The government approved Saturday the induction of women into the combat stream of the Indian Air Force (IAF). The Ministry of Defence announced that the induction process will begin with women from the current batch being trained at the Air Force Academy (AFA). The first woman fighter pilot will be in the cockpit in June 2017.
The government announcement comes a fortnight after Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha said a proposal to induct women into the fighter stream had been mooted with the Ministry of Defence.
Women pilots of the IAF currently fly transport aircraft and helicopters. Women fighter pilots have been serving in the air forces of Pakistan, Israel, UAE, US and UK among others.
Announcing the go-ahead, ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar, in a statement, said: “The Ministry of Defence has approved the induction of women into the fighter (combat) stream of the IAF. This progressive step is in keeping with the aspirations of Indian women and in line with contemporary trends in armed forces in developed nations.”
The ministry said the performance of women pilots in helicopter and transport streams has been praiseworthy. “Introducing women into the fighter stream would provide them with equal opportunity to prove their mettle in combat as well,” the statement said.
On October 8, addressing a gathering on Air Force Day, Air Chief Marshal Raha said: “We have women pilots flying transport aircraft and helicopters. We are now planning to induct them into the fighter stream to meet the aspiration of young women of India.” A year ago, Raha had remarked that women were physically not suitable to take on combat roles.
According to the ministry statement, the induction of women will begin from the current batch of women officers undergoing training at AFA. “After successful completion of ab-initio training, they would be commissioned in the fighter stream in June 2016. Thereafter, they would undergo advanced training for one year and would enter the fighter pilot cockpit by June 2017,” the statement said.
The IAF has about 100 women pilots serving as transport and helicopter pilots. The statement said a comprehensive review of induction of women in short service as well as permanent commission has been undertaken.