• The first three women fighter pilots of the Indian Air Force, from left, Mohana Singh, Avani Chaturvedi and Bhawana Kanth. (AAP, AP)Source: AAP, AP
These three women are breaking historical barriers in India’s military.
Sarah Norton

20 Jun 2016 - 12:23 PM  UPDATED 20 Jun 2016 - 12:23 PM

The first three female fighter pilots of the Indian Air Force (IAF) have graduated as part of a class of 130 cadets.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar formally commissioned the trio, all in their twenties, as officers on Saturday - the first ever allowed into combat roles in the country.

Cadets Bhawana Kanth, Avani Chaturvedi and Mohana Singh have each completed about 150 hours of flying to date. According to reports, the trio will train for a year on the British-built Hawk advanced jet fighter before being assigned squadrons and supersonic jets.

The women have shared some of the scariest moments in their training.

Chaturvedi tells NDTV that she had to abort her second flight minutes before take-off after hearing an open-canopy warning alarm, bringing her aircraft to a halt on the runway. A take-off with  would have been a "catastrophe".

Singh encountered such bad weather on her first solo night flight that she couldn't tell the stars and clusters on light on the ground apart. She was forced to stop relying on visual cues and switch to her instruments to gain control and re-orientate herself.

Bhawana Kanth, from Bihar, always had her parents' support to follow her dream. Her father was an engineer for the Indian Oil Corporation and Kanth studied medical electronics at the BMS College of Engineering.

Mohana Singh from Rajasthan follows her father into the IAF. Singh studied from the Air Force School in New Delhi and has an engineering degree in electronics and communications.

Avani Chaturvedi was born in Madhya Pradesh and studied computer science at Banasthali University, Jaipur. She is the daughter of an executive engineer for the state government.

The induction of female pilots to the IAF was announced in October last year and six female cadets competed for positions. Only three women made it through.

Opening the fighter roles to women is an experiment for the next five years. However roles in the Army and Navy are still only available to men.

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