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Air Vice-Marshal (Major-General) Michael John O'Brian, (Urdu: مايكل او براءين; born: 5 January 1928 – 10 March 2002), was an air force officer and two-star general in the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) who served as the Commandant of National Defence University, Islamabad. O'Brian was the first Pakistan Air Force general to serve as the Commandant of the university. He also served as the Deputy Chief of Air Staff, and was one of the distinguished Christian pilots who participated in Indo-Pakistan wars of 1947, 1965, and the 1971.

Michael John O'Brian
AVM.M.J'O Brian.jpg
AVM (Major-General) Michael John O'Brian, PAF.
Birth nameMichael John O'Brian
Nickname(s)M.J. O'Brain
Born(1928-01-05)5 January 1928
Lahore, Punjab, British India
Died10 March 2002(2002-03-10) (aged 74)
Islamabad, Pakistan
Allegiance Pakistan
Service/branch Pakistan Air Force
Years of service1946–1984
RankUS-O8 insignia.svg Air Vice Marshal (Major-General)
UnitNo. 9 Squadron Griffins
Commands held
Other workProfessor of military science at NDC

Early lifeEdit

Born into an Indian Christian family in Lahore, O'Brian enlisted in the Indian Air Force in 1946.[1] O'Brian studied in Forman Christian College He opted for Pakistani citizenship in 1947, and actively participated in Indo-Pakistani War of 1947. After the war, O'Brian pursued his BSc in mathematics in Forman Christian College in 1948. O'Brian is a graduate of Pakistan Air Force Academy's College of Flying Training where he gained a BS in Aviation Sciences, also receiving a Certified Diploma in Flying from the Flying Instructors School. O'Brian holds a MSc in Military Science and an honorary PhD in War studies from National Defence University, Islamabad.[2]

Military careerEdit

O'Brian was one of the distinguished and pioneering PAF fighter pilots who participated in the Indo-Pakistani wars of 1947, 1965, and 1971. A fighter pilot, O'Brian played an important role in setting up the training institutes within the Pakistan Air Force. He was promoted to Air Vice Marshal (AVM) in 1969, and led military missions in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. After the war O'Brian achieved the penultimate position in PAF and served as the Deputy Chief of Air Staff.[3] Air Vice Marshal O'Brian also achieved a rare distinction as having been the only PAF Officer to serve as the Commandant of National Defence College.[4]

In 1974, O'Brian was given command of Sargodha Air Force base. O'Brian played an important and significant role in the up-grading of the facility. He also supervised the nuclear test sites near Kirana Hills, and personally oversaw the construction of the test site. O'Brian was a senior member of the military unit Special Development Works (SDW) headed by Brigadier-General Muhammad Sarfaraz. As a military intellectual, he played an important role in the nuclear policy of Pakistan. In March 1983, the first experiment of a cold-test of a nuclear device was headed by Ishfaq Ahmad and Munir Ahmad Khan.[5][6] All they needed next was some fissile material and they would have had an atomic bomb, as pointed out by Houston Wood, Professor of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, USA in his article on gas centrifuges.[7][8] O'Brian was one of the senior military officials who eye-witnessed the first cold test of a nuclear device. For his services, he was conferred with civil awards, and O'Brian took honorary retirement from the Pakistan Air Force in 1984, and joined the National Defence University, Islamabad, as a professor of War and Strategic studies.

O'Brian retired in 1994 and lived a quiet life in Islamabad, Pakistan, where he died in 2002.


  1. ^ (PAF), Pakistan Air Force. "Pioneering Officers: See Pilot Officers (Pilots)". Archived from the original on 8 April 2013.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  2. ^ Hussain, SS; MT Qureshi. History of the Pakistan Air Force, 1947–1982.
  3. ^ Hoodbhoy, Parvez. "The Wages of Obedience". Archived from the original on 14 December 2007.
  4. ^ Hali, Group Captain Sultan M. (November 1998). "PAF's Gallant Christian Heroes Carry Quaid's message". Defence Journal. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016.
  5. ^ Futter, Andrew (2015). The Politics of Nuclear Weapons. L.A. Calif. U.S.: Sage. pp. 175–176. ISBN 978-1473917149.
  6. ^ Khan, Feroz Hassan (2012). Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistan Atomic Bomb. Palo Alto, Calif, U.S.: Stanford University Press. pp. 180–189. ISBN 978-0804784801.
  7. ^ Wood, Houston; Glasser, Alexander; Kemp, Scott (2008). "The gas centrifuge and nuclear weapons proliferation". Physics Today. September (9): 40–45. Bibcode:2008PhT....61i..40W. doi:10.1063/1.2982121.
  8. ^ Wood, Houston G.; Glaser, Alexander; Kemp, R. Scott (2008). "The gas centrifuge and nuclear weapons proliferation". Physics Today. 61 (9): 40–45. Bibcode:2008PhT....61i..40W. doi:10.1063/1.2982121.