Indian Navy gets its first women combat aviators

Updated: Oct 3, 2020

Abel Kurian Punnoose

27th September 2020

Breaking the boundaries and soaring high, Sub-lieutenant Kumudini Tyagi and Sub-lieutenant Riti Singh created history by becoming the first-ever women air combatants to fly helicopters from the deck of warships in the Indian Navy.

Sub Lt Kumudini Tyagi (L) and Sub Lt Riti Singh (R) (Source:

As reported by the Indian Express, both the lieutenants graduated from the Indian Navy’s Observer course at the Southern Naval Command at Kochi on 21st September 2020. Tyagi and Singh are a part of a group consisting of seventeen officers in the Navy — comprising four women officers and three officers of the Indian Coast Guard. Rear Admiral Antony George awarded them the ‘Wings’ on graduating as ‘Observers’, who presided over the ceremony, as per a defence ministry statement.

Sub Lt. Singh, a native of Hyderabad, is the third-generation officer from her family to serve in the Army. Her grandfather was in the Army, and her father was a former naval officer. Joining the Navy was a dream-come-true for Singh as it was long-cherished.

Sub Lt. Tyagi hails from Ghaziabad. According to her, both the graduates clocked over sixty hours of training. She mentioned that they handled the pressure and tension head-on without getting worked up. She also stated that they were treated equally to their male counterparts, in terms of training as well. According to Indian Express, Tyagi also said that it was a huge responsibility but that they were looking forward to it.

Sub Lt. Tyagi mentioned that the news about Lt. Kiran Shekhawat, a woman officer who sacrificed her life in 2015 in a Naval Aircraft accident, motivated her to join the Navy and take up the challenging role, reported the Indian Express. The two officers are expected to eventually fly the Navy’s new MH-60 R helicopters, which are designed to spot enemy ships and submarines.

In July, the Ministry of Defence had issued an official notice to grant permanent commission to women officers in the Indian Army. The women aviator update came five months after the Supreme Court implemented a ‘change in mindset’ regarding women officers and ruled that women officers can be designated in the Army — on par with their male counterparts. On 17th February 2020, the court had dismissed the Centre’s submissions that women were physiologically weaker than men as citations of ‘sex stereotypes’.

Two other women officers, Sub Lt. Afnan Sheikh and Sub Lt. Kresshma R. graduated on 21st September 2020. The women are trained in fixed-wing aircraft and would be operating them for the Indian Navy. Six other officers graduated on the same day along with the ‘Instructor Badge’.

(Sources:, Indian Express, Deccan Chronicle) Edited by Meghna Venkatesh

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