MAXY – The Arjun astride the arrow


Col (Dr) Sultan Malik is a well-known name in the Army. Quite apart from being a very professional engineer, he has made a mark in music. His theme song, “Samandar ki hasin lahron…” for the TV film on the Indian Navy is a landmark piece of music. However, the story of his brother, an ace fighter pilot is known to very few of his friends. In fact, Gp Capt ‘Maxi’ Malik was more like a father figure for him, since he is about 18 years older than Sultan, and brought him up like a son. In this piece, Sultan recounts how his brother joined the IAF and rendered invaluable service to the nation.



MAXY – The Arjun astride the arrow (Story of a fighter pilot)

by Col (Dr) S S Malik



 airforce logoIndian Air Force (IAF) celebrated 88th Air Force Day on 8th October 2020, in best of traditions, fully living up to Its Motto  Nabha Sparsham Deeptam (The glory that touches the sky). The event showcased fighter technology of French Rafales & Mirages, Russian SUs & MIG 21 Upgrades, and Indian Tejas and American Make Chinook helicopters.  As always, IAF  air warriors, the Arjuns  made the Indian nation proud.                   

The event always fills me and my family with pride and nostalgia that we too contributed a Master Green fighter pilot to the frontline air warriors in the form of “Paa Ji”, my elder brother ‘      Group Captain Om Prakash Malik (Retd), alias Maxy.  With almost  35y of fighter flying career, he last flew MIG 21 BIS.  Ref Insignia of No.15 Squadron (MIG-21) Nick named “Flying Lances” (Maxy commanded  in 1979) 

no 15 squad

            No. 15 squadron (MIG-21) Nick named “Flying Lances”


Maxy, was among the First Three Pilot trainees sent to Russia in Jun 1965, for Advance Fighter Tactics Course  on  MIG 21.  This training included Flying and Directing Interception from Ground Radar.  By default he missed operations of Indo-Pak war (1965).   Fig 2

He recalls ,  “We wrote to then ACM Arjan Singh, CAS,  from Russia, requesting, that we want to get back, so that we can also participate in war”. 

The reply we got was a real lesson, as follows:- “You don’t worry about the war and concentrate on your course.  You are being prepared for another day.”

Meanwhile in Aug-Sep 1965, his No. 23 Gnat (Ajeet) Squadron broke national headlines when the famous air warriors like Keeler, Pathania and others (All Vir Chakras) scored First Air Hits of Independent India. It must be a stress of a different kind when you have trained for years, but have to sit out while the real game is on.

Maxy compensated the skip six years later in erstwhile East Pakistan ( Bangladesh war) from 03 Dec to 16 Dec (1971). Operating from Tezpur, & Guwahati, he led the waves of air sorties on many pinpointed enemy positions all over Bangladesh. IAF had totally decimated the PAF within the first few days of operations and had created a favourable air situation, helping ground troops in the historic win.

Sharing one such instance of an air attack on Jamalpur town, North of Dacca, where the enemy  gave a pitched fight to advancing Indian ground troops, and was causing delay. To avoid large scale damage to civilians and property, IAF had persisted with rocket firing. However, unable to dislodge the well dug enemy from road axis Dacca with rockets, how he sought permission for a change in plan to carry few special missions of bombing, which was granted to by higher authorities.  On 10 Dec, he led a special daylight two (2) air craft MIGs  bombing mission,  each carrying  ‘2 x 500kgs’ bombs, to clear the enemy resistance at Jamalpur. That pinpointed strike immediately gave the vital break through, when enemy raised white flags and surrendered and Jamalpur fell. After 5 days Indian forces were inside Dacca. Ref Maxy’s  Flying Log Book  entries  Fig 3



Bombing Jamalpur. North of Dacca, log book entry of 10 Dec 1971



Making of a fighter pilot 

         In Maxy’s case, career was more of chance than choice. He was born on 25 Oct 1935 in Lahore, Pakistan. Partition had disturbed age vs schooling balance by 2-3 years, a permanent handicap in competitive careers*. It was, the Will to grab what destiny had in store and succeed. *(A fighter pilot pays attention to detail, a personality that is aggressive, competitive and work-oriented).

Scars of partition: Caught in the wake of partition in 1947, our family (in Lahore) too was among the lot of people who suffered the most.  Many close relations killed. The tragedy of hopeless situation cannot really be described. The late Khushwant Singh describes the scenario thread bare in his book ‘’Train to Pakistan” (1956) – Stink of flesh, bloodletting and goons parading the roads with swords and rods, looting, raping, clubbing  and killing anything that did not suit them. Complete lawlessness prevailed.

