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It is no longer an ‘experiment’ after 16 female jet pilots

With the commissioning of 16 female fighter pilots into the Indian Air Force, what began as an experiment has become a permanent fixture. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Tuesday that the government has decided to make the pilot plan permanent.

This clears the way for more women to fly combat planes in the future.


The first woman Rafale fighter aircraft pilot, Shivangi Singh, was spotted on the IAF tableau during the Republic Day celebration. Flight Lieutenant Bhawna Kanth became the Indian Air Force’s first female fighter pilot last year.

The experimental plan to recruit female fighter pilots began in 2016. Initially, three female fighter pilots were among the first cohort, but the number quickly expanded. There are now 16 female pilots flying fighter planes such as the Rafale, Su30 MKI, and MiG 21 Bison.


With their induction as fighter pilots in the Indian Air Force in 2015, women gained access to combat positions formerly exclusive for men in the armed services.

The Army has also allowed women to fly in its aviation department, and the Navy has female officers onboard vessels.


Other opportunities are emerging as well. The Indian Army elevated five women to the rank of Colonel last year after they had served for 26 years.

This was the first time that a woman officer rose to the rank of Colonel outside of the Army Medical Corps (AMC), Judge Advocate General (JAG), and Army Education Corps (AEC) (AEC). Women can now enlist as cadets at the National Defense Academy.


Since the Supreme Court’s decision in February 2020, the Indian Army has given permanent commissions to 577 women officers.

Women officers are still barred from serving in the infantry, artillery, and armoured corps, the Army’s combat wings stationed in the most advanced regions.