IAF Puts Women Pilots in Attack Mode
Another male bastion, this time in the air, has gone to women. For the first time ever, Indian Air Force is preparing its women officers for combat roles. Two women pilots of the force are getting trained for combat roles.
Flight Lieutenants Alka Shukla and MP Shumathi were trained at the Yelahanka station in flying twin – engines Mi-8 and Mi-17, utility and medium – size assault helicopters. Both pilots are at their operational units where they will continue with their armament and special heli – operations training.
Women pilots were only asked to operate single – engine helicopters such as Cheetah and Chethak, used only on non – combat missions.
For Alka, this opportunity came her way after she spent over three years in a Chetak helicopter unit in West Bengal, performing casualty evacuation operations in Sikkim and Bhutan.
“When I was at Bagdogra station, my senior told me that I have to go to Bangalore. Initially , it didn’t click. By the time I realized the magnitude of the offer, I had all my colleagues congratulating me,” she said.Alka is thrilled by the new combat manoeuvres that she is flying.
“At present, I’m being trained in hovering above to enable troops slither down the ropes. This manoeuvre was similar to the ones carried out during the 26/11 strikes in Mumbai,” she said.
“The two women officers had the same curriculum and training as their male counterparts and they performed very well,” said Wing Commander ND Mahajan, chief flying instructor of the unit.
While Alka is posted at Yelahanka Air Force station, Shumathi is in Jamnagar. They will be trained in bombing , rocket attack, combat search and rescue, and special heli – borne operations.
Wing commander Deepak Kumar Vats, commanding officer of Alka’s 112 helicopter unit, said his unit has twin roles: training pilots who are switching over from single-engine helicopters to twin – engine ones, and an operational role. “As of now, our operations have more to do with civilian aid such as flood – relief operations. But in case of a contingency, our units could be moved to northwest where Alka may be part of the operations,” he said.
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