New Delhi: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday said there “can be operational and training problems” in inducting women fighter pilots in the Indian Air Force (IAF) even though he said he agreed to the move “in principle”.
The comment comes after the IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, announced on Thursday that women will soon be inducted as fighter pilots.
“In principle we support this. Yes, there can be operational and training problems, but except for that, I see no reason why women should not participate,” Parrikar said on the sidelines of the Territorial Army Day Parade.
He said work is on to formulate a policy in this regard.
“Why can’t women be a part of it? The procedure to come out with a policy for this is going on. Many difficulties arrive and keeping that in mind we will announce a policy soon,” he said.
The minister stressed that the government is against any gender discrimination.
However, he added: “If we take decisions without thinking then there can be serious implications… In principle, we are for inclusion of both the sexes. No gender discrimination should be there. Except when there are operational and training problems,” he said.
According to sources, Parrikar will meet the three service chiefs – Air Chief Marshal Raha, army chief General Dalbir Singh and navy chief Admiral R.K. Dhowan – next week to discuss the issue.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.