Women fighter pilots ‘economically not viable’, says IAF


New Delhi: While the country’s first women President, Pratibha Patil, takes to the skies in a fighter jet Nov 25, the Indian Air Force maintains that women fighter pilots are not “economically viable”.

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IAF vice chief, Air Marshal P.K. Barbora said here Tuesday that inducting women pilots in the fighter stream will take a while and certain preconditions might be laid down before they are allowed to become fighter pilots.

“We can induct women fighter pilots for show purposes. But we spend exorbitant amount on training fighter pilots, and if we are not able to utilise them optimally, it may not be prudent to have women fighter pilots at the moment,” Barbora told reporters here.

“Once the lady goes the family way, she will be off flying for 10 months. And when we have invested so much, it is not a fruitful development,” he added.

Barbora said that for the time being, the three Services have taken a “conscious” decision not to place women in combat roles, but if that happens in the future, there may be certain preconditions to it.

“We may say (if women are allowed in the fighter stream) that till this age, you can be happily married but do not go for pregnancy till that time. After 14-15 years of service, the value (of the money invested) is recovered…. We are just looking into the area. Even for men, we do not allow them to leave the service before a certain period of time,” Barbora added.

The IAF currently has 784 women officers working in various fields, barring the fighter stream.

However, the vice chief assured the aspiring women officers that there would be a change down the line.

“A few years from now, there will be some change. But we will not induct them for the sake of it but for optimally utilising their potential,” he said.