First IAF woman officer to command frontline Unit

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    • Shaliza Dhami has become the first woman officer in the Indian Air Force to command a front line combat unit and will command a missile squadron in the Western sector.

    About

    • Missile squadron is equipped with systems capable of defeating airborne threats, including fighter jets, helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles, flying at low to high altitudes.

    Women in Command

    • Women are largely administrative appointments unlike the regular arms and services where Colonels command officers and men and lead them from the front. A Commanding Officer (CO) is a very coveted position in the Army and therein lies its significance in it being opened up for women.
    • The latest development also comes two months after the army deployed a woman officer, Captain Shiva Chouhan, on the Siachen glacier for the first time and weeks after the Indian Army selected 108 women officers for promotion from Lieutenant Colonel to Colonel. 
    • More frontiers have been opened for women in the military in the last seven to eight years than the two preceding decades. Gender barriers have been knocked down across the three services.
    • One of the turning points for women in the military came in 2015 when the IAF decided to induct them into the fighter stream for the first time. 
    • Women are not just flying fighter jets, they are flying the latest transport planes such as the C-17s and C-130Js, eligible for permanent commission, assuming command roles, serving in extreme high-altitude areas, undergoing training at the National Defence Academy, and being inducted in the personnel below officer cadre (PBOR).
    • Women are soon expected to be serving aboard submarines. However, tanks and combat positions in infantry are still no-go zones for women.

    Indian Air Force (IAF)

    • The Indian Air Force is headquartered in New Delhi. For effective command and control, the IAF has seven commands, under which there are different stations and units located at various places throughout the country.

    Commands

    • It is divided into five operational and two functional commands. Each Command is headed by an Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief with the rank of Air Marshal. 
    • Purpose: The purpose of an operational command is to conduct military operations using aircraft within its area of responsibility, whereas the responsibility of functional commands is to maintain combat readiness. 

    Wings

    • A wing is a formation intermediate between a command and a squadron. It generally consists of two or three IAF squadrons and helicopter units, along with forward base support units (FBSU). 
    • FBSUs do not have or host any squadrons or helicopter units but act as transit air bases for routine operations. In times of war, they can become fully fledged air bases playing host to various squadrons.

    Squadrons and units

    • Squadrons are the field units and formations attached to static locations. Thus, a flying squadron or unit is a subunit of an air force station which carries out the primary task of the IAF. 
    • A fighter squadron consists of 18 aircraft; all fighter squadrons are headed by a commanding officer with the rank of wing commander.

    IE