Number Name Branch Died in Service? Picture?

Squadron Leader Arun Keshav Sapre

Service No & Branch 4981 F(P) (Orig: GD(P)) Stream :Fighters
Date of Birth: 23 Apr 1935 Commissioned: 08 Oct 1955 Course: 66 Course
Service End: Died in Service 21 Nov 1971 (36 Years age) Aircraft Loss Nick Name :
Qualifications Held :
Remarks :
Promotions Gazetted
Fg Offr : 08 Oct 1956Flt Lt : 08 Oct 1960
Training and Other Courses Attended
7 JSW (Cadet) - 01 Dec 19536 PAI (Fg Offr) - 30 Apr 1960
Badges Qualified
Google the Bharat Rakshak Website for : "A K Sapre"
Notes:1)Branch is at retirement and may not match with branch at Commission 2)Notional seniority is reflected in dates of substantive rank.

Appointments, Postings & Other Service Particulars

- 01 Dec 1966Sqn LdrEmpire Test Pilots School, UKFarnborough Test Pilot Course 25th Course
01 Jan 1963 - 01 Jan 1965Sqn LdrFlying Instructors SchoolTambaram Flying Instructor
Incomplete Information? Additions? Corrections? Please download Template File and follow instructions.

Awards and Decorations

Number of Awards: 1
Ati Vishist Seva Medal
Sqn LdrArun Keshav Sapre4981 F(P)Award Date 26 Jan 1973Announced 26 Jan 1973
Details :

The late Squadron Leader Arun Keshav Sapre (4981) was commissioned as a Pilot in the Flying Brach of the Indian Air Force in October, 1955. In the earlier part of his AVSM 1974 career, he served as a Pilot in Operational Squadrons. After successfully completing the Test Pilot's Course in the United Kingdom, he was employed as a Test Pilot. He made valuable contributions toward flight testing and also carried out important development trials on a variety of fighter aircraft. He was responsible for successful trials of an aircraft designed and built in India by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

In March, 1971, Squadron Leader Sapre was detailed to carry out gun firing trials on a fighter aircraft. Despite the fact that he encountered a dangerous control problem at a crucial stage, while firing the guns, he skillfully dealt with the situation and brought the aircraft under control averting a major disaster. On the basis of these trials, he made useful suggestions for improvement in the control system of the aircraft.

In November, 1971, he again carried out 3 successful sorties for the purpose of testing the gun firing system of the aircraft. However, during the fourth sortie, the aircraft went out of control. Squadron Leader Sapre, at great risk to his life, tried to bring the aircraft under control but could not succeed. The aircraft crashed in the sea and he was killed.

Throughout his career, Squadron Leader Arun Keshav Sapre rendered distinguished service of an exceptional order.

Unit : ASTE
Reference : GoI19730126

Accidents and Incidents: 1

DateAircraft TypeTail NoPilot/CrewUnitRemarks
21 Nov 1971HF-24 MarutD-1206Sqn Ldr Arun Keshav Sapre +
ASTECr during Gun trials

Additional Notes

Remarks: Contributed by Air Marshal B D Jayal (via his son Mohit Dhar) Note added: 2017-08-29
I asked my father to share his memories of the late A.K. Sapre with the group, here's his email: "Flt. Lts A.K. ‘Saper’ Sapre & B.D. Jayal with a No. 8 Sqn. Mystere IV. Location: A.F.Station Kalaikunda. Year: approx. '59-60. Both of us were 7th Course JSW ('52-'53) and 66th Pilots Course. ('54-Oct '55). Room mates for the first six years of commissioned service. After Jet Conversion, both posted to 8 Sqn with Toofanis (Feb '56.) In Nov '57, 8 Sqn handed over their Toofanis to 4 Sqn in Ambala and moved by train with all personnel to Kalaikunda to form the second Mystere IV A Sqn. (first Mystere IV Sqn was No.1, also at KKD). From 8 Sqn, in '61-'62 Saper and I moved on to different assignments only to finally qualify as Test Pilots graduating from ETPS and serving together in A&ATU around '67-68. Ironically, I was the first in-service pilot to have fired the four 30mm air to ground canons on the HF 24 as part of User Evaluation Trials by A&ATU in '66 at Sarmat range Jamnagar. Dangerous vibration levels were encountered, later confirmed on ground by on board test instrumentation. Considerable damage to cockpit instrumentation noticed, no damage to flight controls and safe recovery made. Post flight evaluation resulted in A&ATU recommending a halt to further four gun firing. HAL asked to investigate design deficiency and introduce design changes. In the run up to the '71 war, and anxiety by the IAF to clear four gun firing on HF 24 in anticipation, it was decided to conduct further four gun firing tests. Saper who was then with ASTE was tasked for these trials. He lost his life over the same range in Jamnagar repeating the test. In his case the vibrations caused loss of lateral control resulting in the aircraft rolling uncontrollably. He ejected successfully, but was lost at sea. The Marut retired from service without ever having fired its four powerful cannons together, after these two attempts."
Remarks: From Bangalore Mirror Note added: 2017-08-29

43 years on, IAF pilot's children learn how dad helped test top gun for 1971 war

Sq Ldr Arun Keshav Sapre had died testing four-gun firing on HAL's Marut aircraft. This week, for the first time, his widow, children and grandchildren visited his unit in the city on a nostalgic trip

Through most of 1971, the country's armed forces had a premonition that they would be involved at some point or the other in the events that led to the birth of Bangladesh and had begun preparing at full tilt. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited was trying very hard to ensure its four-gun firing mechanism on its marquee fighter aircraft, the Marut Mk1, was ready for use in battle.

