For the first time in India, the Indian Air Force has assigned two women combat pilots to its frontline Chinook helicopter units that are playing a crucial role in supporting the army’s deployments near the Line of Actual Control (LAC), including transporting light howitzers, in the northern and eastern sectors.
One official has recently stated, “Squadron Leaders Parul Bhardwaj and Swati Rathore were flying the Russian-origin Mi-17V5 helicopters before they were moved to CH-47F Chinook units based in Chandigarh and Mohanbari in Assam, respectively.”
Chinook, imported from the US, is the latest helicopter in the air force fleet and costs around ₹650 crores apiece. India operates a fleet of 15 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters inducted in 2019-20 and flying one is entirely different from flying any other helicopter.
Before taking on their new assignments of flying Chinook units in Chandigarh and ‘Mighty Talons’ in Mohanbari, both Bhardwaj and Rathore had accomplished feats on the Mi-17V5 transport helicopters they earlier flew.
Bhardwaj captained the Mi-17V5’s maiden all-women flight in 2019, and two years later, Rathore became the first woman helicopter pilot to take part in the 2021 Republic Day flypast over Rajpath, flying a Mi-17V5 in a four-helicopter formation.
Not only in the air force, but recently women in all of India’s armed forces have been witnessing several new opportunities. For instance, the navy is giving women more opportunities to serve on board warships alongside their male counterparts, women candidates joining the National Defence Academy this year for the first time, and so on.
- Staff Reporter