Air Chief Marshal(Retd) Satish Kumar Sareen, PVSM, AVSM, VM, ADC, Indian Airforce

Air Chief Marshal(Retd) Satish Kumar Sareen


Air Chief Marshal(Retd) Satish Kumar Sareen, PVSM, AVSM, VM, ADC was born on 1st March 1939 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. After Partition his family moved to Delhi.

Sareen joined the IAF in 1954, where he was part of the Joint Services Wing (JSW) in Dehradun. He graduated from the first batch of the JSW and went onto the AFFC for flying training. Sareen was commissioned on 29 May 1957. He stood first among the fighter stream pilots and was awarded the Himmatsinghji trophy.

Flt Lt Sareen was posted to IAF 20 Squadron flying Vampire Fighters. He moved on to IAF 4 Squadron flying the Ouragans. It was with 4 Squadron that he took part in the Goa Operations in 1961, when he flew several sorties against Portuguese targets. After the operations in Goa, Sareen took up his first non-operational appointment when he attended the Pilot Attack Instructor (PAI) course. He distinguished himself in the course and was retained as an instructor in the PAI Program, where he helped impart training to others following in the same stream.

When war broke out in 1965, Flt Lt Sareen was with IAF 29 Squadron "Scorpios" flying the Ouragans based at Gauhati. He undertook some sorties against targets in East Pakistan, but the fighting was minimal in the Eastern Sector. After the war, Sareen moved to 27 Squadron "Flaming Arrows" flying the Hawker Hunter.

Sqn Ldr S.K. Sareen and Flt Lt M.V. Singh of 27 Squadron.

After a brief stint, Sqn Ldr Sareen was part of a detachment of pilots earmarked for conversion to MiG-21s. He moved back to 29 Squadron after it converted back to the MiG-21.

Sqn Ldr S.K. Sareen

In January 1970, Sqn Ldr Sareen attended the Defence Services Staff College(DSSC) at Wellington and passed out in November 1970. He then joined Eastern Air Command as the Chief Operations Officer with Agartala AFB in Tripura near the East Pakistan border. Agartala was base to some Gnat fighters during the 1971 War. He was responsible for planning and launching extensive fighter, helicopter, transport operations including several sucessful strkes on the Chittagong City. For his role, Sareen received the Vayu Sena Medal.

After the war, Sqn Ldr Sareen took over as Ops 1 Officer with Eastern Air Command HQ. In 1973, he was posted to IAF 1 Squadron flying MiG-21s in Adampur as Senior Flight Commander, in the rank of Wing Commander. After more than two years with the Squadron, Wg Cdr Sareen received an opportunity to be posted to the Iraqi Air Force as an instructor. This was part of a longstanding bilateral arrangements between the two air forces in the 1970s. Sareen took up the offer and was posted to Al-Kut military airbase in Iraq. During his tenure in Iraq till 1977, Wg Cdr Sareen undertook more than a 1000 instructional sorties.

In 1977, Wg Cdr Sareen was the Chief Operations Officer of No.15 Wing at Bareilly. He got his first command soon after at the same airbase, IAF 24 Squadron flying the MiG-21bis. After promotion to Group Captain, in 1981, he took over an Air Defence Signals Unit in the Eastern Sector.

Numerous Staff Appointments followed, he was Air Defence Commander, WAC and SWAC. Air Commodore Sareen was then posted as Air Attaché to the High Commission of India in London, UK. In 1989, he returned to India and was commander of Srinagar Air Force Station in the Jammu & Kashmir Valley. He was awarded the AVSM for distinguished service in 1990. Soon afterwards he took over as ACAS (Ops) at Air HQ in the rank of Air Vice Marshal.

After a short stint as SASO Central Air Command, Air Marshal Sareen took over South Western Air Command as AOC-in-C. After about a year, he moved onto as the AOC-in-C Western Air Command - India's Premier Air Command. It was in this capacity he received the PVSM in 1995. Sareen was posted back to Air HQ as the Vice Chief of Air Staff responsible for all IAF defensive & offensive operations and intelligence activities.