The para trooper father was away in army, first in WW2 in North East, later in 1947 Kashmir, fighting tribals. He became a war causality with bullet injury in leg and broken ribs, and was in hospital. The only worthwhile male left was 12y old Maxy alais OMI (village nick name), with 2y elder sister Raj and our spirited 27y old mother late Smt Savitri Malik.

The scars can’t really be scabbed with today’s affluence. “OMI” as a school kid came sitting on top of an army bus from Lahore. He could only manage his school bag with him which also got stolen in Amritsar camp.  The family of three, abandoning their home running for their lives, survived few close shaves in Lahore and somehow managed to reach their nanihal (maternal) village in remote Gurdaspur. This border town is about 10 km from Indo–Pak Border,.

In 1947-48, our village Rori alias Kotli Nangal, had no electricity, no telephones, no personal transport other than a cycle and for water the village well (Khoo) or the OX driven chain of water buckets (Semi-mechanised- Khoos/ Halts).  In the absence of suitable resources and  faced with adverse economic factors, it must have been tough mind churning years for young boy OMI. It strengthened him both physically and mentally. Map showing   village Kotlinangal, Gurdaspur.PB. Fig 4


Village Rori (Kotlinangal) Gurdaspur.PB.


Fairy tale of rising from the ashes: Hailing from the well to do Maliks/Mals clan of Dera Ghazi Khan, Multan. Punjab our father late Sergeant Major Tek Chand Malik, was the lone child to his parents (1908), His mother died when he was a small child. Years later, father too had died. He was brought up by close relatives. Defence forces were the best paid services those days.  Finding the going tough he joined the ranks in Royal British Army and had become a paratrooper. As he stabilized, he got married and shifted to Lahore. Due to father’s service in Army, Maxy could qualify for a seat in the elite boarding  King Georges School, Belgaum, and from then on, it changed the course of our family. He simply excelled in whatever followed. Maxy went into the AFFC for flying training and was commissioned on 29 May 1957 at Jodhpur Karmyogi Arjun astride the arrow itself.and the quote Fortune turns like a wheel coming true for the family.  

Defining moment was when Sgt Maj TC Malik sitting in the front row, sandwiched between FM KM Cariappa (Then Ambassador To Australia) and Mr Sarin (Father of Ex ACM Satish Sarin,, very Senior Official to Govt of India.)  all watched their sons passing out parade. Ref picture  Fig 5

                                                                                    best lot fighters                                                                                  

Best Lot Fighter Pilots of IAF. 1961

Standing (R-L): Maxy second, after KC “Nanda” Cariappa (S/o FM KM Cariappa).  

Sitting (R-L):     Second N C “Nimmi” Suri (Ex Air Chief.)

Maxy proved his mettle as an ace fighter pilot with Master Green rating and carried out all operational appointments with great success.. He commanded No. 15 squadron (MIG 21) named ‘The Flying Lancers’, Pune.. With motto ‘Nihantavya Shatravaha ‘  meaning Annihilate the Enemy Ref  Fig 1. above.

Guru Dronacharya’s famous bird eye test of Arjun (the best warrior in Mahabharata), proves how true warriors are made of strong character and steel wits.  Arjun rode his arrow, at conscious as well as sub-conscious level ensuring his success..


bis takingoff

MIG 21 BIS taking off 

It conveys the determined intent, and the total alignment of mind with the targeted goal.  Arjun’s Bird’s Eye Test teaches us how we should set our priorities right & chase our goals.

The fighter pilot the Arjun, Astride his single engine fighter aircraft I call ‘The Flying Arrow’, carrying its lethal arrowlets (missiles & bombs), who goes across the border- is a real time fantasy at work, a manifestation of one’s self belief.  They move at multiples of speed of sound in air(One Mach equals 344 m/s or 1238 km/h.) and fight the enemy, at times in hours of darkness, clouds, bad weather etc. MIG 21 take off  Fig 6  

Fighter flying: 

        In spite of galloping advancements in technology, the fighter flying fatalities rate, remains high. Right from my school days, it was always a hair raising experience to hear about fatal or near miss accident cases. Cases of Gnat canopy flying off or burst during flight, Hunter’s engine failures, MIG’s (recently labeled as flying coffin)  hydraulic controls jammed, hydraulic / fuel pumps not working, under carriage problems, tyre bursts, brake failures, bird hits, loss during wars, etc., are normal risks of fighter flying. Many instances of how such mid air emergencies were successfully handled. The fighter pilot does carry that extra bit called luck to survive through one’s long flying career. 

A fighter pilot needs special  skills, to cope up with challenges of split second zero error decision making amidst number of potentially adverse variables. Skilling needs many hours of flight manuals, and  still many hours of simulator training and actual flying, It is also a thrill of sitting in the cockpit and soaring in the sky,  maneuvering the flying machine in sharp turns, loops, inverted flying, rolls etc. While learning many a tactics of air warfare. Feeling the load of one’s body the G-Gravity effect, 5-6 times heavier. Perspiring, tiring, perhaps no other exercise is needed after a good 40 min Sortie. Fighter flying is thus a razor edge walk that forms an exclusive group of air warriors. Fig 7.


