Sub Lieutanant Riti Singh (Left) and Sub Lieutanant Kumudini Tyagi

They will deploy sonar, sonobuoys, radars to detect enemy ships, submarines; employ tactics to eliminate them. They are young women who have broken all glass ceilings and recently, crossed an important nautical milestone

Indian Navy’s officers Sub Lieutenants Kumudini Tyagi and Riti Singh, who would be the first women airborne tacticians in India to operate from a warship, in an interview with Deccan Herald, have said that once they complete their training, they would be deploying sonar, sonobuoys, radars to detect enemy ships and submarines and employing tactics to eliminate them.

SLT Kumudini, who hails from Ghaziabad, and SLT Riti, who is from Hyderabad, received their ‘Wings’ after graduation last week and were selected to join as airborne tacticians in the helicopter stream. 

“There is excitement but, it comes with a sense of responsibility, says Kumudini. Echoing her thoughts, Riti adds, “At a very young age, we got an opportunity that no one before us has got. With this opportunity comes a lot of responsibility -- to put in the effort to qualify and understand our aircraft well, go ahead and perform our duty as per the requirements of the Navy.” 

Kumudini and Tyagi are a part of a group of 17 officers of the Indian Navy who were awarded ‘Wings’ after they graduated as ‘Observers’ recently. They will be part of the Multi-Role-Helicopters crew.

“We are now being trained as observers who are also known as airborne tacticians,” explains Kumudini.

“We will be deployed onboard helicopters. Our role would be in the helicopters – controlling the radar, sonar, missiles and all the weapon systems. The tactical control lies with the observers,” she says.

In the naval aviation, for a successful mission completion, there is a set of airborne tacticians who are in charge of the mission with their sensors, weapons, tactics etc. The pilot fly as their directions. They are mission controllers but are termed as observers.

“It is the responsibility of the observer to recognise if the ship or aircraft in our surrounding is our friend or our enemy,” informs SLT Riti.

“Specifically, we do not know what our role in our helicopters would be. We will be trained in due course -- within next year or so,” she adds.

“The helicopter we have in the Navy are used for anti-submarine operations and are also used for early air warning operations. The capabilities of the helicopter are known to everybody. They are highly-armed helicopters with very advanced sensors on board. Basically, all the sensors and weapons will be in our control,” Riti said.

What they have achieved is a historic first. Asked on the challenges that prevented women from being part of this earlier, she says, “this opportunity has been given to us by the Navy and we are performing the duty that they have bestowed on us.” 

“It’s not our decision to see the merits and demerits and why women were there earlier or not. We are very happy to get this opportunity today. We are excited that we will be going out and putting out all our efforts and after that, you will see many women coming into this,’’ adds Riti.

SLT Kumudini was always interested in being part of the armed forces. Although she did not make it in the first attempt, she says that her attempts have taught her patience and helped her in learning more.

Patience, says Kumudini, is a skill, that is very vital if one wants to be where she is now. “I did not give up. I was optimistic that I will clear it,” she says.

Riti was brought up in an environment amidst a lot of officers as her father was a naval officer. Seeing the men and women in white from a very young age and having interacted with them at large, she realised that there is something very different in each of them.

“They are all leaders in themselves, each one of them with experiences and lot of knowledge in their specific field of work. I decided if I want to do something exciting and different in life, I definitely have to join the Indian Navy,” she says.

When Riti told her father that she wants to be in the Armed Forces, her father was not surprised. He had seen it coming. “My family and friends have been supportive from the very beginning. Instructors in the Southern Naval Command and the officers too were very encouraging,” she says.

Elaborating on the training, she says, “We will be trained on the Dornier aircraft. We first have to familiarise ourselves with the basic intricacies. It’s one step at a time. That is a lot of effort. We take it as it comes,” she says.

With this giant step, gender barriers are being broken opening out vistas for many young women to guard our high seas.

“In case if there are those who want to apply but have any doubts and apprehensions about joining the Navy, they should get it cleared with somebody through the Indian Navy website.”

Further, she says, “I don’t think people are aware about the number of opportunities that are in the Navy. I was also browsing through the Navy website two years ago before I got here. And when you have cleared it, there is nothing like wearing a uniform and no job like what we do.’’

“So many hours are going into our training and finally when we get operational, we will apply all the knowledge that we have gained. It will make us feel a lot older and more responsible than we are today,” adds Riti.