Rafale fleet to have first woman pilot soon

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New Delhi: A woman fighter pilot of the Indian Air Force will soon join the newly-inducted Rafale fighter fleet as one of its crew flying the multi-role air dominance aircraft, official sources said on Monday.

The woman pilot has been flying MiG-21 fighters and was selected to join the Ambala-based Golden Arrows squadron operating the Rafale jets, they said without divulging her name.

“She was chosen to fly Rafale jets following a stringent selection process. She is undergoing training now,” said a source. The Rafale fleet is currently undertaking sorties in Ladakh where Indian and Chinese troops are locked in a four-and-half-month-long bitter border row.

“Rafale is the most potent aircraft and having a woman pilot among its select crew is very significant,” said a senior military official on the condition of anonymity.

In 2018, flying officer Avani Chaturvedi scripted history by becoming the first Indian woman to fly a fighter aircraft solo. She flew a MiG-21 bison in her first solo flight.

Chaturvedi was part of a three-member women team commissioned as flying officers in July 2016, less than a year after the government decided to open the fighter stream for women on an experimental basis. The other two women pilots were Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh.

At present, the IAF has 10 women fighter pilots and 18 women navigators. The total strength of women officers serving in the IAF is 1,875.