IAF's 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 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.

"She was chosen to fly Rafale jets following a stringent selection process. She is undergoing training now," said a source.

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.

Last week, Minister of State for Defence Shripad Naik told Parliament that women fighter pilots are inducted and deployed in IAF as per strategic needs and operational requirements.

Five French-made multirole Rafale fighter jets were inducted into the Golden Arrows squadron of the IAF on September 10 at the Ambala air force base.

The Golden Arrows squadron of the IAF was resurrected on September 10 last year. The squadron was originally raised at Air Force Station, Ambala on October 1, 1951.

The squadron has many firsts to its credit; in 1955 it was equipped with the first jet fighter, the legendary De Havilland Vampire.

Ten Rafale jets have been delivered to India so far and five of them stayed back in France for imparting training to IAF pilots. The delivery of all 36 aircraft is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2021.

The second batch of four to five Rafale jets is likely to arrive in India by November.

The Rafale jets, known for air-superiority and precision strikes, are India's first major acquisition of fighter planes in 23 years after the Sukhoi jets were imported from Russia.

The first batch of five Rafale jets arrived in India on July 29, nearly four years after India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to procure 36 aircraft at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore.


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