IAF inducted first three women fighter pilots into service
Dilip Kumar Mekala
Indian Air Force (IAF) women officers will not be restricted to helicopter and transport aircrafts any more, they will soon be flying the most advanced fighter jets and take part in crucial operations during combat. With the induction of the first three women fighter pilots into the IAF, history has been created. Flying Officers Avani Chaturvedi, Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh became the first three women fighter pilots, after the commissioning ceremony at Air Force Academy (AFA), Dundigal on 18 June 2016.
These three women officers have completed their training course on PC-7 basic trainer and are currently undergoing the stage-II training on Kiran Mark II aircrafts. Thereafter, they would undergo advanced training at various Air Force Stations at Hakimpet, Begumpet and Yelahanka and Air Force Administrative College (Coimbatore) besides the AFA itself for one year and would enter a fighter cockpit by June 2017.
While the induction of the female fighter pilots is a major milestone for the IAF, the service is not open to deploying them in the same combat environments as their male counterparts. Women fighters will be restricted to combat missions such as air patrols within the Indian air space.
Presently there are over 1,300 women officers in the IAF, including 110 women pilots who fly transport aircraft and helicopters. While there is no provision for the existing women pilots to move on to fighter jets later in the future, some women pilots who spoke to FORCE said they were hoping that government would reconsider a policy change on this matter. “Given an opportunity, I would like to fly a fighter jet”, said one IAF women officer who is currently flying Cheetah and Chetak helicopters.
At the commissioning ceremony of AFA Dundigal, a total of 130 Flight Cadets including 22 women trainees were commissioned as Flying Officers, along with nine officers of the Indian Navy and one officer of the Indian Coast Guard. Defence minister Manohar Parrikar complimented the newly commissioned flying officers for the exceptional standard of their parade. Congratulating the passing-out cadets, Parrikar said, “It is a matter of great honour to review the combined graduation parade and to welcome the fine men and women into the Indian Air Force as military leaders”. Keeping in view the changing geo-political and strategic environment and varied security challenges faced by India, he urged the young officers to give their best, as future leaders of the IAF, and take it to next higher level of performance by dynamically adapting to the newer environment.