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Historic Moment: For the First Time, Indian Air Force inducts Three Women Fighter Pilots into its fighter Squadron

Mohana Singh, Bhawana Kanth and Avani Chaturvedi were commissioned in the fighter stream of the air force on Saturday, June 18, at a parade in Hyderabad

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FILE - A woman poses for a photograph next to an Indian Air Force (IAF) light utility helicopter on display at Yelahanka air base in Bengaluru, February 18, 2015. Image source: Reuters
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  • Women pilots make up about 100 of the air force’s 1,500 pilots
  • Mohana Singh, Bhawana Kanth and Avani Chaturvedi were commissioned in the fighter stream of the air force 
  • These Three women fighter pilots will be trained for a year before they get to fly supersonic warplanes by next year in 2017

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has inducted three female fighter pilots marking the first time one of the world’s largest militaries has opened the door to women in combat roles.

Mohana Singh, Bhawana Kanth and Avani Chaturvedi were commissioned in the fighter stream of the air force on Saturday at a parade in Hyderabad.

It’s a huge step forward for the 1.2 million strong Indian armed forces that has trailed countries like the United States, Britain, Israel and neighboring Pakistan in allowing women into the cockpit of fighter jets.

The Indian air force could blaze the trail for the army and navy. In February 2016, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee announced in parliament that women will be allowed in all fighter streams of the armed forces.

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Asked about the challenges she is likely to encounter as a woman fighter pilot, Mohana Singh shrugged, “Nothing different from my male counterparts, as much as they face.”

Women pilots make up about 100 of the air force’s 1,500 pilots, but have so far served only in helicopter and transport units.

Three women pilots-Bhawana Kath, Avani Chaturvedi and Mohana Singh the newest fighter pilots of Indian Air Force who were inducted into the force on Saturday in Hyderabad. Image Courtesy: K.V.S. Giri
Three women pilots-Bhawana Kath, Avani Chaturvedi and Mohana Singh the newest fighter pilots of Indian Air Force who were inducted into the force on Saturday in Hyderabad. Image Courtesy: K.V.S. Giri

The three women fighter pilots will be trained for a year on Hawk advanced trainer jets before they get to fly supersonic warplanes by next year.

The Indian air force has called their induction a “progressive step in keeping with the aspirations of Indian women and in line with contemporary trends in armed forces of developed nations.”

But it also says the induction has been made on an “experimental basis,” which it will study for five years. Observers take that as an indication that although a step forward has been taken, gender parity will only creep in slowly in the armed forces.

For the Indian forces, women’s vulnerability if captured and the challenge of frontline deployments have been major sticking points.

Former air vice marshal Manmohan Bahadur with the Center for Air Power Studies in New Delhi told VOA the armed forced are taking a cautious approach. “So the point is: Is putting women in combat in harm’s way that has to be accepted by society. For India it has happened now, in other countries it has happened earlier,” he says.

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Part of the nudge to change attitudes towards women came from courts, which have ruled in favor of better working conditions for female officers and called on the armed forces not to block their progress. Until 2010, they were only offered temporary commissions of up to five to 10 years.  Women constitute a mere 2.5 percent of armed personnel, most of them administrators, intelligence officers, doctors and nurses.

Bahadur says the change in attitude to women in combat will happen slowly. “It is a natural tendency to shield the women. That may happen in the initial stages, but after some time, it will become a day in and day out affair and then it does not matter. So it is a gradual process that should be allowed to take place.”

The induction of the three women received huge coverage in the Indian media with newspaper headlines like “Women Fighter Pilots Break Cloud Ceiling,” and “No Sky Too High.”

Meanwhile, the female fighter pilots are excited about their pioneering role. “The only thing I would like to say is dream big and work for it. If you really wish to do something, all the ways will automatically open for you,” says newly commissioned fighter pilot, Avani Chaturvedi. (VOA)

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  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Yes, these women are making their way breaking all the stereotypes. Women pilots in IAF is a great achievement by them.

Next Story

It’s not what you wear, but the way you wear it

Men lack the enzyme which processes self-awareness, which is why we think we look good in Speedos

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A lot depends upon what we wear and how we carry it. Wikimedia Common
A lot depends upon what we wear and how we carry it. Wikimedia Common

Definition of being behind on the laundry: When you find yourself seriously considering wearing a Halloween costume to work.

I expected my wife to veto the idea, but she was okay with it, saying: “It’s not what you wear that counts, but whether you can carry it off.”

Mind you, this was a phone conversation and so she couldn’t see what I was wearing. In the event, going to work in a killer clown outfit was not as bad as it might have been, and the fake bloodstains on the costume proved advantageous. Fellow passengers quickly gave me a seat on the bus — actually, a whole block of seats.

Also Read: Get quirky with your shoes

The main (and possibly only) advantage of marriage for guys is that we are given full-time aides (“wives”) who generally prevent us going out looking too ridiculous. Men lack the enzyme which processes self-awareness, which is why we think we look good in Speedos.

Proof: In my true-crime file is a report about a criminal fugitive on the run in Japan who disguised himself in a girls’ sailor suit school uniform. Since he was a tall man with massive shoulders, he managed to evade detection for only minutes.

Definition of being behind on the laundry: When you find yourself seriously considering wearing a Halloween costume to work. Wikimedia Commons
Definition of being behind on the laundry: When you find yourself seriously considering wearing a Halloween costume to work. Wikimedia Commons

Another true story: Last year, a pair of bank robbers decided to dress as women to scope out a bank in Thomasville, Florida. The result was the opposite of what they expected: They became the centre of attention, of course.

It is really hard for men to dress convincingly as females as we lack the two main things that make a woman a woman — good taste, and the ability to walk with our feet clamped in instruments of torture known as “lady’s shoes”.

There’s one exception which proves my point. In November last year, the coach of the Thailand women’s kabaddi team was dismayed to find out that males were banned from attending women’s sports events in Iran, where his team was playing. So he wrapped his head in a female scarf and marched straight in.

Also Read: Why Do People Get Aggressive After Drinking?

He fooled nobody but correctly judged that the women would be too nice to throw him out. Smart guy.

Our UK correspondent shared a sad news item about a group of men who raised money for their local hospital by dressing as nurses and pushing a bed around town. The hospital refused to accept the cash as they said it was considered politically incorrect for men to dress as nurses these days.

It is really hard for men to dress convincingly as females as we lack the two main things that make a woman a woman. Wikimedia Commons
It is really hard for men to dress convincingly as females as we lack the two main things that make a woman a woman. Wikimedia Commons

This seems unfair, as I have seen marathon runners dressed as bananas, dinosaurs and Q-Tips without complaint from fruit sellers, palaeontologists or people who like to poke things in their ears.

But the political issues surrounding women’s clothes are complex. In 2011 someone organised a “slutwalk” in Canada. This involved scantily-clad females marching down the road with protest banners. When the Slutwalk arrived in Asia, the women were fully covered up and many of the marchers were male; so the event missed the point, a bit like the Animal Rights Barbecue that a friend of mine once tried to organise.

Also Read: 7 Unfailing Ways To Impress Your Lady Love & Swoon Her Off Her Feet

Anyway, like my wife says, it’s not what you wear but how you wear it. By the way, I look great in a Speedo. (IANS)

(Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveller. Send ideas and comments via his Facebook page)