Air Chief Marshal Latif took over the command of the Indian Air Force in September 1978 at a crucial time when the morale of the force was very low. His predecessor had reprimanded a large number of officers and men over the issue of aircraft accidents; many promising careers were cut short. When Latif took over command, he sensed this decline in morale and took up the challenge of building it up again.
In his 40-year career in the IAF, Air Chief Marshal Idris Hasan Latif had flown for thousands of hours on fighter, bomber, and transport aircraft, including the pre-World War II vintage bi-planes to supersonic MiGs and Indian-made Maruts.
A Second World War veteran, Latif was born on June 9 in Hyderabad, in 1923. He was commissioned into the IAF in 1942 at the age of 18.
His father Hasan Latif was the Chief Engineer of Hyderabad State and later became the Principal of Osmania Engineering College.
Latif’s first posting was to the Coastal Flight in Karachi to carry out anti-submarine duties. He was among the first few pilots sent to England in 1943 for training on Hurricane and Spitfire fighter aircraft, which would soon be inducted into the IAF.
He took part in the Burma campaign on the Arakan Front in World War II.
He became a squadron leader at the age of 26. When India became free in 1947, he took over the command of No. 4 Squadron.
He was sent on a special mission to Indonesia as a member of our advisory group, which helped the Indonesian Air Force induct jet fighters.
During the 1971 India-Pakistan war, he was the Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Plans).
For about five years (1961 -1965), he was Air Attache in Washington and was concurrently accredited to Canada, and during his tenure there he flew the USAF, F-S fighter aircraft.
When he was promoted to Air Marshal in January 1974, he was posted as Air Officer in charge of Administration at IAF Headquarters. He later took over as Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Central Air Command and then Maintenance Command.
In recognition of his distinguished service of the most extraordinary order, Air Chief Marshal Latif was awarded the Param Vishisht Seva Medal in 1971.
One of the memorable achievements of his career was the Air Force relief operation he led during the Patna flood in 1975. Under his inspiring guidance and instructions, helicopter pilots flew around 20 sorties a day to carry out humanitarian operations.
All available air and ground personnel were involved in the operation, which earned them the gratitude of the people rescued from the massive flood.
Flying has always been Air Chief Marshal Latif's first passion and in all his high appointments in the Air Force, he always found time to fly as much as his other demanding responsibilities permitted.
His interest in flying continued almost to his last day in office and during recent months he made a special effort to fly the latest aircraft inducted into the Air Force, the Jaguar, MiG-23, and MiG-25. During his official visit to France in 1981, he also got the opportunity to fly the Mirage 2000.
Within days of his retirement from the Air Force, the government appointed him a member of the reconstituted Public Enterprises Selection Board.
Air Chief Marshal Latif also has a long and close association with Maharashtra and its people. His ancestors settled in Bombay and his old family home is located at Latifiya Pandita Ramabai Road and his property in Bombay extended up to Chowpatty.
Air Chief Marshal Latif was fond of horse riding and played cricket and tennis. He loved photography and shared his love for Urdu poetry with his wife Bilquis Latif.
Although soft-spoken, Air Chief Marshal Latif is a strict disciplinarian and highly values punctuality as a virtue.
Latif suffered the loss of his wife Bilkees Latif, when she passed away on 27 October 2017. Both shared a love for Urdu poetry and literature. Latis passed away six months after her in March 2018.