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IAF mulling to induct women as combat cadre


NewsGram Staff Writer

New Delhi:   Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, chief of Indian Air Force, on Thursday that said that soon there would be female cadres working as fighter pilots in the Indian Air Force, making it the first of three defence services to include women in a combat role.
“We have women pilots flying transport aircraft and helicopters, we are now planning to induct them into the fighter stream to meet the aspirations of young women of India,” ACM Raha said at the 83rd Air Force Day parade at Hindon air base, New Delhi.

Statements from some highly placed sources said that Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar will meet the three service chiefs, ACM Raha, army chief General Dalbir Singh and the navy chief Admiral RK Dhowan, next week to discuss the issue.

Women pilots meanwhile welcomed the move. “We feel proud and thankful that chief has made this announcement. It gives us a feeling of parity in the force,” Squadron Leader Tina Mathew said.

“However, men and women are treated equally in the air force… we might be in different roles and may not be crossing over the territory but if need arise we will do whatever is in our nation’s interest,” she said.

The air force chief said it will take at least one year to start the process, and around three years before women would be flying fighters.

“The air force has the largest number of women in the three services. We have more than 1,300 women officers,” said ACM Raha, adding, “The air force has a different environment. We operate from bases, so women can have good opportunity to fly fighters.”

“This is a progressive step. We want to progress… Many air forces have women fighter pilots,” he said.

He, however, added, “Women pilots may have problems in term of physical fitness but it can be overcome.”

Interestingly, on May 12, 2014, ACM Raha had said that women were not suited for flying fighters.

“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,” he had told reporters in Kanpur.

Earlier this year, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar also ruled out combat role for women.

Perhaps because of this, Raha came up with a rider on Thursday, saying talks were on with the government on the issue and presently the proposal is with defence ministry.

“We want it to happen as soon as possible. We are talking with defence ministry and presently the case is with the ministry. I am sure it will be approved,” he said.

“I hope in one year we can see women being inducted as fighter pilots, but it will take time for the training. It will take at least three years to make it operational,” he said.

The Indian armed forces have so far shied away from inducting women in combat roles. Neighbor Pakistan already has at least five woman fighter pilots.

Raha, however, said women fighter pilots might not necessarily be sent on cross-border combat missions in case of hostilities.

“Women fighter pilots need not necessarily get involved in combat across border. There are many tasks within the country,” said the air chief, adding, “If the need arises, they maybe sent.”

The IAF chief said that presently there are over 1,300 women officers, and 110 women pilots who fly transport aircraft and helicopters.

ACM Raha’s announcement comes after repeated denial by many of his predecessors as well as the political leadership against assigning women combat roles in the armed forces.

Women form a very minor section in the armed forces, with the IAF having the highest number at 1,350 followed by the army with 1,300 and the navy with 350 women officers, according to official information.

The 1.3 million-strong armed forces have 59,400 officers.

The US, Russian and Turkish air forces, among others permit women in combat roles.

Women were first inducted in the Military Nursing Service in 1927 and in the medical officers’ cadre in 1943. They were enabled to join the armed forces in 1992 on short service commissions.

Women SSCOs are eligible for consideration for grant of permanent commission in specified branches in terms of Government Policy letters dated September 26, 2008 and November 11, 2011.

In a written reply in parliament in July, Parrikar had said that so far, 340 Women SSCOs have been granted permanent commission in the armed forces.

(With inputs from IANS)

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Operation Meghdoot: Role of Indian Air Force

Indian Air Force backed the Indian Army during Operation Meghdoot by supplying troops and stores

Ensign of Indian Air Force. Wikimedia commons
Ensign of Indian Air Force. Wikimedia commons
  • Operation Meghdoot’s objective was to capture the Siachen Glacier.
  • Indian Army expeditions were going on in the high-altitude region.
  • IAF was tasked with supporting the troops with backup and supplies.

Operation Meghdoot was launched in 1984, it aimed to capture the Siachen Glacier. It was quite a unique operation because of Siachen’s dreaded terrain and unforgiving climate. The mission was a successful one, India gained control over the Siachen Glacier.

India now controls the 70 kilometres long glacier and the three major passes west of it (Sia La, Bilafond La, and Gyong La. Whereas Pakistan controls the area west of Saltoro Ridge. The TIME magazine states, India has control over 1,000 square miles of territory because of its exceptional military operation.

You may also like: 20 Amazing Facts About Indian Navy

Siachen glacier, known as the third pole of the world, is one of the most dreaded places in the world. Mainly due to its temperature and terrain. Wikimedia commons
Siachen glacier, known as the third pole of the world, is one of the most dreaded places in the world. Mainly due to its temperature and terrain. Wikimedia Commons

IAF had played a major role in this operation. It used Il-76, An-12, and An-32 to transport troops and drop supplies to these extremely high altitude battlefields. Following which, Mi-17, Mi-8 and HAL Chetak would carry the same to the east.

IAF’s performance was incredible, taking into account how extreme the temperature and altitude are at Siachen. The operation is a saga which showcased such skill that can never be forgotten.

IAF's uncompromising valour made it possible for the Indian Army to capture the Siachen Glacier. Wikimedia commons
IAF’s uncompromising valour made it possible for the Indian Army to capture the Siachen Glacier. Wikimedia Commons

Role of Indian Air Force

When the first IAF sortie was launched to Siachen on 20th September 1978, Chetak helicopters used to supply stores to the on-ground Indian Army. That’s when a thought occurred to one of the IAF officers “Why not pick their emails for their loved ones back home?” They used to drop a string with a note saying “We are coming back in 10 minutes. Please write your letters and put them in a bag.”

This kind gesture of the Indian Air Force symbolized the brotherhood of ‘men in arms’. It also boosted the morale of Indian Army troops who were leading expeditions on the ‘third pole of the world’.

Also read: All you want to know about the ranks of Indian army

IAF operates from 60 bases across the country. Wikimedia commons
IAF operates from 60 bases across the country. Wikimedia Commons

IAF helicopters used to fly at the height of 16,000 feet, many times, the officers had to take oxygen directly from the pipe. They also had the job of taking injured troops back to base camp. However, it isn’t as simple as it sounds.

Finding the expedition parties in the never-ending desert of ice, then landing the helicopter on the lumps of snow were tasks that required unmistakable skill.

IAF is the fourth most powerful air force in the world. Wikimedia commons
IAF is the fourth most powerful air force in the world. Wikimedia Commons

How IAF operates in Siachen now

Indian Air Force has a far different set of procedures than that of the time of Operation Meghdoot. The operations are scientifically planned and executed meticulously.

  • IL-76s and An-32s supply stores to the men in Leh and Thoise from Chandigarh.
  • Thereafter, Mi-17 helicopters airdrop supplies to the lower level helipads at 17,500 feets.
  • Cheetahs then take over and ferry the supplies to helipads situated at 20,000 feet.