Captain Abhilasha Barak becomes Army Aviation’s first woman combat pilot

Captain Abhilasha Barak has created history by becoming the first woman officer to join the Army Aviation Corps as Combat Aviator. The announcement was made on the official social media page of the Additional Directorate General of Public Information, IHQ of MoD (Army) on Wednesday, May 25.

Captain Barak’s achievement has been described as a “Golden Letter Day” in the history of Indian Army Aviation. Upon successful completion of her training, Captain Barak was awarded the Coveted Wings along with 36 Army pilots, the post said.

Captain Abhilasha Barak becomes Army Aviation’s first woman combat pilot

Captain Abhilasha Barak hails from Haryana and is the daughter of Colonel (Retired) S Om Singh. She was commissioned into the Army Air Defence Corps in September 2018. Captain Barak did several professional military courses before joining the Army Aviation Corps.

She attained ‘A’ grading in the Army Air Defence Young officers course, 75.70% in Air Traffic Management and Air Laws course and passed the promotional exam, Part B, in her first attempt.

“While growing up in military Cantonments, and being surrounded by people in uniform, it always seemed like an ordinary affair. I never realised it (that it was different) until our family moved out of the military life, after my father’s retirement in 2011. The feeling only grew stronger after seeing my elder brother’s passing out parade at Indian Military Academy in 2013. That was the moment I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

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.”

Captain Abhilasha Barak, Combat Aviator, Army Aviation Corps

According to the official website, the inception of the Army Aviation wing of the RAF in India took place in 1942. However, it was only in August 1947 that the first Indian Air Observation Post-flight was raised.

The Army Aviation Corps, in particular, was established on November 1, 1986. It was “immediately inducted into Operation Pawan,” which has been described as a “crucial test” for the Corps that had been newly formed.

The division is headed by a Lieutenant General rank officer who is known as the Director General of Army Aviation. Over the years, it has expanded with the addition of new units and equipment like Cheetah, Advanced Light Helicopter Dhruv, weaponised ALH Rudra and Light Combat Helicopter. 

In August 2021, Army Aviation got control of the Army’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) which were earlier with the Artillery, bringing all aviation assets under one roof.

The main roles of the choppers include observation, reconnaissance, casualty evacuations, load drops as well as search and rescue operations besides attack.

She attained ‘A’ grading in the Army Air Defence Young officers course, 75.70% in Air Traffic Management and Air Laws course and passed the promotional exam, Part B, in her first attempt.

Since the standoff in Eastern Ladakh in 2020, the Army Aviation had seen a quantum jump in the employment of helicopters along the Northern borders.

The three services have gradually opened up key postings for women in the last few years.

In 2018, flying officer Avani Chaturvedi of the Indian Air Force scripted history by becoming the first Indian woman to fly a fighter aircraft solo. She flew a MiG-21 bison on her first solo flight.

In a significant move, the Army 2019 began the process of inducting women into the military police.

Chaturvedi was part of a three-member women team commissioned as flying officers in July 2016, less than a year after the government decided to open the fighter stream for women on an experimental basis.

In 2020, the Navy announced deploying its first batch of women pilots on the Dornier maritime aircraft. In a significant move, the Army 2019 began the process of inducting women into the military police.

The role of the military police includes policing cantonments and army establishments, preventing breaches of rules and regulations by soldiers, and maintaining the movement of soldiers as well as logistics during peace and war.

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