A proposal to admit women fighter pilots to the Indian Air Force (AIF) has been approved, with the first batch to be selected from the current intake undergoing training at the Academy, the defense ministry announced on the weekend. “This progressive step is in keeping with the aspirations of Indian women and is in line with contemporary trends in armed forces of developed nations,” the ministry said in a statement.
IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha had earlier noted that women were already flying transport aircraft and helicopters, on par with their male colleagues. Reasons given in the past for women’s exclusion from fighter pilot duties included a fear they would be tortured and raped if they were shot down during combat. “Inducting women into the fighter stream would provide them with an equal opportunity to prove their mettle in combat roles as well,” according to the ministry.
When their training is complete, the women pilots will be commissioned in the fighter stream in June 2016 and undergo advanced training for a year, ahead of beginning operations in 2017. The air force in India currently includes around 1,500 women, of whom 94 are pilots and 14 are navigators.
In a separate announcement, made on Monday, India’s defense minister Manohar Parrikar said women officers in the navy could soon fly surveillance aircraft. “Navy is considering whether women officers can also fly these (surveillance) aircraft,” the minister said, adding, “In areas where there are logistical, infrastructural and training issues, we cannot allow women officers.”
The Navy was one of the first military services to induct women, in 1992, but has repeatedly pointed out Indian warships are not designed to accommodate women officers. “We want to give equal status to women but they cannot be allowed in roles which require them to halt on warships overnight,” said Parrikar.