The four-firing mechanism had to pass muster of IAF pilots of the Kanpur-based Aircraft and Armament Testing Unit (A&ATU) to be declared ready for service and tests were being carried out at the Jamnagar Air Force station in Gujarat, not far from the border with Pakistan. On November 19, 1971, Sq Ldr Arun Keshav Sapre of A&ATU, who was called up to test the mechanism, bid adieu to his wife and three children — the eldest was barely five — in Kanpur. Little did they know it would be the last time they would see him. Three days later (November 21, 1971), Sapre's family was told of the tragic air crash. His Marut Mk1 single-seater aircraft had nose-dived into the marshy terrain of the Gulf of Kutch. Neither the aircraft nor the body of the pilot was found.

A&ATU was later rechristened Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE) and moved to Bangalore. On Thursday, 43 years after Sapre's passing, a small but unusual ceremony unfolded at ASTE when Sapre's family — his widow, Meena Sapre, children and grandchildren — paid a visit to his unit. It was significant since it was their first as a family and the first-ever visit for the children. Making the family proud, Sq Ldr Sapre's ex-commanding officer, now an octogenarian, and his batchmates from different parts of the country were present "if only to tell Sapre's children what a brave man their father was". For the tests which Sapre conducted were to prove decisive in the 1971 war.

Meena Sapre told Bangalore Mirror that although risk was part and parcel of a fighter pilot's life, she had never believed that she would lose her husband so tragically and so early. "We were only a few years into our marriage," Meena said. "My eldest daughter, Suneri Gowardhan, was just five-years-old, Rupesh, our son, was only two-and-half and the youngest, Munesh, was only five-months-old when the blow fell. Our children were too small to understand what the loss meant then. But as they grew older, they were always curious about their father and wanted to know about his deeds for the country. I was always told them about his exploits, but I brought them all here to his unit to help them understand the life of a fighter pilot."

Meena revealed that she never gotten over the shock of losing her husband, but is proud that her husband was chosen as a test pilot. "Not all pilots are taken in as test pilots," she said. "Only the very best the creme de la creme of fighter pilots, get that chance. My husband was one of them. A few hours after the tragic incident we were informed about the crash. But I still hoped. He was a strong swimmer and I hoped he had ejected. I grew more hopeful when some said they had seen him ejecting. But the terrain where he crashed is marshy. Fishermen flock to the area every day, but I was out of luck. On that day, not a single fisherman had put out to sea. I believed that at least they could have helped us locate his body. But we never got him back."

Life without dad

With three tiny children to look after, life was a daunting task for Meena. But she moved on. "We immediately shifted to my husband's native Raipur in Chattisgarh," she said. "While rehabilitating the family, the IAF gave us a gas agency from Indian Oil. We named our agency Marut, after the aircraft. I singlehandedly managed to raise the kids. It was difficult, but I managed to nurture all of them without letting them feel the loss of their dad too much. Thought all too short, I always cherish those memories that we had together."

Sapre's children are now all into the family business. Rupesh Arun Sapre told BM, "We didn't feel the loss of dad so much growing up. Mom was always there for us. But today, when we look back, we miss him a lot. Although technically we were out of the IAF, we were always in touch with the IAF's traditions and flying. A flying simulator was set up at home to give us a first-hand experience of flying. Mom took us to all parts of the country to show us around and helped us to stand on our feet. While none of us were able to get into services, our children have shown interest. We all thought that this is the right time to know what it takes to be as a soldier and pilot. So, our mom brought all of us here."

The visit to their Sapre's unit was not only nostalgic for the family, but also staffers at ASTE. The family was received by ASTE commanding officer, Air Vice Marshal R Nambiar, and was taken around the unit to see test crew memorial, the museum and other facilities. As a surprise for the family, the unit had invited Sapre's then commanding officer, Gr Capt Kapil Bhargava (Rtd) and his course mates, Air Vice Marshal P M Ramachandran (Rtd) and Air Marshal AS Lamba (Rtd).

"It was an amazing experience," said Rupesh. "They are all over 80 and some of them are unable to walk without support. Yet, they had taken the trouble to travel to the unit just to spend time with us. We learnt so much about our father from them. We were told that our father's sortie was crucial for the IAF in getting operational clearance for the Marut fighters. His course mate told us how creative he was and how he always thought 'out of the box' to achieve the designated tasks. It is an unforgettable experience."

Crucial Mission

One senior retired officer at IAF revealed that Sapre was often referred as 'Saper' in the unit. "That is because he never backed off from a challenge," the officer said. "Ahead of the war with Pakistan, we had to clear the aircraft for four-gun firing. The aircraft had proved very unsteady due to vibrations during four-gun firing and the problem had to be sorted out. It was a scary task, but Sapre readily volunteered to do whatever was demonstrated by HAL engineers. There was no trouble with two second-long bursts of four-gun firing. But then it was decided to test for four seconds. While flying over Samrat range near Jamnagar, the Marut went into the Gulf of Kutch and was never found."

Marut fighter jets successfully took part in the Indo-Pak war a month later and none of them were lost in air-to-air combat. In fact, a squadron of Maruts destroyed Pakistani tanks and artillery units in the decisive battle of Longewala on the morning of December 5, 1971.

The data in the header section of this page comes from the Gazette of India - Click here to see the source
Note: All the data available here is publicly available in the Gazette of India, published by the Indian Government, or from public domain sources, press releases about Awards and Right-To-Information (RTI) Requests. Additionally data shared by veterans is added to the page with permission. No data with respect to serving officers below the rank of AVM is displayed. Information in Gazette of India and Award citations and photographs as released by the Indian Air Force are the only details displayed.