Fighter Pilots was a stream always dominated by men all across the globe, but now many countries have opened their doors for women as well. A few years ago, Indian Air Force also opened its gates for women fighter pilots writing a new glorious chapter for the history of IAF. The first three women pilots of the Indian Air Force were selected to join the fighter stream of the service, proudly brandishing their stripes and wings at the Combined Graduation Parade at the Air Force Academy, Dundigal, on the outskirts of Hyderabad on 18 June, 2016. With their induction into the fighter stream, India has joined a select few nations in the world that have women fighter pilots in their Air Forces. These young women, Flying Officer Avani Chaturvedi, Flying Officer Bhawana Kanth and Flying Officer Mohana Singh are India’s first women jet fighter pilots.
Although women pilots have, for over 20 years been flying fixed wing transport aircraft and helicopters of the IAF, the clearance for Indian women to fly supersonic fighter aircraft was cleared only in October 2015 by the government, headed by then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, Chief of the Air Staff. This decision to include women in the fighter stream of the Indian Air Force was on an experimental basis. Just over two years later, on 19 February 2018, Flying Officer Avani Chaturvedi became the first woman pilot to fly a solo 30-minute sortie on a MiG-21 Bison at Air Force Station Jamnagar.
The Pakistan Air Force has inducted women fighter pilots into service since 2006, and has gradually increased the number to around 19. The senior most is Flight Lieutenant Ayesha Farooq from Hasilpur, Bahawalpur District, the first to be cleared for frontline service in 2013. She has served with No.20 Squadron equipped with the Chinese-made Chengdu J-7 fighter. Sadly, one of PAF’s first women pilots, Flying Officer Marium Mukhtar met with a fatal accident near Mianwali while in a two-seat FT-7PG operational conversion trainer.
The Chinese PLA Air Force had introduced fighter flying for women in 2005, receiving an overwhelming number of applications, a total of 35 were selected from 200,000 applications of which 16 graduated to become fighter pilots. There are an increasing number of women fighter pilots now in the PLA Air Force, some of them serving with J-10 multirole fighter squadrons.