‘Starfighter’ Flies Away

Author Name: Sundas Shafeeq      31 Oct 2021     Airforce

Air Chief Marshal (ACM) Farooq Feroze Khan late, also known as ‘Starfighter’ amongst his colleagues, is a highly respected name within the Air Force circles. He was endowed with a pleasant personality coupled with intrinsic leadership qualities. He was witty, diligent, congenial and courageous. He had a personality that stood out from the crowd. He decided to wear the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) uniform after he was inspired by Flying Officer Raees A. Rafi, whom he met at a wedding ceremony.

Farooq Feroze Khan was born on 17 August 1939, in Bombay, India and moved to Karachi, Pakistan five days after independence. After his education at PAF Public School (later PAF College) Sargodha as a pre-cadet, he began his career as an Air Force officer-cadet at PAF Academy Risalpur (now known as PAF Academy Asghar Khan). At the Academy, he demonstrated great zeal and zest while undergoing training, and was thus deservingly selected for advanced flying training at the United States Air Force (USAF) Academy, where he showed commendable performance. On his repatriation, Farooq Feroze joined the No 9. Squadron (Griffins) in 1959. Later, he proceeded on exchange posting with the Royal Air Force, where he flew British aircrafts. He became well-known for his exceptional flying abilities within his foreign contemporary circles, as well.

During the 1965 and 1971 wars with India, he heroically participated in combat missions from erstwhile East Pakistan. In the late 70s, he commanded a fighter wing in the United Arab Emirates Air Force for three years. After returning to Pakistan, he was promoted to the rank of Air Commodore and commanded two air bases - Sargodha (now Mushaf) and Masroor Air Base. Induction of F-16s at PAF Base Sargodha occurred during his tenure as Base Commander. Furthermore, as a Principal Air Staff Officer at Air Headquarters, he oversaw the induction of F-7P from China and of Ex-RAAF Mirages from Australia. He also appeared on the cover of a famous American Aerospace Company (i.e. Lockheed-Martin) magazine – ‘Code One’.

Farooq Feroze Khan was looking after the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and Pakistan Hockey Federation as their head, when he was appointed as Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) in 1991, at the end of the Afghan war. It was a difficult time as the US had sanctioned Pakistan under the Pressler Amendment. Due to sanctions, Pakistan had limited access to American origin warfare equipment, logistic support and modern war-fighting technologies. The equipment that had already been bought from the US became redundant and/or unavailable due to the sanctions imposed under the Pressler Amendment. ACM Feroze Khan pulled PAF out of this plight by concentrating on highly demanding conversion and training regimes for the entire airmen community that prepared the PAF to face any challenge head-on. During his tenure, he initiated the ‘High Mark-93’ exercise which was a timely undertaking that helped PAF and Pakistan Army analyze their weaknesses, strengthen their war-fighting capabilities and in preparing them against any future challenge from their eastern neighbor.

The famous English physician M.D. Arnold once said ‘A good leader leads the people from above them. A great leader leads the people from within them.’ This quote fits ACM Farooq Feroze Khan to a tee. Even as the Air Chief, he was firm in his principles but never made anyone feel inferior or uneasy. At the highest chair in PAF hierarchy, he had clarity of thought and purpose, which enabled him to make even the most difficult decisions without ambiguity.

Due to his exceptional service, he was appointed to serve as Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee in 1994. All eyes were on him because he was the first PAF Officer to hold this position. He carried out his duties as the Chairman effectively and made every effort to improve coordination between the PAF, Pakistan Army, and Pakistan Navy. During his tenure, he sincerely attempted to bring harmony and jointness within the three defense services as equal partners, to ensure that spatial integrity of Pakistan’s aerial, continental and maritime frontiers remains secure at all times.

Air Chief Marshal Farooq Feroze Khan served the Pakistan Air Force for 41 years. When he retired, he established the Sargodhian Spirit Trust (‘a nonprofit organization formed with the objective of establishing educational centers of excellence in all provinces of Pakistan’) to show gratitude to the nation that had given him so much respect. Similar schools are also being built by the PAF in other remote and less privileged areas.

ACM Farooq Feroze Khan breathed his last on 9 October 2021 at the age of 82. He was laid to rest with full military honors at the PAF Nur Khan graveyard. May Allah grant him the highest place in Jannah. He may have left this world, but he will always live on in the hearts of every proud Pakistani. His services and devotion to his country will be remembered forever.


Sundas Shafeeq is a researcher at Centre for Aerospace & Security Studies (CASS), Islamabad. Her research interest includes AI, national development, and non-traditional security threats. The article was first published in Today's Muslim. She can be reached at cass.thinkers@gmail.com

Image Source: "Former CJCSC, Air Chief (r) Farooq Feroze Khan breathes his last at 82" Daily Pakistan (2021, Oct 10) https://en.dailypakistan.com.pk/10-Oct-2021/former-cjcsc-air-chief-r-farooq-feroze-khan-breathes-his-last-at-82

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