Idris Hassan Latif [b.1923] : Armed Forces
Air Chief Marshal Idris Hassan Latif (PVSM) was born on June 9, 1923 in Hyderabad (then Deccan, now Andhra Pradesh) to the family of the chief engineer of the state of Hyderabad Hasan Latif. Post-retirement, his father took up the position of principal of Osmania Engineering College. While his father was settled in Hyderabad, LatifÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s family was from Bombay. One of their ancestral properties Latifia on Pandita Ramabai Road still exists.
Fond of riding, tennis and cricket, Idris LatifÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s extra-curricular interests also include photography, which is still a passion. He also enjoys Urdu poetry. He married Bilkees Latif.
Idris Latif studied at the NizamÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s College in Hyderabad. He was still studying when he was commissioned in the Air Force in 1942 and sent for training to Ambala. Post-training, he was posted to the coastal defence flight at Karachi to carry out anti-submarine duties in the Arabian seas. During this tenure, he flew vintage biplane aircrafts like the Wapiti, Audaxes and Harts. Afterwards, he was among the first few pilots to be trained in England alongside the operational squadrons of the RAF on Hurricanes and Spitfire fighters.
Returning to India in 1944, he took part in the Burmese campaign on the Arakan Front, during which he flew sorties in the Hawker Hurricane against ground targets for No.3 squadron.
His second stint in Burma was for the No.9 squadron. Interestingly, he was close to his Commanding Officer Sqn. Ldr. Asghar Khan and another pilot, Flt. Lt. Noor Khan. Both these pilots went on to become Chiefs of Air Staff of the Pakistan Air Force.
But for Latif, neither the fact that he was a Muslim nor that he would bid farewell to his close friends swayed his mind to join PakistanÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s Air Force. As a Muslim, he could have but he strongly believed his future was in India. Obviously, religion and country merited his separate attention.
Post-WW2, at the dawn of IndiaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s independence, Sqn. Ldr. Latif was promoted as the Commanding Officer of No.4 Oorials who flew the fighter Hawker Tempest. When India became a republic in 1950, he led the first fly past over New Delhi.
Amongst the early honors bequeathed on him for his excellence in service was his nomination to Indonesia along with two other officers to help induct Vampire fighters into the newly-born Indonesian Air Force. Subsequently, in 1961 he was sent to USA as the Air AttachÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â© to the Indian Ambassador. During this period, Latif flew the USAF, F-S fighter and concurrently held the position of Air AttachÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â© to the Indian High CommissionerÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s Office in Canada. A posting that would have been limited to three years was extended to a second tenure by then Air Marshal Arjan Singh.
After his return, Latif held several postings, Air Defence Controller and later Senior Air Staff Officer with the Eastern Air Command, then Station Commander of the Lohegaon Airbase at Pune. At Lohegaon, Latif flew and commanded a medley of aircrafts, fighters, bombers, four-engine transport and WW2 Liberator aircrafts.
Subsequently, Latif moved to Air HQ in a newly created post of Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Plans) in the rank of Air Vice-Marshal. This is when he assessed the frontline combat squadrons and prepared modernization plans for the air force. During the 1971 war, Latif was still the ACAS (Plans). In appreciation of his efforts, Latif was awarded the Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM) later in 1971.
In 1974, Latif was promoted to Air Marshal and appointed Air Officer In-Charge of Administration at Air HQ and afterwards AOC-in-C Central Air Command and Maintenance Command. Latif then joined the Air HQ as the Vice Chief of Air Staff in May 1977 until September 1, 1978, when he was appointed Chief of Air Staff (CAS) of the Indian Air Force.
Besides being the first Muslim CAS of the Indian Air Force, Latif is well-known for his efforts to re-equip and modernize the air force. He was able to convince the government to approve the procurement of the Jaguar strike aircraft, a proposal pending approval for over 8 years. He also negotiated with Russia, as a result of which the MiG-23 and later, in 1981, the MiG-25 advanced interceptor-reconnaissance aircraft was introduced to the IAF.
Air Chief Marshal Latif remained active flying throughout his career spanning nearly four decades ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ from vintage planes to the MiG-25, which he flew just prior to retiring on August 31, 1981. During an official visit to France, he is known to have flown the Mirage-2000.
Post-retirement, Latif held the posts of Governor of Maharastra, member of the reconstituted Public Enterprises Selection Board and Indian Ambassador to France. He returned to India in 1988 and settled in Hyderabad.
A soft-spoken man, Air Chief Marshal Latif is a strict disciplinarian. As many men of the forces, he emphasizes punctuality, obedience and the dignity of man ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ trusting human beings for their capabilities and allowing them to show results.