of the 20th century and later became the penultimate RAF commander-in-chief of the Indian Air Force.

Battles fought – First World War, Kabul Airlift, Second World War

He spent 1 year, 289 days in office from 23 February 1950 to 9 December 1951.

3. Air Marshal Sir Gerald Ernest Gibb

Air Marshal Sir Gerald Ernest Gibbs was born on 3 September 1896 and he died on 13 October 1992.

In the first half of the 20th century, he served as the senior commander in the Royal Air Force and the last RAF commander-in-chief of the Indian Air Force.

He spent 2 years, 111 days in office from10 December 1951 to 31 March 1954. 

4. Air Marshal Subroto Mukerjee

Air Marshal Subroto Mukerjee - Chief of Air Staff

Air Marshal Subroto Mukerjee was born on 5 March 1911 and he dies on 8 November 1960. Subroto Mukerjee is also known as the “Father of the Indian Air Force”. 

Subroto Mukerjee becomes the first Indian Chief of Air Staff of the Indian Air Force.

He spent 1 year in office from 1 April 1954 to 31 March 1955. His career spanned almost three decades and had been awarded many honors.

He joined the Royal Air Force and later became one of the first recruits of the Indian Air Force (IAF) in 1933. He flew with the No. 1 Squadron IAF from 1933 to 1941. 

He commanded the RAF Station Kohat from 1943 to 1944 preceding moving to Air HQ as chief of flying preparing. He was granted the OBE (Order of the British Empire) in 1945.

Battles/wars – Annexation of Hyderabad, Indo-Pakistani War of 1947–1948, World War II, Waziristan campaign (1936–1939)

Chief of Air Staff (1955–present)

On 1 April 1955, Air Marshal Subroto Mukerjee again served as the Chief of the Air Staff till 8 November 1960. During this period he spent 5 years, 221 days in office. 

5. Air Marshal Aspy Merwan Engineer

Air Marshal Aspy Merwan Engineer - Chief of Air Staff

Air Marshal Aspy Merwan Engineer was born on 15 December 1912 and he died on 1 May 2002. 

An officer in the Indian Air Force who rose through the positions to become free India’s second Chief of the Air Staff, succeeding Subroto Mukerjee in 1960 and going before Arjan Singh. He spent 3 years, 243 days in office from 1 December 1960 to 31 July 1964. 

Began his flying career at the age of 17 in 1930. He won the Aga Khan contest for being the first Indian to fly the excursion among England and India, solo and inside one month. 

Unit: No.1 Squadron IAF

Commands: No.1 Operational Group, No.2 Squadron, Air Force Station Kohat

Battles/wars: Waziristan campaign (1936–39), Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, Annexation of Goa, Sino-Indian War

6. Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh

Marshal Arjan Singh - Chief of Air Staff

Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh, DFC was born on 15 April 1919 and died on 16 September 2017. He was a senior air officer of the Indian Air Force. 

Marshal Arjan Singh served as the 3rd Chief of the Air Staff from 1964 to 1969. He spent 4 years, 348 days in office from 1 August 1964 to 15 July 1969. 

Marshal Arjan Singh lead the Air Force through the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965.

He became the first and only officer of the Indian Air Force (IAF) to be promoted to five-star rank as Marshal of the Indian Air Force, which is equivalent to the army rank of Field Marshal.

Commands held: Chief of the Air Staff, Operational Command, Ambala Air Force Station, Air Force Station Kohat, Air Force Station Risalpur, No. 1 Squadron IAF

Battles/wars: World War II, Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, Indo-Pakistani War of 1965

Awards: Padma Vibhushan, Distinguished Flying Cross

7. Air Chief Marshal Pratap Chandra Lal

Air Chief Marshal Pratap Chandra Lal - Chief of Air Staff

Air Chief Marshal Pratap Chandra Lal, DFC was born on 6 December 1916 and died on 13 August 1982. He served as the Chief of Air Staff (CAS) of the Indian Air Force during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971.  

Air Chief Marshal Pratap Chandra Lal spent 3 years, 184 days in office from 16 July 1969 to 15 January 1973. Under his leadership, he also successfully executed Operation Chengiz Khan

Commands held: Western Air Command, Training Command, No. 7 Squadron

Battles/wars: World War II, Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, Indo-Pakistani War of 1971

Awards: Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan

8. Air Chief Marshal Om Prakash Mehra

Air Chief Marshal Pratap Chandra Lal - Chief of Air Staff

Air Chief Marshal Om Prakash Mehra was born on 19 January 1919 and he died on 8 November 2015. He served as the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) of the Indian Air Force from 1973 to 1976.

Air Chief Marshal Om Prakash Mehra spent 3 years, 15 days in office from 16 January 1973 to 31 January 1976. 

He also received the highest military award for peace-time service, Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM), in 1968. In 1977, he was awarded Padma Vibhushan, which is India’s second-highest civilian honor. 

