Rafale Pilot For Contingent Commanders: Female Officers Steal The R-Day Show

Women’s entry into the armed forces has been a slow process, even requiring judicial intervention. But during the Republic Day parade on Rajpath Wednesday, female officers, still few in number, stole the show.

While several female officers led marching contingents, one of the highlights of the parade was the presence of the first female pilot of the newly commissioned Rafale fighter plane.

Flight Lieutenant Shivangi Singh, posted to No. 17 ‘Golden Arrows’ Squadron at Ambala, stood on the deck of the IAF tableau as it rolled past the saluting base.

Flight Lieutenant Shivangi Singh, India’s first female pilot to fly the Rafale, on the IAF tableau during the R-Day parade. (Praveen Khanna)

She was the second female fighter pilot to take part in the Republic Day parade – the first being Flight Lieutenant Bhawana Kanth who was on the IAF tableau last year.

Singh joined the IAF from Varanasi in 2017 and is one of the second batch of female fighter pilots. Singh was initially ordered to fly the MiG-21 Bison, but underwent conversion training to fly the Rafale.

The Navy’s marching contingent was led by Lieutenant Commander Aanchal Sharma and also Deputy Lieutenant Avanthika Duraiswamy. Lieutenant Preeti and her fellow Lieutenant Mayank Bhagour led the Indian Navy tableau.

Lieutenant Manisha Bohra led the Army Ordnance Corps contingent, while the IAF contingent also had a female officer – Flight Lieutenant Impanashree KY.

Women of the Border Security Force’s Seema Bhawani motorcycle team showed their skills, performed acrobatics and carried a sign with the message of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao.

In the marching contingent of the Sashastra Seema Bal, the two assistant commanders were female officers.

The parade saw the largest flypast with 75 aircraft from all three services to mark 75 years of India’s independence. For the first time, viewers got a glimpse of what the plane’s pilots see – the pilot’s view and cockpit were broadcast.

A total of 24 tableaux were part of the parade, including from the armed forces and the DRDO.

The naval tableau was the first to come across Rajpath and had two main themes: one was a depiction of the 1946 naval rebellion and the other showed “atmanirbharta” of the navy, featuring a model of the country’s first indigenous aircraft carrier to be later commissioned this year and named INS Vikrant.

The IAF scene, titled ‘Indian Air Force, Transforming for the Future’ featured models of the MiG-21, Gnat – aircraft that played a key role in the victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war – Light Combat Helicopter, Rafale and the Aslesha -radar.

The DRDO presented its main platforms titled “Suite of Indigenously Developed Sensors, Weapons and Electronic Warfare Systems for LCA Tejas” and “Air Independent Propulsion System” being developed for naval submarines.

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