New Delhi: Breaking yet another barrier, Indian women are now set to conquer the skies, with the Government on Saturday clearing hurdles for their induction as fighter pilots.
This decision has opened the way, for the first time, for women to be deployed in the country’s air force.
After successful completion of initial training, they will be commissioned in the fighter stream in June 2016 and undergo advanced training for one year.
The Defence Ministry has stated that they will be entering the fighter cockpit by June 2017. Thefirst set of women pilots will be selected from the batch that is presently undergoing flying training at Air Force Academy.
The final nod came a fortnight after Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha indicated an impending decision on inducting women as fighter pilots at the Air Force Day function at Hindon Air Base.
“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 Defence Ministry further stated.
The ministry noted that since their induction into the transport and helicopter streams of the Air Force, women’s performance has been praiseworthy and on a par with their male counterparts.
“Inducting women into the fighter stream would provide them with an equal opportunity to prove their mettle in combat roles as well,” the statement added.
The Defence Ministry has also taken up a “comprehensive review” on induction of women in the armed forces, both in the short service commission and permanent commission. Once finalised, more and more branches will be opened up for women.
The change in Defence Ministry stand on combat role for women came within months.
In March, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had said that induction of women in combat duties has not been recommended by the studies carried out by the Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (HQIDS) in 2006 and High Level Tri-Services Committee in 2011.
“Think of what can happen if a woman is taken as a prisoner in combat operation,” he had said. Parrikar, however, was sympathetic to the demand for inducting women in combat roles.
In 2014, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha said that women were not physically suited for flying fighters for long hours.
According to reports, the air chief had said: “As far as flying fighter planes is concerned, it’s a very challenging job. Women are by nature not physically suited for flying fighters for long hours, especially when they are pregnant or have other health problems.”