From 1975–1980 he served as the 5th President of the Indian Olympic Association. Later he became 11th Governor of Maharashtra ( 1980 to 1982 & 9th Governor of Rajasthan (1985 to 1987). 

Commands: Chief of the Air Staff (India) (1973–1976), No.3 Squadron, Western Air Command

Battles/wars: World War II, Indo-Pakistani War (1965)

9. Air Chief Marshal Hrushikesh Moolgavkar

Air Chief Marshal Hrushikesh Moolgavkar - Chief of AIr Staff

Air Chief Marshal Hrushikesh Moolgavkar  PVSM, MVC was born on 15 August 1920 and he died on 9 April 2015.  Hrushikesh Moolgavkar was the 9th Chief of the Air Staff of the Indian Air Force. 

 He spent 2 years, 241 days in office from 1 February 1976 to 30 August 1978. 

During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, Air Chief Marshal Moolgavkar led the planning and execution of close air support during Operation Bison in Zoji La. For his exceptional gallantry and leadership, he was decorated with the Maha Vir Chakra (MVC), the second-highest military decoration in India. 

Battles/wars: World War II, Indo-Pakistani War of 1947–1948, Indo-Pakistani War of 1965

Awards: Param Vishist Seva Medal, Maha Vir Chakra, Legion of Merit

10. Air Chief Marshal Idris Hasan Latif

Air Chief Marshal Idris Hasan Latif

Air Chief Marshal Idris Hasan Latif was born on 9 June 1923 and he died on 30 April 2018. He was a former Air Officer in the Indian Air Force who served as the 10th Chief of Air Staff (CAS) of the Indian Air Force (IAF).

He spent 3 years, 29 days in office from 1 September 1978 to 30 August 1981. Idris Hasan Preceded by Air Chief Marshal Hrushikesh Moolgavkar Succeeded by Air Chief Marshal Dilbagh Singh. 

After retirement from the Indian Air Force service, Air Chief Marshal Idris Hasan Latif served as the Governor of Maharashtra from 1982 to 1985. He also worked as the Administrator of Goa, Daman, and Diu and Administrator of Dadra and Nagar Haveli. He also served as the Indian ambassador to France from 1985 to 1988.

Commands: Maintenance Command, Central Air Command, Lohegaon Air Force Station, No. 4 Squadron

Battles/wars: World War II, Indo-Pakistan War of 1947, Indo-Pakistan War of 1965, Indo-Pakistan War of 1971

11. Air Chief Marshal Dilbagh Singh

Air Chief Marshal Dilbagh Singh

Air Chief Marshal Dilbagh Singh, PVSM, AVSM, VM was born on 10 March 1926 and he died on 9 February 2001. He was the second Sikh to hold that position of Chief of Air Staff. He served as the Chief of the Air Staff of the Indian Airforce from 1981 to 1984.

He spent 3 years, 2 days in office from 1 September 1981

to 3 September 1984. He was commissioned in Indian Air Force as a pilot in 1944. 

Air Chief Marshal Dilbagh Singh made the first official “Supersonic Bang” over India in New Delhi when the Mystere IV-A was showcased in a public demonstration.

From 1985 to 1987, he also served as India’s Ambassador to Brazil.

You can read the life story of Air Chief Marshal Dilbagh Singh in his autobiography On the Wings of Destiny“.

Unit: No. 1 Squadron

Commands: Eastern Air Command, Ambala Air Force Station, 28 Squadron

12. Air Chief Marshal Lakshman Madhav Katre

Air Chief Marshal Lakshman Madhav Katre, PVSM, AVSM and Bar was born on 10 March 1926 and he died on 30 June 1985. He was the Chief of Air Staff of the Indian Air Force from 1984 to 1985.

He spent 301 days in office from 3 September 1984 to 1 July 1985.

In The Air Force School (Subroto Park), The Katre House has been named after him. 

He was decorated with the Ati Vishist Seva Medal & Param Vishist Seva Medal.

13. Air Chief Marshal Denis Anthony La Fontaine

Air Chief Marshal Denis Anthony La Fontaine

Air Chief Marshal Denis Anthony La Fontaine was born on 17 September 1929 and he died on 6 April 2011. He became the 13th Chief of Air Staff of the Indian Air Force. 

He spent 3 years, 28 days in office from 3 July 1985 to 31 July 1988.

He got enrolled in the Indian Air Force in October 1947.

Air Chief Marshal Denis Anthony La Fontaine was one of the first pilots in the Indian Air Force to undergo training in flying the jets, which were the first jet fighters operated by any country in Asia.

On the sudden death of Chief of Air Staff (CAS) Air Chief Marshal L M. Katre, La Fontaine became the CAS in July 1985. After becoming CAS he oversaw the IAF induction of defence fighters like the Mirage 2000 and the MiG-29.

