Idris Hassan Latif passes away at 94: Former IAF chief was only Muslim to serve as head of an Indian armed forces wing

Idris Hassan Latif, former Indian Air Force (IAF) chief and the only Muslim to have served as head of any of the three wings of the Indian armed forces, passed away in Hyderabad on Monday at the age of 94, according to media reports.

Born on 9 June, 1923, in Hyderabad and educated at Nizam's College, Latif joined the Royal Indian Air Force in 1941 at the age of 18 and was commissioned in 1942. Following the completion of his training at Ambala, he was posted in Karachi, where he flew vintage biplanes like the Wapiti, Audaxes and Harts, on anti-submarine flights over the Arabian Sea, according to a report in Hindustan Times.

During 1943-44, he was one of the few Indian pilots to be seconded to the Royal Air Force in Britain, where he underwent training on more contemporary aircraft like the Hurricane and Spitfire. He returned to India in 1944 and took part in the Burma campaign.

 Idris Hassan Latif passes away at 94: Former IAF chief was only Muslim to serve as head of an Indian armed forces wing

Idris Hassan Latif. Image courtesy: Facebook/AirforceAssociation India

The Indian Express reported that following Partition, Latif spurned an offer to join the Pakistan Air Force and decided to join the IAF instead.

Latif succeeded to the post of IAF chief after the retirement of air chief marshal H Moolgavkar. Latif's father was the chief engineer in the Nizam's Hyderabad state, according to The Times of India.

Latif headed the IAF from September 1978 to August 1981 and after his retirement, served as the governor of Maharashtra and was India's Ambassador to France.

The Times of India report noted that Latif flew in India's first Republic Day celebrations on January 26, 1950. He also trained pilots in the Indonesian Air Force and served as air attaché to the Indian ambassador in the US and Indian high commissioner in Canada in 1961.

During the 1971 war, Latif was still the (assistant chief of air staff) ACAS (Plans), according to the Hindustan Times report. He was deeply involved in flying to the front line squadrons to take note of the situation on the ground and acquire first-hand information on the progress of the war.

Latif was in the eastern sector at Shillong when the surrender in East Pakistan occurred.

He was instrumental in convincing the government to approve the procurement of the Jaguar strike aircraft, which was lying dormant for more than eight years. He also held negotiations with the Russians and oversaw the induction of the MiG-23 and later, the MiG-25 aircraft into the IAF, the report stated.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: May 01, 2018 09:36:23 IST