Flight Lieutenant Shivangi Singh is set to become India’s first woman fighter pilot to fly the Rafale aircraft that was formally inducted into the Indian Air Force on 10 September, officials familiar with the matter said on 23 September.
Singh, who hails from Varanasi, is currently being trained to fly IAF’s newest fighter based in Ambala. She is undergoing conversion training to fly the Rafale jet and will soon join the Ambala-based No. 17 squadron, also known as “Golden Arrows.”
The officer, who is one of IAF’s 10 women fighter pilots, joined the air force in 2017. After joining IAF, she has been flying the MiG-21 Bison aircraft and was till recently serving at a fighter base in Rajasthan, the officials added on condition of anonymity.
Ten women have been commissioned as fighter pilots after the experimental scheme for their induction into IAF’s combat stream was introduced in 2015, a watershed in the air force’s history. IAF is operating its Rafale fighter jets in the Ladakh theatre where the military is on its highest state of alert, amid heightened border tensions with China. IAF’s current fleet of five Rafale fighters is fully operational and ready to undertake any mission, officials said.
India ordered 36 Rafale jets from France in a deal worth Rs 59,000 crore in September 2016. The air force formally inducted the planes at the Ambala air base on 10 September though they landed at their home base on 29 July.
The next batch of three to four Rafale jets is expected to reach Ambala from France in October followed by a third batch in December. All deliveries will be completed by the end of 2021.
The head count of women in the military adds up to more than 4,000, but combat roles were off limits to them until IAF took the lead in crushing internal resistance to induct them into the fighter stream.
Tanks and combat positions in the infantry are still no-go zones for women, who were allowed to join the armed forces outside the medical stream for the first time in 1992.
Warships are no longer a no-go zone for women naval aviators with two of them set to become the first women in the navy’s history to operate from flight decks of warships and stay on board the vessels, the navy announced on 21 September.
Sub Lieutenants Kumudini Tyagi and Riti Singh have been selected for the helicopter stream.
“The struggle of two decades has culminated into this storm! In the past three years so much has progressed and now we are seeing yet another door opening .Absolutely delighted that the air force has not dithered and true to its grain has handed over the newest machine to Shivangi. Go girl ….Touch the sky with glory,” said Wing Commander Anupama Joshi (retd), from the first batch of women officers commissioned in the IAF in early1990s.