NEW DELHI, May 23. /TASS/. India’s Air Force Lieutenant Bhawana Kanth has become the country’s first woman pilot who has qualified for combat missions. She has successfully completed a training program for performing combat missions on a MiG-21 ‘Bison’ fighter jet, PTI news agency reported on Thursday.
"She is the first woman fighter pilot to be qualified to undertake missions on a fighter aircraft by day. She has been able to achieve this feat with her hard work and perseverance," Air Force Spokesperson Group Captain Anupam Banerjee was quoted by PTI as saying.
Kanth is from the first batch of woman fighter pilots selected in 2016. Three women Kanth, Avani Chaturvedi and Mohana Singh were commissioned as flying officers in July 2016, less than a year after the government decided to open the fighter stream for women on an experimental basis, the news agency reported.
She flew solo on a MiG-21 Bison last year. Now she has become the first of the three women to qualify for combat missions.
Becoming a fighter pilot was a childhood dream for Kanth. "It was something only boys were expected to aspire for. At least that was the stereotype. But my parents never made me feel I needed to think any different just because I am a girl," the news agency quoted her as saying.
The MiG-21 is the oldest frontline combat jet, which is operational in the Indian Air Force. The fighter first entered service in 1964. Since then, the jet has been regularly upgraded.
The MiG-21 proved its worth as a combat plane capable of fighting on a par with any enemy in the 21st century during the February 27 events when the first massive air combat occurred over the India-controlled disputed Kashmir region between the Indian and Pakistani fighters since the third Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 .
According to India’s data, the air combat involved eight aircraft of the Indian Air Force while the Pakistani Air Force strike group comprised 24 warplanes, including eight F-16s, four Mirage-3 aircraft and four Chinese-made JF-17 ‘Thunder fighters.
As New Delhi reported at the time, a MiG-21 fighter jet of the Indian Air Force shot down a US F-16 aircraft but was also struck by a missile launched from another Pakistani fighter. An Indian pilot was captured but was soon transferred to India.