First female officer selected to command a frontline combat unit in the IAF | News from India

NEW DELHI: Team Captain Shaliza Dhami is now ready to take command of a frontline combat unit facing Pakistan in the western sector, the first woman to do so in the IAF extensionalthough 18 female officers are now flying high in supersonic jets as fighter pilots in the force.
By breaking yet another glass ceiling in predominantly male armed forces environments, the group captain (equivalent to colonel in the Army) Dhami will take the reins of a Pechora surface-to-air missile squadron in Punjab on March 27.
Commissioned into the IAF as a helicopter pilot in 2003, Group Captain Dhami is a QFI (qualified flight instructor) on Cheetah and Chetak helicopters with over 2,800 hours of flying experience.
“Before being selected by the IAF as the first woman ever to take command of a frontline combat unit, she was also a flight commander of a helicopter unit in the western sector. She has also been commended by the Air Force Commander-in-Chief on two occasions,” an officer said Tuesday.
There are now 18 women flying fighters such as MiG-21s, MiG-29s, Sukhoi-30MKIs and even the brand new Rafales in the IAF, while the Navy has deployed around 30 female officers to frontline warships. There are also over 145 female helicopter and transport aircraft pilots in the IAF, Army and Navy.
The selection of Group Captain Dhami to command a combat unit comes at a time when 108 women have also been approved for promotion to the rank of colonel (select) for the first in ‘combat support arms’ and services such as the Corps of Engineers, Signals, Ordnance, EME, and other similar branches after gaining permanent commissioning in the Army, TOI first reported in January.
“Apart from a few who have a low medical category or have expressed their lack of will, many of them are gradually taking command of their units. Of them, about 50 percent are deployed in highly operational Northern and Eastern Commands,” another officer said.
While women are not yet allowed to join the Infantry, Armored Corps and Mechanized Infantry, the Army is now moving forward to commission female officers in the Artillery Regiment, which has over 280 units operating a variety of howitzers, guns and rockets to multiple launch systems, as first reported by TOI.
Although female officers have been inducted into the Armed Forces over 14 lakhs strong since the early 1990s, there are just over 3,900 (approximately 1,710 in the Army, 1,650 in the IAF and 600 in the Navy) in their cadre of senior officers. 65,000. There are about 1,670 women doctors, 190 dentists and 4,750 nurses separately in the military medical stream.


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