In a first for the Indian Air Force and the country in turn, a woman fighter pilot of the Indian Air Force will soon join the Golden Arrows squadron operating the newly-inducted Rafale fighter jets, official sources said on Monday.
The pilot in question is undergoing training to fly Rafale aircraft, they said.
The first woman fighter pilot of the Rafale fleet
The Golden Arrows squadron of the IAF was resurrected on September 10th last year. The squadron was originally raised at Air Force Station, Ambala on Oct 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.
The female pilot has been flying MiG-21 fighters and was selected for the Rafale fleet following an internal process, the sources said. Currently, 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 Indian Air Force on September 10 at the Ambala air force base.
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 of the aircraft at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore.
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 are India's first major acquisition of fighter planes in 23 years after the Sukhoi jets were imported from Russia.
(With inputs from PTI.)