As Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne retires at the end of the year, he will have the satisfaction of ensuring the Initial Operational Clearance for the Light Combat Aircraft project. In fact, earlier this month, while speaking at the induction of the LCA into the Air Force, he said he “would have gone home as a sad person if the LCA IOC had not been achieved.”
For the Air Force, however, Air Chief Browne’s walking into the sunset would bring the curtains down on a career that spanned 42 years and ensured in its wake that the guardians of the sky lived up to the challenges faced by the country, and ensured a stable environment for its socio-economic growth. As the Chief of Air Staff himself said: “since aerospace power presents the most prompt and effective response options, the IAF has embarked upon a comprehensive enhancement of its capabilities with the overarching goal of acquiring full spectrum dominance.”
Nicknamed ‘Charlie Browne’ by his seniors in Jamnagar, after the main protagonist of Charles M. Schulz’s famous comic strip ‘Peanuts,’ Air Chief Marshal Browne will wrap up his long innings in the IAF on December 31. An alumnus of St. Joseph’s College, Allahabad, the outgoing Air Chief always wanted to be a fighter pilot and ended up commanding 1,70,000 people in the organisation he always wanted to serve.
A meritorious performer all along, he stood first in the Overall Order of Merit in the Course, first in Ground Subjects as well as in Aerobatics (for which he was awarded the then newly instituted Rajaram Trophy) and first in his batch in the OCU (Operational Conversion Unit) of Hunters and in several subsequent courses.
He also topped the Defence Services Staff College Exam.
For someone who always valued people more than anything, Air Chief Browne also gave IAF its mission statement, “People First Mission Always.”
This apart, he took some tough decisions such as grounding the HPT-32 trainer in 2009, and putting the training back on track through the world class Pilatus PC 7 Mk II, which joined the ranks of the IAF in February 2013. During his two-and-a-half year tenure as Air Chief, the IAF witnessed rapid modernisation and a large number of inductions ranging from the induction of C17, Mi 17 V5, Pilatus PC 7 Mk II and the operationalisation of C130J.