Bhawana Kanth becomes 2nd woman Indian Air Force pilot to fly MiG-21 fighter jet on her own

Kanth flew a MiG-21 "Bison" from Ambala Air Force Station at around 2 pm on Friday.

Bhawana Kanth becomes 2nd woman Indian Air Force pilot to fly MiG-21 fighter jet on her own
Photo: Twitter/@ANI

New Delhi: Indian Air Force Flying Officer Bhawana Kanth became the second woman pilot to fly solo in a fighter aircraft after she flew in a MiG 21 Bison aircraft from Ambala Air Force Station at around 2 pm on Friday, reported news agency ANI.

The "Bison" has virtually the highest landing and take-off speed in the world — 340 kmph.

Bhawana Kanth, who hails from Darbhanga, Bihar, was born and brought up in Refinery Township, Begusarai. Her father is an engineer in IOCL and mother is a homemaker. She did her schooling from Barauni Refinery DAV Public School and completed BE (Medical Electronics) from BMS College of Engineering, Bengaluru.

Kanth, in 2016, said that flying "like a free bird" had been a childhood dream, which inspired her to join the Indian Air Force.

Getting the opportunity to opt for the fighter stream is the "best and biggest" thing that happened to her, she had said, adding that she wants to fight for the nation and make her parents proud.

In February this year, Bhawana's colleague Flying Officer Avani Chaturvedi made history by becoming the first Indian woman to fly a fighter aircraft solo — Russian made MiG-21 Bison. She took off from the Jamnagar Air base in Gujarat and successfully completed her mission.

The fighter stream was opened for women in 2015 and Bhawana Kanth, along with two other women — Avani Chaturvedi and Mohana Singh were inducted into the Indian Air Force fighter squadron in 2016.

Since then, the three women have undergone strenuous training programme to fly fighter jets.The Indian Air Force has already selected the next batch of three women trainee pilots for the fighter stream.

Bhawna Kanth, Avani Chaturvedi, and Mohana Singh graduated from the Air Force Academy in Dundigul near Hyderabad, the premier training centre of the Indian Air Force, in December 2016. They had undergone their basic flying with Pilatus PC-7 aircraft at Dundigal before being sent to Hakimpet. 

Breaking the gender barrier, the Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat, too, had in 2017 announced that the process to offer combat roles to women was moving fast. The move will induct women on “an experimental basis” for five years initially.

In October 2015 Centre took the decision to open the fighter stream for women too. Meanwhile, combat roles in the Army and the Navy still dont allow women, due to a combination of operational concerns and logistical constraints.

It was only in 1992 that the armed forces began recruiting women to streams, other than the Medical stream. Countries like Britain, the United States, Israel, and Pakistan, have allowed women in the role of fighter pilots.