Parrikar-led Defence Ministry approves induction of women as IAF fighter pilots

New Delhi: The Defence Ministry under Manohar Parrikar has approved the induction of women into the combat stream of IAF. Thus, women can now fly warplanes for the first time.

IAF aircraft

Earlier this month, the Indian Air Force (IAF) had announced a major policy shift – that it intends to allow women to become fighter pilots.

“We are now planning to induct them into the fighter stream to meet the aspirations of young women of India,” Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha said at IAF’s Hindon air base near Delhi on the occasion of 83rd Air Force Day parade.

The IAF had in the past shown reservations about inducting women in front-line combat roles over apprehensions of rape and torture on being held in enemy territory. Reservations have also been raised over ‘limitations’ that may come due to marriage and conceiving of a child.

However, on Thursday, IAF chief Raha asserted that he hoped women, who have already been flying helicopters and transport aircraft, would adjust to tough physical requirements of a fighter pilot.

Expressing happiness over the announcement, a women transport aircraft pilot of IAF based in a front-line base of eastern sector told dna that given a chance at their selection stage, she, and a few other women, who fly non-combat aircraft would have instead chosen fighter roles. “It was a delight to hear our chief announcing it in the morning,” said the pilot who requested anonymity since she is not authorised to speak to the press. She also said that like in other professions, women can adjust to having a family and yet continue as a fighter pilot.

Currently, 1500 odd women serve in the IAF with little over 90 as pilots and about 15 as navigators. The October 8 announcement by the IAF chief came close on the heels of a Delhi High Court order last month that allowed women naval officers a permanent commission.

The same court, in 2010, itself, had allowed women permanent commission in the Army and the Air Force.

While both Army and Navy have so far not shown any intention of allowing women in combat roles, the role of women personnel in all the three services are restricted to administrative, medical and education branches.

IAF had said it would allow women in ground based air defence roles, said senior officials even as Raha said that a proposal in this regard has already been mooted with the ministry of defence and awaits a clearance that may take about a year.
with ANI/PTI