Women are increasingly taking on a bigger role in Indian Navy. While the all-women crew is circumnavigating the planet, 20 women war-fighters are onboard the Navy’s superior anti-submarine warfare aircraft, the US-built Poseidon 8-India (P-8I). The Navy uses the aircraft to trace Chinese warships and submarines in the Indian Ocean.
Initially, the Navy inducted women as observers in 2009. As they gained experience, they advanced to the position of system specialists. The seniormost woman combat aviator has now reached the rank of commander.
The mode of operation for this task is the eight P-8Is that India ordered from the US in a $2.1 billion deal. INS Rajali in Arakonnam near Chennai have housed the aircraft. Above that four additional jets worth $1 billion are on order from Boeing in the US.
“Mission Assigned, Mission Accomplished is our motto,” say the women war-fighters
The women officers operating on P-8s and Il-38s will have access to all key censors, including weapon system. So in case of conflict, if they have to attack enemy submarines or fight with warships, they can approach the torpedoes and missiles. And being combat aviators, it also exposes them to life threat by a missile if it hits their aircraft.
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Navy’s chief of personnel, Vice Admiral AK Chawla believes in the women’s capability. “In fact, in the Services Selection Boards, inevitably the top people are the women officers. We go purely by merit,” he said.
The women combat aviators on a Navy P-8 plane recently played a pivotal role in finding an empty life-raft off the Philippines. The 57,000 ton vessel, the MV Emerald Star, had gone missing with 26 Indian sailors on board. Of these, 10 remain missing and are presumed dead. However, the Navy rescued the remaining 16 members after acting on a distress call.
The task of combing the Indian Ocean for unfriendly military vessels is routine for the P-8I crew. The women aviators take about four hours in performing the gigantic mission. They monitor sea-search radars and magnetic anomaly detectors that can track down submarines
They “use data available on their systems and plot target for AGM-84L Harpoon Block II missiles that can hit a target out at sea more than 250 km away. Similarly, once detected, an Mk 54 Lightweight torpedo can take out the enemy submarine,” reported NDTV.
Navy’s P-8Is are considered as India’s most capable first responders to any naval threat. The Navy has deployed them to keep a check on Chinese presence on the Indian Ocean.
Picture credit- NDTV