Nostalgia of Balakote strikes 2020

          Indian history brims with warriors from  mythical  Arjun, Karan to the likes of Rana Pratap, Shivaji, Nirmal Sekhon, Bana Singh  and  many others.  A powerful  legacy of recent times is, that of 10th Sikh Guru Gobind Singh ji, who acts as a Great Beacon of Courage and Sacrifice, upholding the path of Righteousness, motivating generations of Indians.

After Pulwama bomb blast in Kashmir valley, on 14 Feb 2019, killing 40 CRPF jawans, it was a proud moment when IAF carried out a daring night operation on terrorists camp in Muzaffrabad, deep inside POK, avenging Pulwama, The 27 Feb Balakote strikes united the whole nation boosting India’s global image as never before.

I again saluted Maxy that day when Cdr Abhinandan shot down much superior modern F-16, with his 55y old MIG-21(BIS). Balakote strikes and the follow-up of Cdr Abhinandan   reminded the country what  razor edge life of a fighter pilot is. This episode proved that it was not only air battle but pilot has a lot at stake, from fighting in air, eating the vital documents to actually running on ground for his life in hostile environment. Maxy as Gp Capt was Chief Ops Offr(COO) at Srinagar in early 1980s where he kept this  highly Operational  WAC AF Base with fleet of MIGs, Gnats, Helicopters  operationally fit.

 Nostalgia : Each one of us at some stage in life, recall certain happenings which were special, satisfying and professionally nostalgic. The man-machine integration cannot be better understood than the case of fighter pilot-riding his single engine fighter plane. In contrast, we have leisure of Flying airliners with multiple engines, with flying crew, and hospitality industry with them.

Way back  in 1960s & 1970s, Maxy recalls, while flying Gnats,  how  he  came  to be known as a Gnat expert and later air force sent him to certain assignments linked postings. Air Headquarters was worried for a typical Gnat squadron having a higher accident rate cum low aircraft availability and  in 1976-77, how he was told to go on posting and address the issues that were plaguing the fleet.

He further shared, how on arrival had announced to his new repair maintenance team that he will personally fly-test every Gnat from then on. How working with the team, they could resolve many niggling issues responsible for non-availability, and the following year (1978), his  No. 15 Squadron won  The Air Force Flight Safety Trophy.  Add on was how few near miss emergencies were successfully handled and  as a whole achieved very high standard of flight safety record. Acknowledgement came from the Air Chief IH Latif, himself.’



Fig 7: Gnat the interceptor inside the Hangar


Fig 8:  Flight Safety Appreciation  by CAS I H Latif



The Arjun Impact

          On return from Russia, Maxy got married to Krishna ji, a super champion of her kind. Hailing from the well-known Nayyar clan of Chamba (HP), braced with sports winner awards like HP state champion in badminton, to an accomplished sitar player, she was a wonderful person, who was just right kind of support pillar to face the challenges of an air force wife. Fig 9

                 maxi and bhabhiji

                                                  Fig 9:  Maxy and  Bhabiji  (Late Krishna Malik) . COO, IAF Srinagar, 1983                                                      


Much before I joined army, through Maxy, I knew about most of the popular fighters with IAF.  Depending on its role, there is a breed of fighters/ interceptors, bombers, transports, trainers etc. grouped as single / multi piston-engine propeller, turbo, to jets.  I had the opportunity to visit some of the air force units where he was posted. Motivated, I could do my over 100 Hr of propeller flying HUL-26, Pushpak, 90 HP, Single 4 Cyl, Air Cooled Piston Engine as a Private/Student Pilot Licensee through college Air Wing NCC, Patiala Flying Club 1973-75.   

An episode where I could offer my humble services of gratitude to IAF was in 1995, Begumpet, Hyderabad when a trainer HT-2 on Solo Flt , went missing.  After one day of futile search by HAL / IAF teams,, IAF requested  Army Hq for assistance. I as a recovery expert from MCEME, Secunderabad, was asked  by my local boss, to assist.  With in about 5 hours of joint inquiries, we could home it down to approx.  2km x 2km lake, about 40 km away at Shamirpet.  Taking the help of locals I swam almost half way and located the fully submerged ill-fated aircraft.  A mid night long hauled water recovery of a crashed air force trainee plane was done.  My feet needed medical attention for having been for 15hrs in lake water. The effort was appreciated both by army and IAF.

Maxy has been a good  Mohd. Rafi singing copy. My music escapades made me sing for defence forces TV Films, Serials & music albums.


