A Woman “Wizzo”? Yes, you heard it right. Flying Officer Tejaswi Ranga Rao became the first Indian woman Weapons Systems Officer or as commonly known in the IAF as “Wizzo”, in the Sukhoi-30 fleet – the backbone of the Indian Air Force’s frontline fighter jets. Female officers have always constituted a meagre 13 per cent of the total strength of the IAF officers. In a male-dominated field of war operations, Flying officer Tejaswi has been able to break the barrier and make her motherland proud by joining the list of other nations like UK & USA, to have female WSOs in the Air Force.
Retired Wing Commander and a former IAF pilot proudly proclaimed “A woman in control of the Su-30 cockpit for all mission-related weapon system is definitely a first for the IAF…Having a good WSO doing her job takes off half the mission pressure from the pilot in front who now can direct his spare mental capacity towards flying the aeroplane.”
However, it was not an easy cakewalk for Tejaswi to break the traditional glass ceiling of gender biasness in handling the major and serious operations in the cockpits of combat aircraft. After her schooling in Chennai, Tejaswi joined NCC (National Cadet Corps) alongside pursuing her BSc in Biotechnology, Chemistry and Genetics from Bangalore. She graduated from the Navigation Training School of the Indian Air Force, with the much-prestigious president’s plaque for topping the navigation course and becoming the first woman ever to do so, therefore writing a new chapter in the history of the navigation school.
Flying officer and WSO, Tejaswi Ranga Rao attributed her success and achievement to her parents who are settled in Pune, to help her realize her dream and make the impossible possible. She also thanked heartily her mentors and instructors in the IAF’s Navigation School, who had been a constant support and a guide to the path of her attaining the huge milestone, which has changed the course of IAF’s history and opened new avenues for the equal opportunity for women to play a major role in the IAF’s rigid male-dominated bastion.