The first woman in India to qualify for combat mission in a fighter jet – Flight Lieutenant Bhawana Kanth – added another first to her name, on Tuesday, 26 January.
Scripting history, she was the first woman fighter pilot to participate in the Republic Day fly past.
“Since my childhood, I have been watching Republic Day parade on television and it’s a matter of pride that now I’m participating in it. I would love to fly other fighter jets, including Rafale and Sukhoi,” Kanth told India Today, earlier this week.
Marking the dawn of empowered women-led #NewIndia
Flt Lt Bhawana Kanth is set to become the first woman fighter pilot to take part in the Republic Day parade.
Indeed a proud moment for the entire country!@IAF_MCC pic.twitter.com/NqY6bYDtWL
— Dr Harsh Vardhan (@drharshvardhan) January 18, 2021
She will be a part of the Indian Air Force's (IAF's) tableau that will showcase mock-ups of the light combat aircraft, light combat helicopter and the Sukhoi-30 fighter plane.
First Woman Fighter Pilot to Qualify For Combat Missions
Kanth, along with Avani Chaturvedi and Mohana Singh, was inducted into the IAF as the first women fighter pilots in 2016.
She had joined the fighter squadron in November 2017 and flew her first solo flight on a MiG-21 Bison in March 2018.
In May 2019, she became the first woman fighter pilot to qualify for combat missions. Posted in an airbase in Rajasthan now, the 29-year-old flies the MiG-21 Bison fighter plane.
#WomenPower: Bhawana joined the fighter squadron in Nov 2017 & flew the 1st solo on MiG-21 Bison in Mar 2018. With her dedication, hard work & perseverance she has become the 1st women Officer to achieve this feat. She is from the first batch of women fighter pilots of the IAF. pic.twitter.com/v2voizwFyO
— Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) May 22, 2019
'Childhood Dream to Be Fighter Pilot'
Born in Bihar's Dharbhanga in 1992, Kanth pursued her BE (Medical Electronics) from BMS College of Engineering in Bengaluru before joining the IAF. She graduated in 2014 and was placed at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), however, she chose to pursue her childhood dream – to be a fighter pilot.
An aim, she says, was encouraged by her parents against the stereotype that only boys can aspire to be fighter pilots.
“But my parents never made me feel I needed to think any different just because I am a girl,” she told NDTV in 2016, soon after her induction into IAF.
"It is not the right time for it now. It has always been the right time for women to become fighter pilots. I am only grateful that it at least happened now," she added.
Speaking to The Indian Express in 2019, her father, Tej Narayan Kanth, an electrical engineer with the Indian Oil Corporation, said:
“Bhawana was good at studies right from the beginning. She used to talk about flying from her school days. Even though she pursued engineering from Bengaluru, she kept trying for the Air Force. We are so proud of her. What else can a father ask for?”
On 9 March 2020, she was awarded with Nari Shakti Puraskar by President Ram Nath Kovind.
(With inputs from NDTV, the Indian Express.)
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