IAF gets its first operational woman fighter pilot

Flight Lieutenant Bhawana Kanth is now flying combat sorties on the MiG-21 Bison during the day

May 23, 2019 By Ayushee Chaudhary Photo(s): By IAF
Flight Lieutenant Bhawana Kanth has made history as the IAF's first female fighter pilot to fly combat sorties

This moment could well be etched in India's military history as one of the most powerful symbols of women breaking the glass ceiling in one of the most forbidding avenues for them.

Flight Lieutenant Bhawana Kanth on May 22 was declared by the Indian Air Force (IAF) as its first female fighter pilot flying combat sorties.

Flight Lieutenant Kanth was among the first three cadets selected to be fighter pilots by the IAF in July 2016 after a directive by the Modi Government to open up the combat flying stream for women. The two others were Avani Chaturvedi and Mohan Singh

"By completing day operational syllabus on MiG-21 Bison aircraft on Wednesday, Flight Lieutenant Bhawana Kanth is now the first woman fighter pilot to have qualified to undertake combat missions by day on a fighter aircraft," the IAF announced on Twitter. "With her dedication, hard work & perseverance she has become the 1st woman Officer to achieve this feat," it added, terming this historic

Flight Lieutenant Kanth was among the first three cadets selected to be fighter pilots by the IAF in July 2016 after a directive by the Modi Government to open up the combat flying stream for women. The two others were Avani Chaturvedi and Mohan Singh. All three were Flying Officers then, and inducted into a rigorous training programme for fighter pilots, and flew their first solo sorties respectively in 2018. Indeed, the first from this pioneering batch of the female fighter pilot trainees to fly solo was Avani Chaturvedi.

Her next challenge is training for combat sorties at night. The upcoming stages in her curriculum includes training to become operational in the moon phase followed by the dark phase. She will be considered a fully operational fighter pilot after that

An engineer by education, Flight Lieutenant Bhawana Kanth will be get the 'fully operational' tag only after she completes her night flying training

Flight Lieutenant Kanth was posted to a MiG-21 Bison fighter squadron in the frontline base at Nal in Bikaner, Rajasthan. Now, she has the distinction of becoming the first female fighter pilot of the IAF to be flying combat sorties. Her training syllabus included air-to-air combat and air-to-ground combat.

Her next challenge is training for combat sorties at night. The upcoming stages in her curriculum includes training to become operational in the moon phase followed by the dark phase. She will be considered a fully operational fighter pilot after that.

An engineer in medical electronics from the BMS College of Engineering in Bengaluru, her home town is Darbhanga in Bihar and was brought up in Begusarai.

The next batch of three women trainee pilots for the fighter stream has also been selected by the IAF.

The MiG-21 which Flight Lieutenant Kanth flies is the IAF's oldest frontline combat jet, in service since 1964. The upgraded 'Bison' variant which she flies is the most advanced type in the IAF's MiG-21 fleet. The Bison is the same type which was also famously flown by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman in the February 27 duel in which he shot down a Pakistan Air Force F-16.