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Sub Lieutenant Seema Rani Sharma and Sub Lieutenant Ambica Hooda were inducted on Friday into the navy’s Naval Aviation unit 56 years after it was set up (File Photo)[/caption]
Two women aviators have joined the navy, a first in the armed forces that comes as the air force debates whether to allow women fighter pilots.
Sub Lieutenant Seema Rani Sharma and Sub Lieutenant Ambica Hooda were inducted on Friday into the navy’s Naval Aviation unit 56 years after it was set up.
They will serve as observers — essentially airborne tacticians — on Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA).
Seema and Ambica were picked for short-service commission initially and put through a naval orientation course at the Indian Naval Academy, followed by a stint at the Observer School at INS Garuda in Kochi.
“This is a great and proud moment for us, including our instructors and parents,” Ambica, who hails from Haryana, said after the two women were awarded the “Wings” by Rear Admiral Sudhir Pillai during a ceremonial parade at INS Garuda.
Ambica, judged the best trainee in flying after the course, admitted that the path to the induction wasn’t easy. “The training was a great challenge, both mentally and physically. But never at any stage did we think of giving up. We enjoyed the training throughout,” she said.
Seema, who is from Uttar Pradesh, said: “We would give it back to our service whatever we have learned. This is our ambition in life from now on wards”.
INS Garuda commanding officer, Captain Vijesh Kumar Garg, said it was a proud moment for the navy to have the two women.
“They have completed all programmes, including ground and flying lessons, besides sea, jungle and survival training. All of it was very demanding,” Garg said.
The 16-month training period involved a “grinding” schedule of air navigation, understanding complex maritime environments, naval warfare tactics and flying the state-of-the-art Dornier aircraft.