Bhawana Kanth, who is serving as Flight Lieutenant in the Indian Air Force, will be the first female fighter pilot to participate in the upcoming Republic Day parade. She will join the IAF’s tableau displaying indigenously-manufactured Light Combat Aircraft Tejas, Light Combat Helicopter Rudra, Rohini radars, and BrahMos.
Bhawana is currently posted at the Rajasthan airbase and is commissioned on a MiG-21 Bison fighter plane. Along with Avani Chaturvedi and Mohana Singh, she was one of the first women to be inducted in the IAF for frontline roles in 2016.
Hailing from Bihar’s Darbhanga, Bhawana completed her schooling from Barauni Refinery DAV Public School and went on to do BE (Medical Electronics) from BMS College of Engineering in Bengaluru. She entered the fighter squadron in 2017 and joined the operations in 2018. The 28-year-old became the first woman fighter pilot to be trained for missions on a fighter aircraft after she completed her operational syllabus as a fighter pilot on the MiG-21 Bison aircraft.
“After clearing my Stage I training, I got the golden opportunity to opt for the fighter stream. That was the best and the biggest thing that has happened to me, and the best part is it is just the beginning. It is my aim to become a good fighter pilot and fight for the nation and make my parents proud,” Bhawana had told the media.
This achievement of the IAF is being celebrated on social media as Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Science and Tech, and Earth Sciences, tweeted, “Marking the dawn of empowered women-led #NewIndia. Flt Lt Bhawana Kanth is set to become the first woman fighter pilot to take part in the Republic Day parade. Indeed a proud moment for the entire country!”
Marking the dawn of empowered women-led #NewIndia
Flt Lt Bhawana Kanth is set to become the first woman fighter pilot to take part in the Republic Day parade.
Indeed a proud moment for the entire country!@IAF_MCC pic.twitter.com/NqY6bYDtWL
— Dr Harsh Vardhan (@drharshvardhan) January 18, 2021
As per the latest data released by the Ministry of Defence, the strength of women officers in the IAF has gone up to 1,875. Of these, 10 are fighter pilots and 18 women officers are navigators. In 2016, the Ministry had given its nod to induct women Short Service Commission officers into fighter roles of the aerial warfare arm of the armed forces.
“Women fighter pilots are inducted and deployed in IAF as per strategic needs and operational requirements within the laid down policy, which is reviewed from time to time,” Shripad Naik, Minister of State for Defence, said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha in 2020, as per media reports.
The IAF has quite a few new offerings for this Republic Day parade as the newly-acquired Rafale fighter jets will be on display, with the IAF’s flypast culminating with the Vertical Charlie formation. The Eklavya formation will also showcase a Rafale jet along with two Jaguars and two MiG 29s. "The flypast will culminate with a single Rafale aircraft carrying out a 'Vertical Charlie' formation," IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Indranil Nandi said at a press conference.
(Edited by Kanishk Singh)