On cloud nine: Indian Air Force commissions its first women fighter pilots

'Happy to see the first batch of 3 women pilots entering into combat role in Indian Air Force. #TransformingIndia,' Indian defence minister Manohar Parrikar tweeted today. Picture taken from Manohar Parrikar's twitter account. Photograph:( Twitter )

PTI Hyderabad, India Jun 18, 2016, 10.22 AM (IST)
Creating history, Avani Chaturvedi, Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh today became the first Indian women fighter pilots to be formally commissioned by the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Batting for gender parity in the armed forces, Indian defence minister Manohar Parrikar, who was chief guest at the combined graduation ceremony at Dundugal Air Force Academy, in the southern Telangana state, termed the event as a "milestone" as it also the first time that women had been given a combat role.

"It is a golden letter day...," he said, asserting that "step-by-step", "total gender parity" will be achieved in the armed forces in the coming years.

"There are technical and administrative difficulties which we are likely to face in certain areas, so, step by step we will see that this parity is achieved. Number will depend on how many we can accommodate depending on our infrastructure," Parrikar said.

Expressing happiness, the three women pilots, who successfully completed pre-commissioning training by the flight cadets of various branches of IAF, said they consider themselves "fortunate" and were excited to take on their duties.

The trio will go to Bidar, a city in the southern state of Karnataka, for their stage-III training for a year on Hawk advanced jet trainers, before they get to fly supersonic warplanes.

Six female cadets were competing to become fighter pilots after the Indian government, in a landmark move, approved an IAF plan in October to induct them as fighter pilots.

However, only three female trainees were selected for the fighter stream.

Parrikar, who reviewed the passing out parade, conferred 'President's Commission' on behalf the President to 130 flight cadets, including 22 women trainees, who were commissioned as flying officers.