New Delhi: The Indian Navy has shortlisted two woman officers as crew for helicopters, which will make them the first woman air combatants to stay on and operate from the deck of a ship once deployed.
The Navy said Sub Lieutenants Riti Singh and Kumudini Tyagi have been shortlisted as observers in the helicopter stream. Observers are supposed to calculate the threat and designate the target.
Meanwhile, the Indian Air Force, the first branch of the armed forces to put women in combat roles, is set to deploy a woman pilot to the Ambala-based 17 Squadron that has recently been equipped with the new Rafale aircraft, according to sources.
Navy’s glass ceiling broken
Sub Lt Singh and Sub Lt Tyagi were awarded golden wings along with other officers of the 22nd Short Service Course in a ceremony at the Southern Naval Command, Kochi, Monday. Rear Admiral Antony George, Chief Staff Officer (Training), said at the ceremony that it is a landmark occasion as women are going to be trained in helicopter operations for the first time, which will ultimately pave the way for their deployment in frontline warships of the Indian Navy.
The Navy said in a statement that they will, in effect, be the first set of woman airborne combatants to operate from warships. So far, woman officers in the Navy have been restricted to fixed wing aircraft that took off and landed ashore.
Sources said Sub Lt Tyagi and Sub Lt Singh will now get trained on board Medium Role Helicopters. The Navy currently operates SeaKing choppers but has ordered 24 American MH-60 ‘Romeo’ helicopters, priced at about $2.4 billion.
Sources said that since the flights operate from the deck of the ship, the woman officers will stay on board the vessel itself. “They will eventually be deployed on the ships once they clear their training,” a Navy source said.
Woman pilot in Rafale squadron
Meanwhile, the IAF woman pilot, whose name has been withheld for operational reasons, is undergoing preparations for induction into the Rafale squadron.
This pilot, who currently flies the MiG-21 Bison, has been undergoing conversion training since August, sources in the defence establishment said.
The government had approved woman fighter pilots in 2016, and since then, the IAF has 10 such pilots and more in training. Conversion training is the course that the pilots undertake when they switch from flying one aircraft to another.
(An earlier version of this report stated that the sub lieutenants would be the first woman officers to be deployed aboard a warship, but they are the first air combatants. The error is regretted.)