Women to fly Rafale, fighter helicopters, breaking the glass ceiling in armed forces! A giant leap for gender equality

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New Delhi | September 23, 2020 12:47 PM

Sub Lieutenant Kumudini Tyagi and Sub Lieutenant Riti Singh were graduated as 'Observers' (airborne tacticians) in the helicopter stream and would be deployed on warships as part of the crew.

kumudini tyagi, kumudini tyagi and riti singh, avani chaturvedi, iaf full form, iaf news, iaf aircraft, iaf ranks, indian navy news, indian navy news, rafale India, rafale jet, rafale news, women in armed forcesSub Lieutenant Kumudini Tyagi and Sub Lieutenant Riti Singh and flying officer Avani Chaturvedi.

September 21 will always be remembered as the red-letter day when women in India broke the glass ceiling by getting key roles in the armed forces. In a historic first, the Indian Navy has announced that it had selected two women officers as helicopter crew for deployment on frontline warships on short and long-duration missions. On the same day, the Indian Air Force said that in a first a woman fighter pilot of the IAF would soon join the newly-inducted Rafale fighter fleet as one of its crew flying the multi-role air dominance aircraft.

Remember the names – Sub Lieutenant Kumudini Tyagi and Sub Lieutenant Riti Singh

Sub Lieutenant Kumudini Tyagi and Sub Lieutenant Riti Singh were graduated as ‘Observers’ (airborne tacticians) in the helicopter stream and would be deployed on warships as part of the crew. As observers, the two officers will be part of the teams managing various combat and tactical aspects of the operations of naval helicopters from frontline warships when the choppers are deployed on a range of missions. Tyagi and Singh were part of a group of 17 officers including three officers of the Indian Coast Guard who were awarded ‘Wings’ on graduating as ‘Observers’ at a ceremony held at INS Garuda in Kochi on Monday, the Indian Navy said.

Why is this significant?

Prior to the historic announcement, the Indian Navy did not deploy women officers on board warships unlike navies from countries like the US, the UK, Australia, Germany and France. “In yet another first in the history of Indian naval aviation, two women officers have been selected to join as ‘observers’ in the helicopter stream. They would in effect be the first set of women airborne combatants who would be operating from warships,” the Indian Navy said in a statement.

Several senior Navy officials, on the condition of anonymity, told IE that the selection of the two officers for the new role is very significant. He/she added that it is a precursor to having women commanding officers for frontline warships. The Navy generally deploys women staffers in logistics and medical wings on-board fleet tankers, but it will be for the first time they will be onboard destroyers and frigates, as per a PTI report.

Before 1992, Indian Navy used to induct women officers only in the medical stream. From July 1992, the Indian Navy started inducting women officials through a special entry scheme. Later women officers got selected through the Short Service Commission. However, the deployment was restricted in only select branches of the Navy. Throughout the years, several branches were added to the list. Women in the Indian Navy are inducted as Commissioned Officers, as per IE rport.

In December 2019, the Indian Navy stated that a woman officer was inducted as a Dornier aircraft pilot. Dornier aircraft is a fixed-wing aircraft operating from ashore establishments. In March 2020, the Supreme Court had upheld the right of serving women officers from the Short Service Commission in the India Navy to be eligible for the getting permanent commission (PC).

Woman fighter pilot to fly Rafale

The woman pilot has been flying MiG-21 fighters and was selected to join the Ambala-based Golden Arrows squadron operating the Rafale jets, PTI quoted official as saying. “Rafale is the most potent aircraft and having a woman pilot among its select crew is very significant,” said a senior military official on the condition of anonymity, as per a PTI report.

In 2018, flying officer Avani Chaturvedi scripted history by becoming the first Indian woman to fly a fighter aircraft solo. She flew a MiG-21 bison in her first solo flight. Chaturvedi was part of a three-member women team commissioned as flying officers in July 2016. In 2015, the Central government decided to open the fighter stream for women on an experimental basis. The other two women pilots were Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh. At present, the IAF has 10 women fighter pilots and 18 women navigators. The total strength of women officers serving in the IAF is 1,875, the PTI report said.

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