While tens of thousands in the country have joined the Afghan police and army, the air force only had 5,600 personnel as of June. Ads in newspapers last year attracted female recruits to the air force, in an effort to overcome a history of oppressing women that, according to Afghan President Harmid Karzai, still persists today. For the new female pilots, breaking into the male-dominated military comes with technical challenges as well.
One of those challenges is purely physical. According to British Royal Air Force Group Capt. Adrian Hill, deputy commander of the NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan, stated that “quite a few” Afghan women would not be able to reach the switches in the cockpit due to their height and arm lengths. New air craft are being considered but some present similar challenges.
For instance, the Brazilian Super Tacano aircraft, which has a bid in for a contract to create crafts for the Afghan Air Force, would exclude 81% of women pilots, according to the standards the U.S. Air Force currently employs for height and weight. For example, a female pilot standing 5’3 and weighing 125 pounds would be unable to pilot the aircraft.
Not only does the Super Tacano severely limit the expansion of the Afghan air force, but working with the Brazilian company has potential security issues as well. Included in Embraer’s by laws is a provision called the “Golden Share”. According to Embraer:
The Golden Share provision empowers the Brazilian government with veto rights over: “Creation and/or alteration of military programs, whether or not involving the Federative Republic of Brazil;” “Development of third parties´ skills in technology for military programs;” and “Interruption of the supply of maintenance and replacement parts for military aircraft,” among other things.
In other words, the Brazilian government can control Embraer, which is troubling enough on it’s own and double so when considering their relationship with Iran.