Captain Abhilasha Barak First Woman Combat Aviator In Army
Capt. Abhilasha Barak created history by becoming the first woman officer to join Army Aviation Corps as combat aviator. Described as a ‘Golden Letter Day’ for the Indian Army, Captain Barak was awarded the Coveted Wings along with 36 Army Pilots by the Director General and Colonel Commandant Army Aviation during a valedictory ceremony held at the Combat Army Aviation Training School, Nashik. Till now, the Army did not have women officers in the flying branch, unlike the Indian Air Force and the Navy. It had women officers at the Air Traffic Control for ground duties.
Captain Abhilasha Barak hails from Haryana and is the daughter of Colonel (Retired) S Om Singh. Captain Barak is an alumnus of The Lawrence School, Sanawar. She completed her graduation in B Tech in Electronics and Communication Engineering from Delhi Technological University in 2016 and was placed at Deloitte, USA. Having grown up in military Cantonments across the country, joining the forces was a natural career choice for Captain Abhilasha Barak. In 2018, she was commissioned into the Indian Army from the Officers Training Academy, Chennai. During her attachment with 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. She attained ‘A’ grading in Army Air Defence Young officers course, 75.70 per cent in Air Traffic Management and Air Laws course and passed the promotional exam, Part B, in her first attempt.
“After completing my training from Officers Training Academy, Chennai, in 2018, I opted for Army Aviation Corps. As I was filling the form, I knew I was eligible for only ground duty role but I ended up mentioning that I had qualified Pilot Aptitude Battery Test and computerised pilot selection system. Somewhere in my heart, I always knew that the day was not far away when Indian Army would start inducting women as combat pilots,” she said in the interview. After two years, when the induction of women as pilots was announced, it all came full circle for Captain Barak.
Army Aviation Corps, the youngest Corps of the Army, was formed on November 01, 1986. The division is headed by a Lieutenant General rank officer who is known as the Director General of Army Aviation. Over the years has expanded with addition of new units and equipment like Cheetah, Advanced Light Helicopter Dhruv, weaponised ALH Rudra and Light Combat Helicopter. In August 2021, Army Aviation got control of the Army’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) which were earlier with the Artillery, bringing all aviation assets under one roof. Since the standoff in Eastern Ladakh in 2020, the Army Aviation had seen a quantum jump in the employment of helicopter along the Northern borders.
Barak has been assigned to the second flight of 2072 Army Aviation Squadron that operates the Dhruv advanced light helicopter (ALH). While women officers in the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy have been flying helicopters for long, the army took a decision in early 2021 to allow them to opt for its aviation wing. Until now, women officers were assigned only ground duties in army aviation. Barak became the army’s first woman combat aviator at a time when the National Defence Academy is set to induct its first batch of women cadets in June 2022. The Supreme Court opened the doors of the academy to women in a landmark order in October 2021. They are now eligible for permanent commission too.
One of the turning points for women in the military came in 2015 when IAF decided to induct them into its fighter stream. Last year, the Indian Navy deployed four women officers on warships after a hiatus of almost 25 years. In May 2021, the army inducted women into the Corps of Military Police, the first time they were allowed to join the military in the non-officer cadre. Women have been serving as officers in select branches of the three services since the early 1990s. Tanks and combat positions in infantry are still no-go zones for women, who were allowed to join the armed forces outside the medical stream for the first time in 1992.
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