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IAF not yet ready to deploy Women as fighter pilots

Air Chief Marshal F H Major with the other two chiefs (first from left)

SHILLONG (PTI): With the ethos of the armed forces being overly male, it will take some more time till Indian women don the uniform and the gear of a fighter pilot and fly the combat aircraft for the country's defence.

“There is no denying that the woman staff has expressed desire to fly fighter jets, but the Indian Air Force (IAF) is not ready as of now,” Air Chief Marshal F H Major, told reporters in Shillong recently.

However, Major revealed that the force was in the process of carrying out studies to pave the way for fairer sex in the combat roles.

“We are carrying out physiological studies. We also have to examine certain psychological issues involving the women and the job. Only when these are done, can the women officers be cleared for the new roles,” Major said.

In 2006, a tri-service study recommended excluding women from close-combat roles "where chances of physical contact with the enemy are high".

The chiefs of staff committee recommended in early August that women might be granted permanent commission in select cadres. The Centre a few days back had announced that women in the armed forces would be granted permanent commission in non-combatant roles with same privileges, rights and duties as their male counterparts.

Some senior Air force officials felt allowing women in combat roles involves not only questions of culture, principle and ethics, but also operational demands of the fighting forces -- such as the physical ability to fight, the possibility of hostage situations and the public response that such threats can evoke.

“India is socio-economically and culturally different. Things have to be looked through these perspectives also,” the Air Chief said. Unlike other countries, in India women were first taken into short-service commission in the early 1990s, even though they have been in the armed forces for about 80 years in medical and nursing course.

In the Air Force, women are in ground duties and fly transport aircraft. There are 793 women in the IAF as on date. Of these 63 are from the flying branch, 132 from the technical branch, 126 from the medical and dental branch and the remaining from the non-technical ground duty branches.

In the flying branch, women officers have been flying AN-32, Avro and Dornier aircraft in the transport stream. They are now going to be inducted in advanced platforms like IL-76 aircraft.

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