The first batch of women fighter pilots will be inducted in the Indian Air Force (IAF) on June 18 this year, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha said on Tuesday on the occasion of the International Women's Day. Three women trainees have so far volunteered to join the fighter stream of the force, said IAF chief Raha at a seminar here. "They are under the second phase of their training. Once they complete their training and are at par with their male colleagues... the passing out parade is scheduled on June 18," Raha said.
After getting commissioned, the three trainees will become the first women fighter pilots of India. They will subsequently undergo advanced jet training and proceed to the regular squads. According to IAF officials, the three women pilots are undergoing training at the Air Force Station at Hakimpet in Telangana. They have completed 55 hours out of 86 hours of flying training they need before being inducted.
Women are a small minority in the armed forces. The IAF has about 1,350 women officers, followed by the army with 1,300 and the navy with 450, according to official information. The 1.3 million-strong armed forces have a total of 59,400 officers. The IAF announced in November last year that it would soon be inducting women as fighter pilots. That induction would be on an "experimental basis" for five years, said Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in parliament on more than one occasion. The Indian Navy also is planning to induct women as pilots for reconnaissance aircraft.
President Pranab Mukherjee, in his address to the joint sitting of parliament's both houses at the start of the Budget session, also said that "in future", women would be inducted in all the fighter streams of the armed forces.