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In a historic first, two woman officers to operate Indian Navy warship

In a historic first, two Indian Navy women officers have qualified to be deployed on a frontline warship as part of crew, while a woman pilot is being trained to join the Rafale fighter jet fleet.

Sub Lt Kumudini Tyagi and Sub Lt Riti Singh are set to join as “Observers” (Airborne Tacticians) in the helicopter stream. Earlier, entry of women was restricted to fixed wing aircraft that operated from shore. Both of them now will undergo “specialist training” for the particular helicopter on which they will be deployed.

The Indian Navy has shortlisted two woman officers as crew for helicopters, which will make them the first woman air combatants to stay on and operate from the deck of a ship once deployed.

However, the Indian Air Force is also providing training to a woman fighter pilot to join India’s Rafale fleet. The woman pilot who is already flying MiG 21 will soon join Ambala-based Golden Arrows squadron of Rafale. So far, the IAF has got five Rafale jets from France and additional four are expected to arrive by next month. IAF is already carrying familiarisation sortie of Rafale jets in Ladakh sector as a process of operational conversion. Identity of the woman pilot has been kept secret owing to service sensitivity.

According to the Indian Navy, both women officers are part of a group of 17 officers of the Indian Navy, including four women officers and three officers of the Indian Coast Guard who were awarded “Wings” on graduating as “Observers” at a ceremony held on Monday at the INS Garuda, Kochi.  They have been selected as crew for the Navy’s multi-role helicopter fleet, MH -60 Romeo, which is being procured from the United States.

The IAF has 10 women fighter pilots, as it opened its fighter stream for women in 2016. First women fighter pilots Flight Lt Avani Chaturvedi, Flt Lt Bhawanna Kanth and Flt Lt Mohana Singh have been flying a variety of fighter jets including Su 30 Mki and MiG 21.

As on Last week, the Indian Army commenced proceedings of the Special Selection Board to screen women officers for grant of permanent commission. Women officers who qualify in the screening process will be granted permanent commission subject to being in minimum acceptable medical category. The move happened after the Supreme Court in February directed the government that women officers should not only be granted permanent commission but also command postings.


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