Thirty years after India began inducting women as officers in the armed forces, Captain Abhilasha Barak on Wednesday became the first woman to join the Army Aviation Corps as a helicopter pilot after completing a year-long course at the Combat Army Aviation Training School at Nashik in Maharashtra, the army said.
Barak hails from Haryana and is the daughter of a retired colonel. She was commissioned in the Army Air Defence Corps in September 2018.
She was awarded 'wings' along with 36 army pilots by Army Aviation director general Lieutenant General Ajay Kumar Suri during a valedictory ceremony at the Nashik-based training school, the army added.
Barak has been assigned to the second flight of 2072 Army Aviation Squadron that operates the Dhruv advanced light helicopter (ALH), officials familiar with the matter said.
While women officers in the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy have been flying helicopters for long, the army took a decision in early 2021 to allow them to opt for its aviation wing. Until now, women officers were assigned only ground duties in army aviation.
Barak became the army's first woman combat aviator at a time when the National Defence Academy is set to induct its first batch of women cadets in June 2022. The Supreme Court opened the doors of the academy to women in a landmark order in October 2021. They are now eligible for permanent commission too.
Raised in November 1986, the Army Aviation Corps operates the ALH, Rudra helicopters (armed variant of ALH), Chetaks, Cheetahs and Cheetal helicopters. It also carries out an important role in supporting the army's deployments in high altitude areas, including the Siachen Glacier.
One of the turning points for women in the military came in 2015 when IAF decided to induct them into its fighter stream. Last year, the Indian Navy deployed four women officers on warships after a hiatus of almost 25 years.
In May 2021, the army inducted women into the Corps of Military Police, the first time they were allowed to join the military in the non-officer cadre. Women have been serving as officers in select branches of the three services since the early 1990s.
Tanks and combat positions in infantry are still no-go zones for women, who were allowed to join the armed forces outside the medical stream for the first time in 1992.