Women assigned to combat roles in Air Force & Navy
New Delhi/ Kochi, Sept. 22:
A woman fighter pilot of the Indian Air Force will soon join the newly-inducted Rafale fighter fleet as one of its crew flying the multi-role air dominance aircraft, official sources said on Monday.
The woman pilot has been flying MiG-21 fighters and was selected to join the Ambala-based Golden Arrows squadron operating the Rafale jets, they said without divulging her name.
“She was chosen to fly Rafale jets following a stringent selection process. She is undergoing training now,” said a source.
The Rafale fleet is currently undertaking sorties in Ladakh where Indian and Chinese troops are locked in a four-and-half-month-long bitter border row.
“Rafale is the most potent aircraft and having a woman pilot among its select crew is very significant,” said a senior military official on the condition of anonymity.
In 2018, flying officer Avani Chaturvedi scripted history by becoming the first Indian woman to fly a fighter aircraft solo. She flew a MiG-21 bison in her first solo flight.
Chaturvedi was part of a three-member women team commissioned as flying officers in July 2016, less than a year after the government decided to open the fighter stream for women on an experimental basis. The other two women pilots were Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh.
At present, the IAF has 10 women fighter pilots and 18 women navigators. The total strength of women officers serving in the IAF is 1,875.
Last week, Minister of State for Defence Shripad Naik told Parliament that women fighter pilots are inducted and deployed in IAF as per strategic needs and operational requirements. Meanwhile, in a historic first aimed at ensuring gender parity, the Indian Navy has selected two women officers as helicopter crew for deployment on frontline warships on short and long-duration missions, officials said on Monday.
Sub Lieutenant Kumudini Tyagi and Sub Lieutenant Riti Singh have graduated as Observers (airborne tacticians) in the helicopter stream and would be deployed on warships as part of the crew, they said.
The Indian Navy is yet to deploy women officers on board warships unlike navies from countries like the US, the UK, Australia, Germany and France.
“In yet another first in the history of Indian naval aviation, two women officers have been selected to join as ‘observers’ in the helicopter stream. They would in effect be the first set of women airborne combatants who would be operating from warships,” the Indian Navy said in a statement.Last year, the Navy had appointed two women as pilots for its Dornier aircraft fleet. The crew of P-8I maritime patrol aircraft of the Navy too has women officers. Both Dornier and P8I aircraft operate from shore-based facilities.
Sources said Sub Lieutenant Tyagi and Sub Lieutenant Singh would be part of the technical crew for the MH-60 Romeo Seahawk maritime helicopters of the Navy. India is buying 24 MH-60 Romeo helicopters from US aerospace major Lockheed Martin for the Indian Navy under a $ 2.6-billion deal.