Amid the increase of women pilots and ground crew in the Indian Air Force (IAF), women in the force are operating fighter aircraft and choppers extensively over Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.
Indian Air Force officials in eastern command said that women pilots and ground crew officers are deployed across the country and operate in all types of terrain. Female fighter aircraft and chopper pilots conducted operations flying indigenously-developed ALH Dhruv Mark 3 choppers.
Indian Women Pilots
ALH Dhruv Mark 3 pilots Flight Lieutenants Ani Awasthi and A Nain regularly fly their choppers over the Arunachal Pradesh sector and close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Recently, the IAF made history by assigning two women fighter pilots to fly Chinook helicopters near the Indo-China border. Squadron Leaders Parul Bhardwaj and Swati Rathore were assigned to fly Chinook helicopter units in the northern and eastern sectors near the LAC.
Both Bhardwaj and Rathore were flying Mi-17V5 helicopters before being moved to the Chinook units. In 2019, Bhardwaj had captioned the Mi-17V5’s maiden all-women flight. In 2021, Rathore became the first women helicopter pilot to take part in a Republic Day flypast over Kartavya Path (previously known as Rajpath).
Speaking with ANI, India’s first Weapon System Operator of the Su-30 MKI fighter jet fleet Flight Lieutenant Tejaswi mentioned that “brilliant women” had broken the glass ceiling and paved a way for women to follow their dreams to serve the country.
Tejaswi added, “It is no longer a unique experience to have women in the fighter aircraft fleet.” She said, “We are all first and foremost air warriors first and everything else comes after that”.
In 2016, an experimental scheme for the induction of women into the IAF’s fighter stream was implemented. Earlier this year, the experimental scheme was given clearance from the defence ministry and turned into a permanent scheme. The National Defence Academy welcomed its first batch of female cadets in August 2022.
Currently, the Indian Air Force has more than 1300 female officers working on ground and air duties. The number of women pilots is expected to increase due to government policies and the possibility of induction of women in the Agniveer scheme.