IAF to have women fighter pilots

Last Updated : 08 October 2015, 20:01 IST

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The Indian Air Force (IAF) plans to induct women officers as fighter pilots and had also moved a proposal to the Defence Ministry. Once the government takes a decision, it would take about three years to induct the first woman fighter pilot.

“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,” said Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha at the Hindon air base on Thursday.

Asked what would happen if a woman pilot is shot down across the border, he said they need not necessarily go across the border. “We have lot of roles for fighter pilots within the country, especially in air defence and training. There are many tasks. If the need arises, they will also do combat roles,” he said.

IAF employs more than 1,300 women of which 94 are pilots and 14 navigators. The service needs to induct about 440 pilots every year.

The existing policy that forbids entry of women in the fighter stream of the flying branch was detailed in a November 2011 government letter.

It was based on the recommendations of a policy paper, submitted by a high-level tri-service committee with the approval of the Chiefs of Staff Committee.

The policy bars women to take up jobs in other combat arms such as warships and submarines in the Navy as well as infantry and artillery in the Army.

Internationally, about 20 nations, including Pakistan, China and the US, allow women to fly fighter jets. Turkey was the first country to do it in 1936, followed by the erstwhile USSR that opened the doors for women in the 1940s.

Few years ago, a top IAF official opposed women as fighter pilots arguing that several crores that is spent in training a fighter pilot, would go waste if a woman gets married or bears children. Even Raha had stated women are physically unfit to fly fighter planes.

“As far as flying fighter planes is concerned, it is a very challenging job. Women are by nature not physically suited for flying fighter planes for long hours, especially when they are pregnant or have other health problems,” he stated in March 2014.

On the 83rd Air Force Day, Raha did a volte-face. “I am sure they will prove themselves well even in this profession,” he said.

Published 08 October 2015, 20:01 IST

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