From DefensePakistan: In a first, IAF puts women pilots in attack mode
BANGALORE: Another male bastion, this time in the air, has gone to
women. For the first time ever, the Indian Air Force is preparing two of
its women pilots for combat roles.
Flight Lieutenants Alka Shukla and M P Shumathi were trained at the
Yelahanka station in flying twin-engine Mi-8, a utility and medium-size
assault helicopter. Both pilots are at their operational units where
they will continue with their armament and special heli-operations
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. "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 N D Mahajan, chief flying instructor of
They will be trained in bombing, rocket attack, combat search and
rescue, and special heli-borne operations. 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 the northwest
where Alka may be part of the operations," he said.