India’s air force will induct its first female fighter pilots in June, the country’s air force chief said.
Arup Raha told the Press Trust of India news agency that three female pilots will complete their training and be inducted into the force on 18 June.
Last month President Pranab Mukherjee announced that women will be allowed in all combat roles in the armed forces.
Women currently comprise just 2.5% of the armed forces, working mostly in non-combat roles.
“We inducted women as pilots in 1991, but on only helicopter and transport [planes]. I must thank the defence minister for having approved the Indian Air Force’s proposal to induct women as fighter pilots,” Mr Raha said.
Very soon…on 18 June, the air force will get women fighter pilots.”
Mr Raha said “as of now three women trainees have volunteered to join the fighter stream”.
In 2014, Mr Raha had expressed reservations about inducting women fighter pilots, saying that “women by nature are not physically suited for flying fighter planes for long hours, especially when they are pregnant or have other health problems”.
But in October, he changed his stance, saying the air force was planning to induct women fighter pilots “to meet the aspirations of young women of India”.
Neighbouring Pakistan has about 20 female fighter pilots – the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) began inducting women into combat roles in 2006.