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Giving Wings to Dreams: Who's Captain Abhilasha Barak, First Woman Combat Pilot in Army Aviation?

Captain Barak hails from Haryana and was commissioned into the Army Air Defence Corps in September, 2018. (Image: Twitter/Indian Army)

Captain Barak hails from Haryana and was commissioned into the Army Air Defence Corps in September, 2018. (Image: Twitter/Indian Army)

Captain Barak was commissioned into the Indian Army from OTA, Chennai, in 2018 and during her attachment with Corps of Army Air Defence, she was selected as a Contingent Commander for Presentation of Colours to Army Air Defence by President Ram Nath Kovind

For Captain Abhilasha Barak, joining the forces was a natural career path, given her childhood was spent hopping from one military cantonment to another across the country. And, on Wednesday, the 26-year-old from Haryana became the first woman combat aviator of the Indian Army.

Officials said she has been awarded the coveted ‘wings’ along with 36 Army pilots by the director-general of the Army Aviation during a ceremony held at Combat Army Aviation Training School in Nashik.

“Captain Barak became the first woman officer to join the Army Aviation Corps as combat aviator after successful completion of the combat Army aviation course,” an official said.

Barak, who was commissioned into the Army Air Defence Corps in September 2018, says it was her brother’s passing out parade at Indian Military Academy in 2013 that cemented her will to join the army.

Captain Barak is an alumnus of The Lawrence School, Sanawar. She completed her graduation in B Tech in Electronics and Communication Engineering from Delhi Technological University in 2016 and was placed at Deloitte, USA.

In 2018, she was commissioned into the Indian Army from the Officers Training Academy, Chennai. During her attachment with Corps of Army Air Defence, she was selected as a Contingent Commander for Presentation of Colours to Army Air Defence by President Ram Nath Kovind, the Indian Express reported.

In an in-house interview shared by the Indian Army, Barak shared: “After completing my training from Officers Training Academy, Chennai, in 2018, I opted for Army Aviation Corps. As I was filling the form, I knew I was eligible for only ground duty role but I ended up mentioning that I had qualified Pilot Aptitude Battery Test and computerised pilot selection system. Somewhere in my heart, I always knew that the day was not far away when Indian Army would start inducting women as combat pilots.”

Recounting an episode with her father, who retired from the services in 2011, she said: “Not many people know this, but in 1987, during Operation Meghdoot, my father was leading a patrolling party from Amar Post to Bana Top Post (earlier Quaid Post). Owing to bad weather, he suffered from Cerebral Odema and was brought back to Amar Post, from where he was evacuated right in time. He owes his life to the Army Aviation Corps and hence, so do I.”

While women officers in the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy have been flying helicopters for long, the army took a decision in early 2021 to allow them to opt for its aviation wing. Until now, women officers were assigned only ground duties in army aviation.

The development also comes at a time when the National Defence Academy is set to induct its first batch of women cadets in June 2022. In a landmark order in October 2021, the Supreme Court paved the way for women in the academy. They are now eligible for permanent commission too.

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