Women pilots to be inducted into fighter stream soon: IAF chief

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Women pilots will soon fly fighter planes, announced Indian Air Force chief Arup Raha. The IAF chief announced this on the 83rd anniversary of the air force. With this, women pilots would get to experience combat role for the first time.

“So far women pilots are known only to fly transport aircraft and helicopters. We are planning to induct them into the fighter stream,” Air Chief Marshal Raha, while reviewing the IAF Day parade and flypast at the Hindon Air Force Station.

It is a pity women officers have not been allowed to have combat experience. So while they could fly transport aircraft and helicopters in the force, women pilots could not tear into the skies as fighter pilots, he said.

“Women officers in the other two services have been kept away from combat roles. In the Navy, they can’t serve on warships and in the army, they can’t join the infantry, armoured corps or artillery. But times are changing,” he added

With technological advancements making traditional attributes such as physical toughness redundant, women pilots have been making a push to be allowed to take up combat role in the armed forces.

“Many women pilots have proved themselves flying helicopters and transport aircraft in high-risk rescue, and other missions. Some women pilots have flown sorties of AN-32 aircraft at Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) in Ladakh,” said Raha.

DBO, the world’s highest landing ground at 16,500 feet, is close to the frontline and is a critical supply line to troops posted at Siachen Glacier. Women pilots have also flown the Ilyushin IL-76 heavy-lift transport aircraft called ‘Gajraj’ to Leh.

There is a rethink in the IAF now, with women pilots winning legal battles for permanent commission, instead of being allowed to serve 14 to 15 years as short service commission officers.

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