Without her support, fighter pilots from international air forces cannot fight, survive or win in ‘near-war scenarios’ in the United States.
Wing Commander Mona Dahiya’s quest for the ultimate thrill has ended at one of the largest fighter bases in the world. The Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) aviation medicine specialist decides whether fighter aces are fit enough to fly demanding combat missions at the multination Red Flag exercises currently on at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. She is the only woman in the IAF’s contingent of 247 personnel.
Fighter pilots and support crews from the US, India, France and South Korea are sharpening their collective war-fighting edge at these war games, hailed as one of the toughest military exercises.
Wing Commander Dahiya, flight surgeon assigned to the Blue Forces (friendly), is responsible for medical evaluation, certification and treatment of fighter pilots executing complex missions against highly capable threats.
She told HT from Nellis, “Fighter pilots are under heavy stress with 70-80 combat aircraft carrying out day and night missions in a restricted airspace. I have to make sure they are in top form to survive the challenge.”
She rated the Red Flag exposure as the highpoint of her 14-year air force career.
The IAF is making its maiden appearance at the exercises from August 11-22. Wing Commander Dahiya said, “Pilots are working 12-14 hours daily in the hardest training scenarios. Pre-flight nutrition and hydration is paramount otherwise exhaustion will take them away. I do get tough on them if they don’t listen, though most do.” Missed meals and dehydration can cause fighter pilots to suffer gravity-induced loss of consciousness, causing crashes.