India’s 120,000 strong air force comprises just 1,500 women, of whom 108 are transport and helicopter pilots
India’s Ministry of Defence on Saturday approved the induction of women into the fighter (combat) stream of the Indian Air Force (IAF), shaking off its reluctance to entrust women with greater responsibilities.
The decision comes after Indian courts pushed the military to widen opportunities for women in recent years; by giving them permanent commissions, for example, instead of limiting them to five-year terms.
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While Pakistan, United States and Israel have women flying their fighter planes, India’s military had kept women out of that role, as well as frontline warships and ground combat. This is the first time that women will be in combat role in India’a armed forces.
The first women pilots are set to be chosen from the batch which is presently undergoing training at the Air Force Academy. They are expected to be commissioned into the fighter stream by June 2016 according to a statement by the ministry of defence.
“They will then undergo advanced training for one year and would enter a fighter cockpit by June 2017,” the statement said.
“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 in India,” Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha had said at Hindon air force station on the IAF’s 83rd anniversary earlier in October.
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However, despite a 2010 high court verdict that granted women officers the right to permanent commissions, the decision has not yet been implemented. India’s army, comprising 1.1 million troops, ranks among the world’s largest. However, its air force which is around 120,000 strong has just 1,500 women, of whom 108 are transport and helicopter pilots.
This article originally appeared on Times of India