Army To Induct Women Pilots: And Other Historic Moments For Women Officers In Armed Forces

Woman pilot in MiG-29 squadron

Ahead of Army Day on January 15, the Indian Army has announced it will soon induct women as pilots in its aviation wing. Chief of Army Staff General MM Naravane on Tuesday said that his proposal to recruit women in the Army Aviation Corps will be initiated from July this year with officers undergoing a pilot training course. Women officers will be able to join operational duties from 2021, he added. The Army’s decision comes as a watershed moment for women in the armed forces as they continue to be admitted to various duties.

Currently, women in the army’s aviation wing are only deployed to ground duties. “The Adjutant General’s branch, the Military Secretary branch and the Aviation Directorate have arrived at a consensus that women officers can be there in the flying branch for flying duties,” Gen Naravane was quoted saying at the press conference. At present, the Indian Armed Forces (IAF) have a strength of 1875 women officers.

Also Read: In A First, Women Soldiers Of Assam Rifles Deployed On Combat Duty Near LoC

Here’s A Look At Some Other Notable Moments For Women In The Armed Forces

Pioneering Women In The Forces  

Women have been scaling newer skies ever since their induction into the Indian forces. In 1955, Wing Commander (retd) Vijayalakshmi Ramanan became the first woman officer to be commissioned into the Indian Air Force. Since then, there has been no looking back.

In August 1966, Flight Lieutenant Kanta Handa, an IAF medical officer, became the first female IAF officer to receive a commendation for her service during the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war. Come 1994, women joined the air force as pilots in support roles. Gunjan Saxena and Sreevidya Rajan became the first women to fly in a combat zone during the Kargil War.

More recently, in 2012, Nivedita Choudhary (Flight Lieutenant), from Rajasthan, became the first woman from the IAF to summit Mount Everest. In 2019, radar controller Squadron Leader Minty Agarwal became the first woman to receive a Yudh Seva Medal for controlling Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman on February 27, 2019 when he shot down an F-16.

India’s First Women Fighter Pilots 

In 2016, three officers – Bhawana Kanth, Avani Chaturvedi, and Mohana Singh – created history by becoming IAF’s first women fighter pilots. Officer Chaturvedi in 2018 scripted history by becoming the first Indian woman to fly a fighter aircraft solo. “Being a fighter pilot is not inherited and is not gifted, I earned it with my own blood, sweat and tears,” she said.

Meanwhile Flight Lieutenant Hina Jaiswal, who hails from Chandigarh, became the first woman Flight Engineer of the IAF in February 2019. “Since childhood, she had aspired to don the soldier’s uniform and take on the skies as an aviator,” IAF had said.

Khushboo Gupta is recognised as the first woman helicopter pilot to land at forward posts on the Siachen glacier. She said, “During my training days, my instructor would tell me ‘don’t even dream of getting posted to Ladakh and flying choppers there.”

Indian Army Inducts Women As Jawans 

In April 2019, the Indian Army inked a historic day, seeking women candidates into the Military Police at the Soldier (Jawan) level for regular employment. In January 2020, the training of the first batch of 99 Women Military Police commenced. From basic military training to advanced provost training, the women were trained for a span of 61 weeks at the Corps of Military Police Centre and School, Bengaluru. Recently, a rally to recruit women to Military Police commenced in Pune. Read more here. 

Also Read: Indian Air Force: Eight Women Fighter Pilots Deployed As On July 1

Permanent Commission Granted To Women In The Army

Last year, the Ministry of Defence issued a formal government sanction letter which directs that permanent commission will be given to all women officers in the Indian Army, especially to those who are registered under Short Service Commission (SSC) in all the ten streams. The news came in the wake of a landmark verdict delivered on February 17, 2020, when the apex court directed that women officers in the Army be granted permanent commission and command postings. Read more here.

Indian Navy’s Women Officers In Maritime Reconnaissance

In October 2020, the Indian Navy operationalised its first batch of women pilots on Dornier Aircraft by the Southern Naval Command (SNC) at Kochi. The press statement from the Indian Navy read, “The three women pilots were part of the six pilots of the 27th Dornier Operational Flying Training (DOFT) Course, who graduated as “Fully operational Maritime Reconnaissance (MR) Pilots’ at a passing out ceremony held at INS Garuda, Kochi on October 22.” Read more here.