Service No : 4705 F(P)
Date of Birth : January 23, 1933
Place of birth : Sirsa Dist (Haryana)
Last Rank : Wing Commander
Unit : 23 Sqn AF
Arm/Regt : Indian Air Force
Awards : VrC, VSM
Martyrdom : September 24, 1971
Wg Cdr Amar Jit Singh Sandhu hailed from Moriwala village in Sirsa district of Haryana and was born on 23 Jan 1933. He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer in the IAF on 15 May 1954 at the age of 21 years. He joined the flying stream of the IAF and got trained as a fighter pilot as part of the 62nd Pilots' course. After his initial training he was posted to various Air Force bases and gained experience in flying different types of aircraft. He got promoted to the rank of Flying Officer on 15 May 1955 and subsequently became a Flt Lt.
As a Flt Lt , while serving with 23 Sqn ,he was awarded 'Vayu Sena Medal" in the year 1964. On 10th March 1964, Flt Lt Sandhu, while in formation of Gnat aircraft, experienced a flame out of engine followed by a total electrical failure, rendering the tail plane inoperative. He was faced with the choice of either abandoning the aircraft and ejecting himself, or carrying out a 'deadstick' forced landing. Despite the failure of vital services, he chose the latter in order to save a valuable aircraft from destruction. This was the first time that a 'dead-stick' landing was carried out in a Gnat aircraft. By the year 1965, he had completed around 11 years of service in the Air Force and evolved into a competent pilot having expertise in various types of air operations.
Air Operations : 1965-1971
On 01 Dec 1965, he took over as Flight Commander of the 23 Sqn after being promoted to the rank of Sqn Ldr. 23 Squadron known as 'Panthers" was formed at Pune in the year 1956 with the de Havilland Vampires with Sqn Ldr Kanwar Singh as its first commanding officer. Later the squadron was armed with Gnat aircraft in 1960s. In 1965, as fighting flared up in the Chhamb sector on 1 Sep, the squadron was called upon to carry out offensive sorties against 'Targets of Opportunity' in support of the Indian army's offensive across the International border. Sqn Ldr Amar Jit Singh Sandhu flew repeated missions in the Chhamb sector and over the Pasrur and Lahore areas, seeking out enemy aircraft and engaging them. On the 18th September 1965, in an encounter against enemy aircraft, he was able to out-manoeuvre the enemy with admirable skill and shot down a Sabre jet. He was awarded "Vir Chakra" for his outstanding courage, professional competence and devotion to duty.
On 30 Nov 1970, Wg Cdr Amar Jit Singh Sandhu took over as Commanding Officer of 23 Sqn. At that time the war clouds were gathering on the horizon and all the Air Force units were on high alert. The pilots were undertaking various missions to become combat ready. On 24 Sep 1971, Wg Cdr Sandhu decided to undertake a night mission to check the op worthiness of the aircraft and practice various night combat manoeuvres. As planned, Wg Cdr Sandhu took off from Pathankot airbase after completing the necessary operational checks on ground. However, soon after the take off, the aircraft developed a serious snag and became uncontrollable. Wg Cdr Sandhu did not get enough time to take emergency actions and lost contact with the ground control. Eventually the aircraft crashed and Wg Cdr Sandhu could not survive the crash. Wg Cdr Amar Jit Singh Sandhu was a valiant soldier and committed air warrior, who laid down his life in the line of his duty.
Citation for the 'Vir Chakra' awarded to him reads:-
Squadron Leader Amarjit Singh Sandhu was the Flight Commander of an Operational Squadron, which was assigned the task of establishing our air superiority over the Pathankot region during the recent operations against Pakistan. He flew repeated missions in the Chhamb sector and over the Pasrur and Lahore areas, all the time seeking out enemy aircraft and engaging them. On the 18th September 1965, in a thrilling encounter against enemy aircraft, he was able to out-manoeuvre the enemy with admirable skill, courage and judgment and shot down a Sabre jet.
The courage and devotion to duty displayed by Squadron Leader Amarjit Singh Sandhu were in the best traditions of the Indian Air Force.