NEW DELHI, June 19 (UPI) — The Indian air force has commissioned its first three female fighter pilots.
The three women in their early 20s — Mohana Singh, Bhawana Kanth and Avani Chaturvedi — were inducted in the fighter stream of the air force Saturday at a parade in Hyderabad.
In February, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee announced that women will be allowed in all armed forces in the nation.
India’s air force includes 1.2 million people. One-hundred women are among the air force’s 1,500 pilots, but they previously served only in helicopter and transport units.
The three women, who already have 150 hours of flying, will be trained at Bidar or Kalaikunda airbase for one year on Hawk advanced trainer jets before switching to warplanes that include Sukhoi-30MKIs and Mirage-2000s.
The Indian air force said induction is on an “experimental basis” over five years but noted it’s a “progressive step in keeping with the aspirations of Indian women and in line with contemporary trends in armed forces of developed nations.”
“So the point is: Is putting women in combat in harm’s way that has to be accepted by society,” former air vice marshal Manmohan Bahadur with the Center for Air Power Studies in New Delhi told Voice of America India. “It has happened now. In other countries it has happened earlier.”