New Delhi: Ace fighter pilot Norman Anil Kumar Browne on Sunday took over as the 23rd Chief of the Indian Air Force from Air Chief Marshal P V Naik, who retired after putting in 42 years of service.

Soon after taking over, Browne said his priorities as IAF Chief would be to "enhance operational capability, continue with the modernisation drive of the force and most importantly to look after our people."

"To my mind that is the most important asset that we have," 59-year-old Browne, who has 3,100 flying hours to his credit, said.

He has taken over as the IAF Chief at a time when the force is undergoing massive modernisation and is looking to induct a large number of new weapon platforms, including the 126 combat aircraft, the C-17 strategic heavy-lift aircraft along with a host of different types of choppers.

In his first address to air warriors, Browne said, "The IAF is well poised on path of transforming itself into a potent strategic force."

Outlining his vision statement for the IAF of 'People First Mission Always', Browne said, "While induction of state- of-the-art equipment and major systems leads to up-gradation of our combat potential, our people must receive our highest attention.

"I firmly believe that each one has a duty to take care and look after people placed under our charge. It is sacred calling for all leaders, men and women, irrespective of rank and position. Our endeavour should be to empower our subordinates, by giving them required operational skills," he said.

Observing that the IAF was operating a broad spectrum of vintage equipment, Browne said this would test "our innovativeness and capabilities."

"While change is the hallmark of growth and progress, the biggest challenge facing us in the coming years is to manage this fast-paced change effectively without compromising on operational standards," Browne said.

A fighter pilot with a varied operational experience on all kinds of aircraft including Hunters, all variants of the MiG-21s, Jaguars and Sukhoi-30s, Browne has logged about 3,100 hours of flying.

Born in Allahabad on December 15, 1951, Browne was commissioned into the fighter stream of the IAF on June 24, 1972.

An alumnus of the National Defence Academy, he has served as an instructor at the Tactics and Air Combat Development Establishment and the tri-services Defence Services Staff College in Wellington.

During his 39 years with the IAF, he has held various operational and staff appointments that include Joint Director at the Air War Strategy Cell at the Air Headquarters, Chief Operations Officer and Air Officer Commanding of a SU-30 base, Air-I at the Western Air Command (WAC) and Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Intelligence) at the Air Headquarters.

In April 1997, he established the Indian Defence Wing in Tel Aviv and served as the Defence Attache till July 2000.

Between 2007 and 2009, as the Deputy Chief of the Air Staff at the Air Headquarters, he oversaw IAF's major modernization programmes.

Before moving in as Vice-Chief of the Air Staff in the Air Headquarters, he headed the WAC.

He is married to Kiran Browne. They have a son, Omar, who is a Su-30MKI pilot posted at the Bareilly air base in Uttar Pradesh, and daughter Alisha, who works for a multi-national company.

(Agencies)