 Fig 10:  (L –R) Air warrior veterans Nimmi Suri, Supi Kaul & Maxy. New Delhi( 2017)

Maxy’s  joining Air Force  to be family breadwinner on the soldiering trail of our  father also beckoned me (After having done my B E Mech)  joining The Indian Army Corps of EME. He has been a pillar of strength to whole lot of us, acting as a guide a mentor and always ready to offer a friendly advice. Both his sons Vikas and Munish  are well settled and OMI is a grandpa.  After the ill-timed loss of Krishna Ji my Bhabhi, he got remarried to Smt  Bani Ji, Today he is well settled in Delhi, and is contributing  his management skills share to the social welfare of residential societies of South Delhi.

This 85y Arjun is a regular golfer at the Air force Golf Course where today along with other golfers he is hitting the golf balls in Air,  vying  to make them land on holed greener turfs.

Fig 11 :  Post Diwali meet  with  our sister Raj.  During COVID 19, (2020).


                 post diwali meet

Fig 11 :  Post Diwali meet, Sister Raj, Maxy and self  (16 Nov 2020)

From Maxy’s desk

After partition, when we migrated this side, we had little or no choice of careers as compared to our children today. Defence forces enjoyed the highest respect /best paid, became our first choice and fortunately we succeeded. Yours is a different case. Excellence in different fields. We have every reason to be happy and thankful to the almighty. 

Like your many seniors and colleagues, who are responsible for shaping you, as to what you are today; but for their close monitoring, guidance and benevolence, all this would not have been possible and along with you, I would  also like to express my sincere thanks.

Finally, let me add, that true potential of children, remains a silent speculation, even for parents. In my thought process respectable career with financial/medical security was our top priority at that time. . Let no regret or remorse trouble you for the past decisions. At that time those were the right decisions. Look at the life ahead and the confidence all around. We have plenty to cheer.              

  1. O.P.Malik Gp.capt.(Retd) says:

    Respected Gen.Surjit Singh Sir,
    Please allow me to thank you for your benovelent
    blessings, which you have showard, on both me and my younger brother
    Col.(Dr)S.S.Malik,for whatever little we achieved in our service carriers.
    2. Our father , Sgt.Maj. Tek Chand Malik, had joined the Indian Army during 2nd World war and served with No. 60 Paras, as a para trooper.. They fought against the Japanese on the Burma front and defeated them.
    3. During this War, our father suffered two bullet hits on the right thigh/arm and a Granade shrapnel on the right hand and some chest injuries. He was hospitalised for some months but fully recovered. For his services, he was twice honoured with gallantry awards i.e. M&D (Mention-in-despatch)Bar.
    4. Army Hq. had also given him a letter, stating, that one of your children will be educated at state expense. That is how I got admission in King George’s Royal Indian Military College Belgaum.and there after there was no looking back.
    5. Dear Gen. Sir,
    Your initiative to start this website promises great success and deserves our sincere compliments, With very best wishes , Sincerely, Malik.

  2. Dhiraj Mullick says:

    Thanks for sharing this Sultan.

    An outstanding example of… a ‘strong will’, coupled with grit and determination and courage and bravery and self confidence and mental and moral strength!

  3. Manisha Parija says:

    Excellent artucle ! Very well written with great true stories of a Warrior !

    Regards ,

    • MALIK S S says:

      Dear Manisha,

      Thank you for the comment. COVID 19, has reminded all of us, that we need to keep life simple, concern for elders, near and dear ones, environment, and be thankful to Almighty.
      Maxy is a motivation to many like me.


  4. Col Ranjit Maini says:

    Ranjit Maini
    Mon, Jan 11, 2:40 PM (1 day ago)
    to me

    Thanks a lot sir. Here’s wishing you and ma’am a very happy and a grand New Year.
    Warm Regards,

  5. Lt Gen RK Mehta says:

    Raj Mehta
    10:46 AM (6 hours ago)
    to me

    Thanks for sharing.


  6. Brig SS Jamwal says:

    Brig S S Jaswal
    4:03 PM (1 hour ago)
    to me

    Dear Sir,
    Thanks for your mail. I recollect the interesting and entertaining TV Serial on Indian Navy. The write up on Gp Capt Maxi Malik by his younger brother Col Sultan Malik was quite absorbing.


  7. Srimurti Saraswati says:

    srimurti saraswati
    Jan 11, 2021, 8:03 PM (21 hours ago)
    Thanks for sharing!

  8. Zal Kabraji says:

    zal kabraji
    Mon, Jan 11, 3:35 PM (1 day ago)
    to me

    My dear General,
    Thanks for sharing this interesting piece. I must tellyou, Air Chief Idris Latif was one of my father’s students at the Staff College, in the late 1950s !
    Warm regards,

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