Denis Anthony La Fontaine was decorated with the Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal, and Vayu Sena Medal for his excellent service.

Commands held: Chief of the Air Staff, Central Air Command, Western Air Command, No.47 Black Archers, No.14 Fighting Bulls

Battles/wars: Indo-Pak War of 1965, Indo-Pak War of 1971

14. Air Chief Marshal Surinder Kumar Mehra

Air Chief Marshal Surinder Kumar Mehra

Air Chief Marshal Surinder Kumar Mehra was born on 15 November 1932 and he died on 8 December 2003. He became the 14th Chief of Air Staff of the Indian Air Force. 

Surinder Kumar Mehra was born in Delhi & spent 2 years, 364 days in office from 1 August 1988 to 31 July 1991.

He joined the Indian Air force in December 1951, as he was commissioned as a fighter pilot.

In 1987, became the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, of South Western Air Command. He was given the responsibility of all air operations in Gujurat, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra

Nickname: Polly

Commands: Chief of the Air Staff, South Western Air Command, No.28 Squadron, No.106 Squadron

Battles/wars: Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, Operation Brasstacks

Awards: Ati Vishist Seva Medal (AVSM), Param Vishist Seva Medal (PVSM), Vayu Sena Medal (VM)

15. Air Chief Marshal Nirmal Chandra Suri

 Air Chief Marshal Nirmal Chandra Suri

Air Chief Marshal Nirmal Chandra Suri, was born on 26 July 1933. He Became the 15th Chief of Air Staff of the Indian Air Force. Nirmal Chandra Suri was commissioned in the Indian Air Force as a fighter pilot on 15 March 1952. 

He spent 2 years in office from 31 July 1991 to 31 July 1993.

He is a graduate of the renowned Royal Indian Military College, Dehradun. He was also part of the First Course of the Joint Services Wing, which is the present-day National Defence Academy, Pune.

Commands:  Central Air Command, No.20 Squadron, No.7 Squadron, Chief of the Air Staff (India)

Battles/wars: Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 & Indo-Pakistani War of 1971

Awards:  Vayu Sena Medal (VM), Ati Vishist Seva Medal (AVSM), Param Vishist Seva Medal (PVSM))

16. Air Chief Marshal Swaroop Krishna Kaul

Air Chief Marshal Swaroop Krishna Kaul

Air Chief Marshal Swaroop Krishna Kaul, was born on 20 December 1935 and he became the 16th Chief of the Air Staff of the Indian Air Force. Kaul served as the Air Chief from 1993 to 1995.

He spent 2 years, 152 days in office from 1 August 1993 to 31 December 1995.

Air Chief Marshal Swaroop Krishna Kaul joined the National Defence Academy (NDA) in 1951 and got commissioned in the IAF on 17 July 1954. During the Indo-Pakistani battle of 1971, as a Wing Commander Kaul drove a few missions into the Pakistani-held zones of East Pakistan (presently Bangladesh) to photo strategically fundamental territories.

Swaroop Krishna Kaul was appointed as the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee in November 1994.

Awards: Param Vishist Seva Medal (PVSM) and, Maha Vir Chakra (MVC)

Commands: 37 Squadron, Western Air Command and, Central Air Command

Battles/wars: Indo-Pakistani War of 1971

17. Air Chief Marshal Satish Sareen

Air Chief Marshal Satish Kumar Sareen, PVSM, AVSM, VM, ADC was born on 1 March 1939. He became the 17th Chief of Air Staff of the Indian Air Force.

He spent 3 years in office from 31 December 1995 to 31 December 1998.

Commands: Chief of the Air Staff (India) (1995–1998), Western Air Command, South Western Air Command

Battles/wars: Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, Indo-Pakistani War of 1971

Awards: Param Vishist Seva Medal (PVSM), Ati Vishist Seva Medal (AVSM), Vayu Sena Medal (VM)

18. Air Chief Marshal Anil Yashwant Tipnis

Air Chief Marshal Anil Yashwant Tipnis

Air Chief Marshal Anil Yashwant Tipnis, was born on 15 September 1940, currently, he is 80 years old. He became the 18th Chief of Air Staff of The Indian Air Force. 

He spent 3 years in office from 31 December 1998 to 31 December 2001.

He was the commander of the Air Force when the IAF flew air superiority and close air support at heights of over 18,000 feet. Tipnis was appointed as a fighter pilot on 28 May 1960. He spent his initial years as an operational pilot in front line squadrons.

Unit: No. 7 Squadron IAF

Battles/wars: Kargil War, Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, Indo-Pakistani War of 1965

Commands: Western Air Command, AFS Gwalior, 23 Squadron

19. Air Chief Marshal Srinivasapuram Krishnaswamy

Air Chief Marshal Srinivasapuram Krishnaswamy

Air Chief Marshal Srinivasapuram Krishnaswamy was born on 18 January 1943. He is a former Officer in IAF and he became the 19th Chief of the Air Staff

He spent 3 years in office from 31 December 2001 to 31 December 2004.