The Air Chief Marshal S.K. Sareen and Vice Chief of Air Staff A.Y. Tipnis(Left, later CAS)

Finally in December 1995, he was promoted to Air Chief Marshal to take over as the Chief of the Air Staff, Indian Air Force. His tenure saw the nuclear tests in Pokhran. Within the Air force, it saw wide ranging changes in the strategic, operational, training, maintenance and flight safety doctrines & performance of the IAF. Particular attention paid to the welfare of serving and retired Air Force personnel and their families.

In 1997, former Indian Prime Minister, I.K. Gujral commissioned the Su-30MKIs into the 24 Squadron of the IAF based at Lohegaon near Poona with great fanfare. On that occasion, Air Chief Marshal, S.K. Sareen praised the new multi-role fighter as an effective force multiplier, which would enable the IAF to quickly establish air superiority (against perceived foes, i.e. Pakistan China, Iran etc.). He stressed that the Su-30MKI is a weapons system of vast strategic dimensions, whereby the reach and lethality of the IAF would be extended many times. With the Prithvi SSM and the Su-30MKI combination, the lethal range of Indian air power has been extended from merely 150 kilometres (km) to 2500 km. The Su-30MKI will be able to hit selected targets anywhere in Pakistan and well beyond in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Afghanistan, all Central Asian states, China, Bangladesh, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Brunei Dar-us-Salam and deep into the Indian Ocean. According to the former Chief of the Air Staff of the IAF, Air Chief Marshal P.C. Kaul, 40 of the Su-30MKI aircraft have the destructive airpower of 240 present-day fighter-bombers of the IAF.

India's aquisition of the Su-30MKI caused great apprehension in Pakistani defense circles. At the Farnborough Air Show in 1996, Pakistan's Air Chief Marshal Muhammad Abbas Khattak is reported to have told his Indian counterpart, Air Chief Marshal S. K. Sareen, "You don't buy the Su-30 and we will not purchase the Mirage 2000-5". India bought 40 Su-30MKIs two months later, little concerned that the deployment of the Prithvi SSM and the procurement of the Su-30MKI multi-role fighter-bombers would accentuate the fear of ulterior Indian motives in Pakistan. A missile and air power race had now begun. In an April 1997 press conference at Air Headquarters, PAF Base, Chaklala (Rawalpindi), Air Chief Marshal Muhammad Abbas Khattak had admitted that the qualitative edge that the PAF had over the IAF in 1992 was fast eroding."

Aerial bombing display by the Su-30's

In March 1998, the IAF demonstrated its superior fire power at the Vayu Shakti '98' exercices held at Pokhran. An array of Indian Air Force aircraft carried out displays. The centrepiece was the Su-30 with its high agility, its high scope for combat maneuvering & low-level aerobatics. As it fired eight bombs on a simulated runway with perfect marksmanship, its capability for accurate weapons delivery was also showcased. This spectacular display served as a riposte to doubters. Air Chief Marshal S.K. Sareen said, "This exercise should once and for all put at rest all controversies. The aircraft(Su-30) performed creditably in its bombing mission and showed its superlative agility in the mock dog fight. Its solo aerobatics display proved beyond doubt that it is the finest aircraft available today. Besides, over the next few years, the Su-30 would be further upgraded with latest avionics and electronic warfare equipment to improve its mission effectiveness". He said that another 12 Su-30 aircraft, which are expected by early next year, would be equipped with beyond-visual-range Precision Guided Missiles. The Su-30 contract was worth Rs 6,300 crore for 40 aircraft with complete infrastructure.

In April 1998, tens of thousands of people converged on downtown Bombay or crowded onto rooftops to view an airshow, the city's first since 1959. The air show commemorated 50 years of India's independence from British rule. The newly aquired Su-30 jets showed off their might for the first time to the Indian public. When a television reporter asked ACM Sareen what he felt, pointing to the roaring Sukhois flying overhead in tight formation, Sareen laughed and said: ''Yeh dekh kar tumharey rongte khadey nahin hotey? (Isn't your gooseflesh flaring at this sight?)

The Air Chief Marshal S.K. Sareen called on the Prime Minister Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee in New Delhi on December 24, 1998.

Air Chief Marshal Sareen retired on 31 December 1998, handing over the charge to Air Chief Marshal Anil Yashwant Tipnis.

ACM S.K. Sareen congratulating the new Air Chief Anil Yashwant Tipnis during the take-over ceremony.

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