Women Pilots in Navy May Soon Fly Surveillance Aircraft

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Women Pilots in Navy May Soon Fly Surveillance Aircraft

The Navy was one of the first military services to allow women (Agence France-Presse photo)


New Delhi:  Women officers in the Navy could soon fly surveillance aircraft, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said today.

Women officers presently fly as navigators and observers - manning censors on board surveillance aircraft - and are also part of the Naval Design, the Legal and Education wings of the Navy.

"Navy is considering whether women officers can also fly these (surveillance) aircraft," the Defence Minister said, adding, "In areas where there are logistical, infrastructural and training issues, we cannot allow women officers."

Mr Parrikar also said, "We want to give equal status to women but they cannot be allowed in roles which require them to halt on warships overnight."

The Navy was one of the first military services to induct women - in 1992. But it has repeatedly pointed out that Indian warships aren't designed to house woman officers. The Navy was also one the first services to allow permanent commission to women in the Law, Ship Design and Education wings in 2008.

The Defence Minister today said that the government would soon challenge in Supreme Court a recent order by the Delhi High Court that said refusing women full term service amounted to gender bias.

Women officers who joined the Navy in 1992 - as Short Service Commissioned Officers, which entitles them to a maximum 14 years of service - have moved court seeking permanent commission.

In their petition, the officers have alleged gender discrimination and have demanded similar rights as their counterparts in the Army and Air Force - women in the two forces were allowed permanent commission by the High Court in 2010.

"There is no gender bias, in that decision," the minister said today.

On Saturday, the government, in a historic decision, approved the induction of women in combat roles in the Air Force. Those selected will begin to train as fighter pilots in seven months. After successful completion of training, first Indian women combat pilots will be in the cockpits of frontline fighter jets in June 2017.

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