NEW DELHI: The induction of women as fighter pilots in the Indian Air Force was cleared today by the government in a landmark move for the armed forces which have so far dithered over combat role for women.
As per the plan, the first women pilots would be selected from the batch which is presently undergoing flying training at Air Force Academy.
After successful completion of ab-initio training, they would be commissioned in the fighter stream in June 2016. Thereafter, they would undergo advanced training for one year and would enter a fighter cockpit by June 2017, the Defence Ministry said in a statement.
"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," it said.
The air force currently has about 1,500 women on its rolls of which 94 are pilots (helicopter and transport aircraft) and 14 navigators. The move is in sync with global trends and will help IAF overcome shortage of officers in the fighter aircraft stream.
Earlier this month, on 83rd Air Force Day, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha had announced that women would soon be inducted as fighter pilots, making IAF the first of the three services to have women in active front-line combat roles.
The Ministry said that the performance of women, inducted into transport and helicopter streams of the IAF, has been "praiseworthy" and at par with their male colleagues.
"Inducting women into the fighter stream would provide them with an equal opportunity to prove their mettle in combat roles as well," the ministry said.
With this decision to open up induction of women in the fighter stream, women have become eligible for induction in all branches and streams of the IAF.
The IAF is presently inducting women in the Transport and Helicopter stream of the flying branch, Navigation, Aeronautical Engineering, Administration, Logistics, Accounts, Education and Meteorology branches.
The Ministry of Defence has also taken up a comprehensive review pertaining to induction of women in Armed Forces, both in short service commission and permanent commission, and once finalised, more branches would be opened up for induction of women to give them the space which they deserve in the Armed Forces of the country, the statement said.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had been batting for increased role of women in the armed forces but had said that it will take some time.
"It has to be done in a phase-wise manner. It won't happen immediately," Parrikar had said on October 12, adding that the final notification on inducting women as fighter aircraft pilots would also take sometime. He also cited that the United Arab Emirates Air Force has women fighter-plane pilots who had carried out strikes on ISIS targets.
Presently, the Indian Army is inducting women into the Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation (Air Traffic Control), Army Air Defence, Electronics and Mechanical Engineers, Army Service Corps, Army Ordinance Corps, Intelligence Corps, Army Education Corps and Judge Advocate Generals Branches/Cadres.
The Indian Navy is inducting women in the Judge Advocate Generals, Logistics, Observer, Air Traffic Controller, Naval Constructor and Education branches/cadres.
However, it has moved a proposal to induct women as pilots for its fleet of surveillance aircraft. The three services were till now cold to the idea of having women in combat roles and cited a number of reasons ranging from deployment issues to lodging and physical parameters.