Meet 26-year-old Abhilasha Barak, Indian Army's first woman combat aviator
Captain Abhilasha Barak (26) became the first woman to join the Army Aviation Corps as a helicopter pilot on Wednesday, 30 years after the forces began inducting women as officers outside the medical stream in 1992. The accomplishment came after she completed a one-year course at the Combat Army Aviation Training School, Nashik. She hails from Haryana, and her father is a retired colonel.
Why does this story matter?
Women officers in the Indian Air Force and the Navy have been flying helicopters for a long time. However, the Army allowed them to opt for its aviation wing only in 2021. Earlier, they were assigned only ground duties in aviation. In October 2021, in a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court allowed the entry of women into the National Defence Academy.
Alumna of The Lawrence School, Sanawar
She is an alumna of The Lawrence School, Sanawar. She completed her B.Tech in Electronics and Communication Engineering from Delhi Technological University in 2016. She then secured a job at Deloitte, USA. While working with the Corps of Army Air Defence, she was selected as a Contingent Commander for Presentation of Colours to Army Air Defence by President Ram Nath Kovind.
Barak was commissioned in September 2018
Barak was commissioned in the Army Air Defence Corps in September 2018. On Wednesday, Army Aviation Director General Lieutenant General Ajay Kumar Suri conferred Barak with the 'Coveted Wings,' along with 36 other Army pilots, the Army said. She was reportedly assigned to the 2072 Army Aviation Squadron. The squadron operates Dhruv, the advanced light helicopter (ALH), the Hindustan Times reported.
What is Army Aviation Corps?
The Army Aviation Corps was formed in November 1986. It operates the ALH, and Rudra helicopters besides Cheetahs, Chetaks, and Cheetal helicopters. It also supports the Army's high-altitude deployments, including at the Siachen Glacier.
'I knew I was eligible for only ground duty but...'
Barak got grade 'A' in the Army Air Defence Young officers course and passed the Part B exam in her maiden attempt. "After completing my training in Chennai, as I was filling the form, I knew I was eligible for only ground duty role but I mentioned that I had qualified Pilot Aptitude Battery Test and computerized pilot selection system," she said.
Captain Barak's father led a patrolling party during Operation Meghdoot
Notably, in 1987, Captain Barak's father had led a patrolling party from the Amar Post to Bana Top Post during Operation Meghdoot. He suffered from Cerebral Odema due to bad weather. The Army Aviation Corps evacuated him just in time. "He owes his life to the Army Aviation Corps and hence, so do I," Barak said in an interview.
Tanks and combat positions are still no-go zones for women
Though women have been serving as officers in some of the branches of the armed forces since the 1990s, tanks and combat positions are still out of their bounds. In 2015, the IAF inducted women into its fighter stream. In May 2021, the Army inducted women into the Corps of Military Police. Also in 2021, the Navy deployed four women officers on warships.