First Indian female fighter jet pilot upgrades to Dassault Rafale

Indian Air Force

Lieutenant Avani Chaturvedi, the first female pilot of the Indian Air Force (IAF) to have completed a solo flight, will make history again. Assigned to the Squadron No. 17 “Golden Arrows”, she will pilot the Dassault Rafale fighter jet, the latest addition to the IAF arsenal.

The Dassault Rafale fighter jet was formally inducted at Air Force Station Ambala on September 10, 2020, marking the aircraft’s full operational entry into the IAF.

Indian media now report that Avani Chaturvedi, who became the first female pilot to fly solo on February 19, 2018, will get to fly the French-made fighter jet. “She was chosen to fly Rafale jets following a stringent selection process. She is undergoing training now,” said a source quoted by the Press Trust of India.

Chaturvedi was one of the three women – along with Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh – that began their instruction as flying officers in the IAF in 2016 after the Indian government had decided to open the fighter pilot career for women on an experimental basis for an initial period of five years. She was previously assigned to the No. 23 Squadron “Panthers”, operating the MiG-21 “Bison”. She will not be the first female pilot to take command of a Rafale though. In 2012, Commander Claire Mérouze of the French Air Force became the first woman to fly the fighter jet.

The first five Dassault Rafale fighter jets are based at Ambala Air Force Station near the “line of control” which separates the disputed region of Kashmir between India and Pakistan. Eventually, the 36 aircraft ordered, which should all be delivered by December 2021, will also be deployed in the Ladakh region where a border dispute with China recently erupted.

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