New Delhi: Agniveer Vayu Scheme of the Indian Air Force (IAF) has aspired girls from Tier-2 and 3 cities and rural areas as the women that will go back to society will bring a change after experiencing the IAF life, said Air Marshal Suraj Kumar Jha, Air Officer in-charge, Air HQ, IAF. All branches and avenues of the IAF are now open for women, and the IAF can proudly claim to be gender neutral, he added.

Parikshit Luthra at the Chennai Chapter of Future Female Forward (FFF) on Monday, Air Marshal Jha pointed out that in 2010, Air Force witnessed a significant change as women were granted permanent commission for the first time. However, the pace of change has snowballed in the last three-four years as women’s commissioning in the fighter stream of the force has been made permanent.

For the Agniveer scheme, the IAF received 28,000 applications out of which only 155 were selected. It shows that there is enthusiasm in girls to join the Air Force, said Air Marshal Jha.

“During training, during operations, bringing in change, they are leading from the front from wherever they are. And there is all the reason for us to showcase them as role models for the youth of the country to join,” the Air Officer in-charge said.

Garud, a special force that undertakes high risk missions is open to women but till now no women has qualified for its forces. Nevertheless, Air Marshal Jha is confident that one day a woman will be a part of Garud Forces.

“IAF receives 30,000 and 50,000 applications per batch, for joining the IAF. But, unfortunately, we are able to take so few of them. But because we are limited by our cadre strength, and we possibly can’t take more than that,” said Air Marshal Jha.

Even in 1999, during the Kargil war many of the women were flying the transports and the helicopter, controlling both on radar and in the air traffic, maintaining aircraft, loading weapons. So in some form or the other, each one of them was contributing to the combat effort, the Air Marshal added.