Meet the First Women Chinook Pilots of the Indian Air Force

Two female combat pilots are taking the controls of Chinook helicopters for the first time in Indian Air Force (IAF) history. The Boeing multi-mission helicopter has been essential in assisting army deployments close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

According to sources, at a time when India and China are embroiled in a protracted border dispute, Squadron Leaders Parul Bhardwaj and Swati Rathore would command Chinook helicopter units in the northern and eastern sectors close to LAC.

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Before being transferred to CH-47F Chinook units headquartered in Chandigarh and Mohanbari in Assam, respectively, Squadron Leaders Rathore and Bhardwaj formerly piloted Russian-made Mi-17V5 helicopters.

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Bhardwaj led the first all-female Mi-17V5 flight in 2019, while Rathore, flying a Mi-17V5 in a four-helicopter formation, made history as the first woman helicopter pilot to participate in the 2021 Republic Day flypast over Rajpath (now Kartavya Path).

From the US is brought the Chinook Chopper. 15 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters that were introduced in 2019–20 are used by India. One helicopter built by Boeing costs about 650 crore.

In the midst of a border dispute with China that erupted on May 5, 2020 after a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas, the IAF has extensively used Chinook for moving artillery, resupplying the battlefield, and transporting troops. Both sides gradually increased their deployment by rushing in tens of thousands of soldiers as well as heavy weaponry.

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Additionally, helipads that can accommodate Chinook helicopters are being built in distant areas of Arunachal Pradesh to enable speedier troop and weapon deployment and improve military capabilities in the sensitive sector.

For quick mobilisation of troops and military equipment using Chinook helicopters, almost every advance station protecting the border with China in Arunachal Pradesh will have at least one sizable helipad.

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Following the conflict in eastern Ladakh that started in 2020, the government has been heavily promoting infrastructure development along the approximately 3,500 km long LAC.

In mountainous areas near the LAC in Arunachal Pradesh, the Army has stationed a sizable number of easily transportable M-777 ultra-light howitzers.

The Army now has the ability to swiftly move the M-777 from one location to another according on operational requirements since it can be transported in Chinook helicopters.

On the Mi-17V5 cargo helicopters they had previously flown, Bhardwaj and Rathore had both performed accomplishments.

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