IAF vice chief apologises for remarks on women fighter pilots

New Delhi, Nov 19 (Inditop.com) The Indian Air Force (IAF) vice chief, Air Marshal P.K. Barbora Thursday offered his apologies if anyone’s feelings have been hurt by his remarks on induction of women fighter pilots, and stressed that the views were his own and not an official policy.

In a statement, Barbora clarified that his remarks about women fighter pilots not having “offspring” and about “imposing some conditions” on their service reflected his own opinion and not of the IAF.

“I would like to clarify that my remarks concerning ‘off-spring’ and ‘imposing some conditions’ were my own personal opinion and not that of the IAF or the MoD (Ministry of Defence),” said Barbora Thursday.

“If I had hurt any groups’ sentiments, I would like to state that it was not with any malicious intentions of hurting anyone’s feelings or casting any aspersions on their ability,” he added.

Barbora said that the induction of women into actual combat roles is a tri-services issue and demands a careful orchestrated approach starting with grant of permanent commission to women.

“Considering many variables such as our country’s societal environmental and cultural ethos of respect and status of women, a step by step approach would be the preferred option in respect of employability of women in the defence forces.”

I am quite confident, as I had also mentioned during the media interaction, that in not a distant future, we hope to see women pilots flying fighters in some form of combat roles. I say this as an ‘air warrior’ and one who abides by our constitution,” said Barbora.

During a curtain raiser before President Pratibha Patil’s Sukhoi-30 MKI’s flight, Barbora said Tuesday that inducting women pilots in the fighter stream will take a while and certain preconditions might be laid down before they are allowed to become fighter pilots.

“We can induct women fighter pilots for show purposes. But we spend exorbitant amount on training fighter pilots, and if we are not able to utilise them optimally, it may not be prudent to have women fighter pilots at the moment,” Barbora told reporters here.

“Once the lady goes the family way, she will be off flying for 10 months. And when we have invested so much, it is not a fruitful development,” he added.

“We may say (if women are allowed in the fighter stream) that till this age, you can be happily married but do not go for pregnancy till that time. After 14-15 years of service, the value (of the money invested) is recovered…. We are just looking into the area. Even for men, we do not allow them to leave the service before a certain period of time,” Barbora added.

The IAF currently has 784 women officers working in various fields, barring the fighter stream.