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Army to have women pilots in frontline operational units by next year, says chief Naravane

Army chief General M.M. Naravane says women officers will undergo pilot training beginning July, & after a year of training they will serve in frontline operational units for flying duties.

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New Delhi: The Army plans to induct women officers soon for combat roles in the flying branch of the Army Aviation Corps as early as next year, Army chief General M.M. Naravane said Tuesday. 

Addressing the media ahead of Army Day on 15 January, the Army chief said that just a month ago, he had proposed that Army aviation should have women pilots.

So far, the Army does not have women officers in the flying branch, unlike the Indian Air Force and the Navy. The Army has women officers deployed at the ATC (Air Traffic Control) for ground duties.

The Army chief said that women officers will undergo pilot training in the next course beginning July, and after a year of training they would be serving in frontline operational units for flying duties.

“The Adjutant General’s branch, the Military Secretary branch, the Aviation Directorate have also reached a consensus that women officers should be there for flying duties,” General Naravane said. 

Armoured Corps, Mechanised Infantry and Infantry comprise the combat arms of the Indian Army, while combat support arms include Artillery, Corps of Engineers, Corps of Army Air Defence, Army Aviation Corps, Corps of Signals.

Also read: What India, Saudi, UAE look to gain from Gen. Naravane trip, a first by an Indian Army chief

‘Going to be a path-changing move’

Naravane’s statement comes after the Army in November last year found 422 women officers eligible for permanent commission out of 615 officers, who were screened by a Special Number 5 Selection Board. Many of them had fought a legal battle lasting over 14 years.

The eligible women officers are of the rank of majors and lieutenant colonels. Many of them have already served in the Army for over 20 years, but had not been given promotions since the matter was sub-judice.

“It’s going to be a path-changing move. Till now, women were not considered for flying duties. With this, they will also be shouldering the challenging responsibilities at the frontline along with their male counterparts,” a senior woman Army officer told ThePrint.

As of now, women Army officers are eligible for permanent commission in Army Aviation, Army Air Defence, Signals, Engineers, Electronics and Mechanical Engineers, Army Service Corps, Army Ordnance Corps, and Intelligence Corps, in addition to Judge and Advocate General and the Army Educational Corps, where women officers were given permanent commission in 2008. 

The Army Aviation Corps is one of the youngest corps of the Indian Army and operates a fleet of Chetak, Cheetah, Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv, and Rudra helicopters. The main roles of the choppers include observation, reconnaissance, casualty evacuations, load drops as well as search and rescue operations. 

Assets of the corps were also deployed during the Galwan clashes in eastern Ladakh on 15 June for search and rescue, and other operations. 

Also read: Ready to hold ground in eastern Ladakh ‘for as long as needed’ — Army chief Gen Naravane


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