For the first time, two women officers qualify to train as combat helicopter pilots in the Army Aviation Corps

Published : June 10, 2021 13:01 IST

Women Army officers in New Delhi. A file photo. Photo: Kamal Narang

In yet another instance of breaking the glass ceiling and ensuring a gender-neutral work culture, two women Army officers have been selected to undergo training as combat helicopter pilots in the elite Army Aviation Corps. Until now, women officers in the Indian Army were restricted to performing ground duties.

The women officers are among a group of 47 officers who will undergo training at the Army Aviation Training School in Nashik. An Army spokesperson said on June 9 that the officers, on successful completion of their training at Nashik, would join flying duties by July 2022.

Sources said 15 women officers volunteered to join the Army Aviation Corps, but only two made it past the stringent selection process, including successfully taking the Pilot Aptitude Battery Test (PABT).

In January, the Chief of the Army Staff General Manoj Naravane said in his annual media conference that the proposal to induct women officers as helicopter pilots had been cleared. In May last year, the Army inducted 83 women soldiers into the Corps of Military Police, the first induction of women in a non-officer cadre role.

Now all three branches of the armed forces will have fully trained women officers performing flying duties. In October 2020, the Indian Air Force said it had 1,625 female officers (excluding medical and dental branches), out of which 10 were fighter jet pilots, 50 were helicopter pilots, and 51 were transport pilots. The IAF inducted its first women fighter pilots in June 2016, although the first batch of women transport and helicopter pilots graduated way back in December 1994.

The Indian Navy announced the operationalisation of its first batch of three women pilots on Dornier aircraft in October 2020. The three women Navy pilots were part of the 27th Dornier Operational Flying Training (DOFT) course - and graduated as ‘Fully operational Maritime Reconnaissance (MR) Pilots’.