Meet Flight Lieutenant Shivangi Singh will be first woman fighter pilot to fly Rafale

Flight Lieutenant Shivangi Singh (R) and friend Pratibha (L)
File photo of Flight Lieutenant Shivangi Singh (R) during her induction into the IAF in 2017. She and colleague Pratibha (L) form the second batch of women fighter pilots inducted into the force | IAF

 New Delhi: Flight Lieutenant Shivangi Singh will be the first woman pilot to fly Rafale, India’s most modern multi-role fighter aircraft Rafale, sources said.

It has been known for a while that the IAF is training a woman fighter pilot to fly the Rafale, which was inducted into the force at the Ambala base earlier this month, but her name has come to light only now.

Flt Lt Singh is posted at the same base as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who rose to national fame with his participation in the dogfight between the Indian and Pakistani air forces in February 2019, and his subsequent 60-hour captivity across the border. Wing Commander Varthaman was Singh’s flying instructor, sources said.

Flt Lt Singh, who was commissioned into the IAF in 2017 as part of the second batch of women fighter pilots, is currently flying a MiG-21 Bison, the oldest combat aircraft in the force’s inventory.

She has been undergoing conversion training — the course pilots undertake when they switch from flying one aircraft to another — since August.

Once the training is completed, she will join the Ambala-based 17 Squadron, home to the Rafale fighters.

‘Fly like a free bird’

In 2017, The Hindu had reported that becoming a pilot was a childhood dream for Flt Lt Singh, who wanted to “fly like a free bird”.

She is inspired by Flying Officers Mohana Singh, Bhawana Kanth and Avani Chaturvedi, the first women fighter pilots of the IAF who were inducted in 2016.

Flt Lt Singh, a graduate of the Banaras Hindu University (BHU), was also a cadet of the 7 UP Air Squadron in the National Cadet Corps.

The IAF has inducted 10 women fighter pilots since 2016, with more in training.