He raised the 1st electronic warfare unit in the Indian Air Force. He has the unique qualification of having commanded three operational commands of the IAF – the Western, South-Western, and Central Air Commands.

Commands held: No. Central Air Command, Western Air Command, 35 Squadron IAF, Lohegaon Air Force Station, South Western Air Command

Battles/wars: Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, Kargil War

Awards: Vayu Sena Medal (Bar), Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal, Vayu Sena Medal

20. Air Chief Marshal Shashindra Pal Tyagi

Air Chief Marshal Shashindra Pal Tyagi was born on 14 March 1945. He is currently 75 years old. SP Tyagi became and served as the 20th Chief of Air Staff of the Indian Air Force. 

He spent 2 years, 90 days in office from 31 December 2004 to 31 March 2007.

Commands held: Central Air Command, South Western Air Command, Western Air Command, Indian Air Force

Battles/wars: Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, Indo-Pakistani War of 1971

21. Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major

Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major

Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major was born on 29 May 1947. Fali Homi Major became the 21st Chief of Air Staff of the Indian Air Force. He became the first helicopter pilot in the service to be promoted to the Chief of Air Staff.

He spent 2 years, 61 days in office from 31 March 2007 to 31 May 2009. He was succeeded in office by Air Chief Marshal P V Naik.

After retirement from the Indian Airforce, Fali Homi Major served as an Independent Director of Air India. He was the Independent Director at Reliance Defence and Engineering Limited since 2016. Later he also becomes a member of the National Security Advisory Board to the Government of India.

Commands held: Sarsawa Air Force Station, Eastern Air Command, 129 HU, 127 HU

Battles/wars: Kargil conflict, Operation Pawan

Awards: Vayu Sena Medal, Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Shaurya Chakra, Ati Vishist Seva Medal

22. Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik

Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik

Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik, PVSM, VSM was born on 22 July 1949 and he became the 22nd Chief of the Air Staff (COAS) of the Indian Air Force.

He spent 2 years, 61 days in office from 31 May 2009 to 31 July 2011. 

On 21 June 1969, he was commissioned into the Indian Air Force as a Fighter Pilot. 

Besides Indian Airforce Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik also served as Directing Staff at DSSC Wellington, India, and at Tactics & Air Combat Development Establishment (TACDE).

Commands held: Central Air Command AFS Bidar, 26 Squadron

Battles/wars: Indo-Pakistani War of 1971

Awards: Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Vishisht Seva Medal

Other work: Honorary Aides-de-Camp (ADC) 

23. Air Chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne

Air Chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne, was born on 15 December 1951. He is also known by his nickname as “Charlie” Browne. Norman Anil Kumar Browne became the 23rd Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) of the Indian Air Force. 

He spent 2 years, 153 days in office from 31 July 2011 to 31 December 2013.

Browne filled in as India’s Ambassador to Norway from August 2014 to April 2016

Commands held: 16 Squadron, Western Air Command and, AFS Lohegaon

Awards:  Vayu Sena Medal (VM), Param Vishist Seva Medal and, Ati Vishist Seva Medal (AVSM)

24. Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha

Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha - Chief of air staff

Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, was born on 26 December 1954. He Became the 24th Chief of the Air Staff of the Indian Air Force (IAF).

He spent 3 years in office from 31 December 2013 to 31 December 2016.

Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha was trained at the NDA, Khadakwasla, India, and at the time of graduating, he was awarded the Gold Medal for being the best cadet of the 44th NDA course.

Later he became the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee.

Awards: Vayu Sena Medal (VM), Param Vishist Seva Medal (PVSM)

Ati Vishist Seva Medal (AVSM)

25. Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa

Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa

Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, was born on 7 September 1957. He became the 25th Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) of the Indian Air Force (IAF). 

He spent 2 years, 273 days in office from 31 December 2016

 to 30 September 2019.

Birender Singh Dhanoa also served as the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. Right now, he is working as a non-executive and independent director at Hero MotoCorp.

He has flown many fighter aircraft in his career which includes HJT-16 Kiran, MiG-21, SEPECAT Jaguar, MiG-29, and Su-30MKI.

During the Kargil Conflict in 1999, he was Commanding Officer (CO) of a front line ground attack fighter squadron.

Commands: South Western Air Command, No. 17 Squadron, Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee, Chief of the Air Staff

Battles/wars: Kargil War

Awards: Yudh Seva Medal, Vayu Sena Medal, Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal.

Source: https://www.wikipedia.org/

To know about other Ranks of Indian Air Force, read our article on Indian Air Force Ranks.

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