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IAF sets pre-condition for women to turn future fighter pilots

NEW DELHI (PTI): The Indian Air Force said it was planning to have women fighter pilots in future, but they will be inducted with a pre-condition of not bearing children till a certain age.

"In a few years time, we might see this change (women getting inducted as fighter pilots) coming in with certain pre-conditions that till this age we request you to be happy, be married, but no offsprings," IAF Vice Chief Air Marshal P K Barbora told reporters here on Tuesday.

"After 13-14 years of service, investments made on fighter pilots are actually recovered by the government," he said in an indication that women fighter pilots will be allowed to have kids only after putting in 13-14 years in IAF.

Now, women in the age group of 21-23 years are inducted into the flying branch and may be allowed to start family after crossing the 35-37 years age bracket.

The IAF Vice-Chief said if a woman pilot has to take pregnancy leave, she will be off-flying for around 10 months, which will not be fruitful for both her and the Service.

Citing reasons for Services not inducting women into combat arms, Barbora said, the armed forces "feel that it is not right to have a lady or a woman exposed to a conflict where she can be a prisoner of war."

"Secondly, psychologically, are we fit? another factor," he added.
Barbara said: "Even male pilots are allowed to change streams only after they have put in certain number of years in service."

He said for "purposes of show", IAF can induct a batch of ladies and they can participate in day-to-day exercises.

But, "it may not be prudent" if the Force is not able to operationally engage them for flying after investing money and training them.

He said "step by step", the Force has moved ahead and hoped that in few years of time, lady fighter pilots would be inducted.

When asked about the Pakistan Air Force having inducted women in their fighter stream, Barbora said, "a week ago, a senior dignitary of their air force met a senior dignitary of IAF and said that we had recruited seven of them (women fighter pilots), but only one is remaining in the fighter stream."

Citing examples of the Israeli and US air forces, where women have been operating as fighter pilots for quite some time now, he said "there also women pilots are not exposed to direct combat."

At present, around 500 women officers are serving in all the branches of the Force other than the fighter stream.

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