The reins of the Indian Air Force (IAF) will be back in the hands of a fighter pilot with the government naming Air Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik as the next air chief. Air Marshal Naik will take over from Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major, a helicopter pilot, who retires on May 31.
Naik takes charge of the IAF at a time when the air force is battling a crippling shortage of combat aircraft. It has only 33 fighter squadrons as against a sanctioned strength of 39 and half. The defence ministry is planning to buy 126 medium multi-role aircraft to plug the gaps in the IAF’s capabilities.
Six international rivals are jostling with each other to grab the $10 billion tender. The flight trials will be conducted with Naik at the helm.
Born on July 22, 1949, Air Marshal Naik was commissioned into the IAF in 1969. Currently serving as the IAF’s vice chief, he has 3,085 hours of fighter flying under his belt. Naik, a veteran of the 1971 Indo-Pak war, has also served as the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Allahabad-based Central Air Command.
He is a fellow of the National Defence College, New Delhi, College of Defence Management, Secundrabad and Defence Services Staff College, Wellington. The courses attended by him include flying instructor course, jungle and snow survival and junior commanders’ course.