President Pratibha Patil, 74, may be all set to boom through the skies in a Sukhoi-30 on November 25, but women aspiring to be fighter pilots will have to wait.
The Indian Air Force said on Tuesday while it was proud to be flying India’s first woman Supreme Commander, putting women behind the controls in a fighter plane wasn’t a viable option for the time being.
“I do not think it will be prudent at this moment,” said IAF’s Vice Chief Air Marshal P.K. Barbora. He was echoing the views of the COSC (Chiefs of Staff Committee) — a panel comprising the three service chiefs — which has advised the government against inducting women in close combat roles in March 2007.
Close combat implies flying fighter jets, sailing on warships or serving in the infantry or the armoured corps.
Barbora, however, said women might be inducted as fighter pilots at a later stage provided they could strike a work-life balance.
“In a few years, we might see women coming in as fighter pilots with certain preconditions. Till a certain age, we request you (women) to be happy, be married, but no offsprings,” said Barbora.
The air force spends more than Rs 10 crore on training a fighter pilot. It wants that investment to be optimally utilised. Pregnancy can keep women pilots away from work for 10-12 months.
“I have full respect for women. But if we train them and cannot exploit their full potential, then both sides are losers. Investments made on fighter pilots are recovered only after 13-14 years of service,” Barbora said.
The air force imposes restrictions on male pilots as well. If they quit before 14 years, they have to reimburse training costs to the government.