Government makes experimental scheme to induct women fighter pilots permanent

Over six years after the Indian Air Force (IAF) had started accepting women pilots on an experimental basis, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has decided to convert it into a permanent scheme, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced on Tuesday, calling it a testimony to the government’s commitment towards women empowerment.

He tweeted, “The MoD has decided to convert the Experimental Scheme for Induction of Women Fighter Pilots in the Indian Air Force into a permanent scheme. It is a testimony to the capability of India’s ‘Nari Shakti’ and our PM Shri @narendramodi ’s commitment towards women empowerment.”

Till date, 16 women fighter pilots have been commissioned in the IAF. The MoD has now given clearance to make it a permanent scheme.

The Defence Ministry had approved allowing women to join the Air Force as fighter pilots in 2015, but the scheme for “Induction of Women SSC officers in Fighter Stream of Flying Branch” began in 2016.

Women fighter pilots came into the spotlight just last week, when Flight Lieutenant Shivangi Singh, India’s first female pilot for the Rafale fighter aircraft, was seen standing on the Air Force’s tableau in the Republic Day parade. She was the second-ever woman fighter pilot to be part of the Republic Day parade, the first being Flight Lieutenant Bhawna Kanth, who was a part of Air Force’s tableau in 2021.

Last year has given a major boost to women joining the armed forces, as, after intervention from the Supreme Court, women have been allowed to join the National Defence Academy, that feeds officers into the three forces. Nearly a third of the candidates who appeared for the NDA’s entrance test in November were women.

The Supreme Court had also intervened in 2020 to push the Army to allow Permanent Commission to women in all non-combat streams.

A year ago, then Minister of State for Defence Shripad Naik had told the Rajya Sabha on February 8, 2021, that for 12,18,036 men in the Army, it only has 6,807 women. Similarly, in the Air Force, the men to women ratio was 1,46,727 to 1,607. In the Navy there were only 704 women, for 10,108 men.

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