(Press Trust of India)
The Indian Air Force is planning to induct women into the fighter aircraft stream, IAF Chief Arup Raha said Thursday.
“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 in India,” Air Chief Marshal Raha said in New Delhi as IAF celebrated its 83rd anniversary.
The plan to induct women into a fighting arm is a first in the three services which were earlier not open to the idea of women taking part in combat role.
IAF currently has women in seven areas of administration, logistics, meteorology, navigation, education, aeronautical engineering — mechanical and electrical — and accounts.
The air force currently has about 1500 women on its rolls of which 94 are pilots and 14 navigators.
The armed forces began inducting women in the early 1990s through short service commissions and the government began granting them permanent commissions in select arms and services only a few years ago.
The military has so far granted permanent commissions to 340 female officers, allowing them to serve till at least the age of 54.
The latest move is in sync with global trends and will help IAF overcome shortage of officers in the fighter aircraft stream.
Officials said it was a significant move for women’s empowerment in a country that has had women holding powerful positions in key areas including politics and business.
“We feel so proud and happy that women officers have been given this opportunity, the way we have been proving ourselves,” a woman IAF pilot told a channel. “They [air force] were so confident in us that they took the decision,” she said.
Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the contributions of the IAF have been monumental. “They are always at the forefront, be it in protecting skies or in times of disasters,” wrote PM Modi.
President Pranab Mukherjee, the commander of India’s armed forces, also paid tributes to the force. “The role of IAF is not only limited to fighting a war but also rendering timely assistance during national crisis,” he said.