Denis La Fontaine

Air Chief Marshal Denis Anthony La Fontaine (17 September 1929 – 6 April 2011) was the 13th Chief of Air Staff of the Indian Air Force from 3 July 1985 to 31 July 1988.[2]

Denis Anthony La Fontaine

Air Chief Marshal Denis Anthony La Fontaine
Born(1929-09-17)September 17, 1929
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
DiedApril 6, 2011(2011-04-06) (aged 81)
Medak District, Andhra Pradesh[1]
Allegiance India
Service/branch Indian Air Force
Years of service1950-1988
Rank Air Chief Marshal
Service Number (3844)
Service number3844
Commands heldChief of the Air Staff (India) (1985–1988)
Central Air Command
Western Air Command
No.47 Black Archers
No.14 Fighting Bulls
Battles/warsIndo-Pakistani War of 1965
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
Alma materSt. Anthony High School, Lahore

Early life and education

Born in Madras, He was the son of Major Je La Fontaine of the Indian Army Medical Corps. La Fontaine's family boasted a lineage of Army service. Both his grandfathers served with the Indian Army as officers.[1] He studied at St. Anthony's High School at Lahore and at St. George's College at Musoorie.[3]

Air force career

He enrolled into the Indian Air Force in October 1947. He did his training on the Tigermoth aircraft, moving on the Harvards, Spitfires and he Tempests aircraft. He was commissioned into the flying branch at Ambala in April 1950.

La Fontaine's first posting was to the No.7 Battle Axes Squadron flying the Tempests aircraft. When No.7 converted to the De Havilland Vampires in 1951, La Fontaine was one of the first pilots in the Indian Air Force to undergo training in flying the jets, which were the first jet fighters operated by any country in Asia. Soon after, La Fontaine was selected to undergo the All Purpose Instructors Course. Over the next three years, he spent his career imparting beginner, intermediate and operational instructions in flying in a variety of aircraft, including the Tigermoth aircraft, the Harvards, Spitfires and De Havilland Vampires.

In 1956, he returned to operational flying, when he was posted to the No.2 Squadron flying the Toofanis. Then La Fontaine moved onto No.29 Scorpions as a senior flight commander. Command of his own unit came in 1960, when he was promoted to squadron leader and was entrusted to raising a new squadron, No.47 Black Archers. This squadron, flying the Toofani, became the first fighter combat squadron to win the Mukherjee Trophy in its first year of raising. After the upgradation of ranks of the squadron commanders of fighter squadrons, to wing commander, La Fontaine took over command of No.14 Fighting Bulls Squadron at Kalaikunda.[3]

Indo-Pakistani War of 1965

Flying the Subsonic Hawker Hunter, he was involved in the Indo-Pak Ops of 1965. La Fontaine led an unfruitful fighter interception sweep over the East Pakistani city of Jessore and an abortive interception to Barrackpore. Aircraft from his unit did take on the Pakistani Sabres over Kalaikunda and No.14 Squadron was the only Hunter unit in 1965 that encountered the enemy Sabres and got the best of them and were still unscathed. Told to lay off operations against targets within East Pakistan, La Fontaine and his team did not see much action later on.[3]

Indo-Pakistani War of 1971

At the outbreak of the 1971 War, he was deputed as a senior staff officer to the Maritime Air Operations Cell in Bombay to help out civilian airline operations.[4]

Chief of Air Staff

On the untimely demise of the then CAS, Air Chief Marshal L.M. Katre, La Fontaine took over as the Chief of Air Staff in July 1985.. After becoming CAS, he oversaw the IAF inducting state-of-the-art defence fighters like the Mirage 2000 and the MiG-29. Both were procured primarily to counter the Pakistani F-16 threat. The IAF was involved in operations for the first time since 1971, when it undertook supply and relief sorties over Sri Lanka. Later after the induction of the IPKF, the IAF was involved in supply and COIN operations. However La Fontaine could not oversee the complete operations of the IPKF. He retired in 1988, succeeded by Air Chief Marshal S.K. Mehra.[4]


La Fontaine died of heart attack on 6 April 2011, at his home in Medak district in Andhra Pradesh; he was 82 and is survived by his wife and three daughters.[5] Medak district Collector S Suresh Kumar laid a wreath on Lafontaine's body on behalf of AP government and paid homage.[1]


During his tenure he was decorated with the Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal and Vayu Sena Medal for his distinguished service.[6]

Military Honours and Decorations

Param Vishisht Seva Medal Ati Vishisht Seva Medal
Vayusena Medal General Service Medal
Samar Seva Star
Paschimi Star
Raksha Medal
Sangram Medal
Sainya Seva Medal
25th Anniversary of Independence Medal
30 Years Long Service Medal
20 Years Long Service Medal
9 Years Long Service Medal


Military offices
Preceded by
Lakshman Katre
Chief of the Air Staff (India)
Succeeded by
Surinder Mehra
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