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In a 1st, air reconnaissance operation by all-woman Navy team

Aug 25, 2022

Breaking another glass ceiling in the armed forces, an all-women naval crew carried out the first independent operational maritime reconnaissance and surveillance mission in the North Arabian Sea onboard a Dornier-228 patrol aircraft. 

The Navy said the “historic” mission flown from its frontline INAS 314 air squadron in Porbandar was captained by Lt Commander Aanchal Sharma, with the other members being pilots Lt Shivangi and Lt Apurva Gite, and tactical and sensor officers, Lt Pooja Panda and Sub Lt Pooja Shekhawat (see photo), on Wednesday. 

“The five women officers received months of ground training and comprehensive mission briefings in the run up to this first-of-its-kind military flying mission. It is expected to pave the way for women officers in the naval aviation cadre to assume greater responsibility and aspire for more challenging roles,” Navy spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal said. 

“The Navy has been a front-runner in driving transformation in the Indian armed forces. The pioneering women empowerment initiatives include induction of women pilots, selection of women air operations officers into the helicopter stream and conducting an all-women sailing circumnavigation expedition across the globe in 2018,” he added. 

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Overall, there are now 15 women fighter pilots in the IAF as well as 145 women helicopter and transport aircraft pilots in the three Services, while 28 officers have been deployed on frontline warships and 100 are trained military policewomen in the Army

Women still constitute a miniscule minority in the over 14-lakh strong armed forces despite being inducted as officers since the early-1990s. They number just 3,904 (Army 1,705, IAF 1,640 and Navy 559) in the around 70,000-strong officer cadre despite there being a shortage of over 9,000 officers. There are separately 1,666 women doctors, 189 dentists and 4,734 nurses in the military medical stream, as was reported by  earlier. 

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