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India’s first female solo fighter pilot takes to skies in historic training mission

India’s first female solo fighter pilot takes to skies in historic training mission
Avani Chaturvedi has become the first Indian woman to fly a fighter jet solo. It marks a historic moment for the air force.

The 24-year-old pilot completed the half-an-hour long solo flight in a MiG-21 Bison fighter aircraft over Jamnagar Air Base, reported the Indian Express. “This is a major milestone in training of a fighter pilot and first time an Indian woman has flown a fighter aircraft solo,” Indian Air Force (IAF) spokesman Anupam Banerjee said, adding that it demonstrates the IAF’s commitment to women’s empowerment.

Banerjee described the event as a “big day” in the history of India’s armed forces. “It’s the breaking of a glass ceiling,” he said. The air force tweeted a photo, Thursday, of Chaturvedi standing next to the aircraft after her flight, which took place Monday.

Chaturvedi is one of three female fighter pilots commissioned in 2016. The other female pilots are expected to undertake the same flight soon as part of their training. Government ministers have taken to Twitter to praise Chaturvedi for her achievement, calling her an inspiration to young girls.

In February 2016, India opened up combat roles in all sections of the Indian armed forces to women. Prior to this, women made up just 2.5 percent of India's armed forces, working mainly in non-combat roles.

Neighboring Pakistan has about 20 female fighter pilots. In 2013, the Pakistan Air Force revealed its first combat-ready female fighter pilot. China’s first female fighter pilots made their first solo flights in J-10 fighter jets in 2012.

The US Air Force commenced female fighter pilot training in 1993. Brigadier General Jeannie Leavitt graduated that year to become the first female fighter pilot in the US and later the first woman to command a USAF combat fighter wing.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Turkish aviator Sabiha Gökçen, who enrolled in Military Aviation Academy in Eskisehir in 1936, is the world's first female fighter pilot. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union was the first nation to allow women to fly combat missions, deploying an all-woman combat flight unit, known as the ‘Night Witches,’ during World War II.

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