The defence ministry has approved the Indian Air Force’s proposal to induct women as fighter pilots, and the first batch of women fighter pilots will be selected from the current batch at the Air Force Academy. The announcement was made by defence ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said in a tweet. In a following tweet, he said that the first batch of female fighter pilots will be selected from the current batch at IAF academy in Hyderabad. During the 83rd Air Force Day on October 8, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha had announced that women would soon be inducted as fighter pilots. His declaration made IAF the first of three services to announce they would have women in combat roles.
“We have women pilots flying transport aircraft and helicopters. We are now planning to induct them into the fighter stream to meet the aspirations of young women of India.”
Ironically, it was Raha who last year in March
had said that women are “physically not suited to fly fighter planes for for long hours”.
A statement issued by the Ministry of Defence stated that after successful completion of training, the first batch of female fighter pilots would be commissioned in the fighter stream in June 2016.
Thereafter, they would undergo advanced training for a year and would then finally enter a fighter cockpit by June 2017. “Introducing women into the fighter stream would provide them with equal opportunity to prove their mettle in combat as well,” the defence ministry statement said.
Presently, the Army has been inducting women officers in Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation (Air Traffic Control), Army Air Defence, ASC, Ordinance, Intelligence, medical and education corps of the service. The Indian Navy has shown the least inclination for women in services. In 2010, a High Court order gave women in Army and the Air Force the right to permanent commissioning. Last month, the High Court ordered the Indian Navy to follow the same saying it would “frown upon any endeavour to block progress of women”.
Rape and torture in enemy territory were some reasons why the IAF was initially disinclined to induct women in front-line combat roles.
Reservations were also raised over ‘limitations’ that may come due to marriage and conceiving of a child. Women started serving in the air force in 1992 but till date they were allowed to fly only non-combat missions. Currently, only 94 pilots and 14 navigators in the IAF are women. The Indian military currently has more than 3,250 women, but all of them have been kept away from close combat roles such as flying fighter jets and serving in the infantry, armoured corps and warships. United States and Israel are prominent examples where women serve in direct combat roles.