Air Force chief Arup Raha does a U-turn: Will induct women fighter pilots

In March last year, Raha had said that women are physically not suited to fly fighter planes. On Thursday, however, Raha said he had “no doubt” that women could become fighter pilots.

Written by Pranav Kulkarni | New Delhi | Updated: October 9, 2015 8:08 am
Indian Air Force, women in Indian Air force, women piolts, women pilots in indian airforce, women fighter pilots, iaf arup raha, arup raha IAF, IAF women fighter pilots, Indian air force news A Sukhoi fighter jet (File photo)

Changing his earlier stand, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha said on Thursday that the Indian Air Force (IAF) is planning to induct women as fighter aircraft pilots.

Addressing the Air Force Day function at the Hindon Air Base, the IAF chief said: “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.” He said the IAF has sent the proposal to the Ministry of Defence (MoD), and expects it to be cleared within a year.

Raha, however, said today that women should be cleared to operate behind enemy lines.

SEE: Photos of aerial feats by the Indian Air Force

In March last year, Raha had said that women are physically not suited to fly fighter planes. “As far as flying fighter planes is concerned, it is a very challenging job. Women are by nature not physically suited for flying fighter planes for long hours, especially when they are pregnant or have other health problems,” he had said.

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On Thursday, however, Raha said he had “no doubt” that women could become fighter pilots.

If the MoD clears the proposal, it may take about three years of training for women to actually fly fighter jets. While the IAF has about 100 women pilots, the role of women officers in all the three services is limited to non-combat streams.

Responding to a question in Parliament earlier this year, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had said: “Women personnel in the armed forces are not being deployed for combat operations and on naval warships. Induction of women in combat duties has not been recommended by the studies carried out by the Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (HQIDS) in 2006 and High Level Tri-Services Committee in 2011.”

“Think of what can happen if a woman is taken as a prisoner in combat operation,” Parrikar had said in Pune in May.

Parrikar’s predecessor, A K Antony, had maintained the same line. “There is no proposal at present to induct women into combat duties in the defence forces including as fighter pilots in IAF,” he had said in 2013.