April Edition, Career, NET Bureau
No land battle can succeed without a strong and well-prepared Air Force. Whether it is to defend one’s own forces and vulnerable areas or to carry the war into enemy territory, the Air Force is indispensable for the country’s defence.
For all those nurturing their childhood dream of being a fighter pilot or an officer, the Indian Air Force (IAF) offers some excellent career opportunities.
The Flying Branch is the prime branch of the Air Force. As an officer of the Flying Branch, you may seek a career as a fighter pilot, a pilot for transport aircraft, helicopter, or as a navigator. As an Air Force pilot, you’ll be flying state-of-the-art aircrafts and will be trained for air fight, shooting down enemy aircraft, attacking ground targets and rescue and relief operations. The Air Force provides sophisticated training to youth who are totally inexperienced and takes them through various stages till they can fly the best aircraft in the world.
How to enter
To become a Fighter Pilot, you can follow either of the two entry routes: Joining the National Defence Academy (NDA) after 10+2 as cadets or seeking admission to the Air Force Academy, Hyderabad, after qualifying the Combined Defence Services Examination (CDSE).
If you are a young, unmarried male between ages 15-18, passing Class XII with Physics and Maths as subjects, you can take a shot at the NDA Exam conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) twice a year. Candidates are selected on the basis of merit in this written exam which is followed by tests and interview conducted by the Air Force Selection Board and a rigorous medical exam. The test includes personal interview, outdoor physical fitness tests, psychological assessment and group activities.
Notifications are issued in various publications and government websites usually in the months of April/May and October/November each year. Unmarried engineering or science graduates with Physics or Mathematics as a subject, aged between 19-23 years of age can take the CDSE conducted by UPSC twice a year. The selection procedure is same as that for the NDA exam.
The Indian Air Force also offers Permanent Commission in the Flying Branch to science graduates with NCC ‘C’ certificate. The eligibility criterion is same as that for CDSE. Selection is through AFSB interview. However you must apply within 24 months of leaving NCC.
Scope for women
Women account for over 10 per cent of the total strength of the Indian Air Force. Graduate women can qualify as Transport and Helicopter Pilots and not as Combat Pilots in the Short Service Commission in the rank of Flying Officer. Selection is made through Pilot Aptitude Battery Test (PABT), AFSB tests or interview followed by medical exam.
Promotions & Prospects
Once you receive your commission, promotion through the various ranks will be generally determined by seniority and performance of the duties as assessed in your annual reports. In the Air Force, a Flying Officer gets promoted to Flight Lieutenant after five years of service, Promotion to the rank of Squadron Leader comes after 11 years. Promotions to senior ranks of Wing Commander, Group Captain, Air Commodore and Air Vice Marshal are made on the basis of seniority and merit. There are no fees charged either at the NDA or at any other military establishment. A monthly stipend is paid during the training phases.
The armed forces have always been an important source of trained pilots for civilian jobs. Military pilots are usually preferred for civilian pilot jobs as they are much more experienced in handling tough flying conditions. You would have to serve the initial contractual years in the Air Force before making the switch to commercial airlines..
There can be no greater thrill than serving the nation while flying a 2,000-crore technological marvel. The Airforce will not only hone your physical fitness but also provide a personality which becomes an identity. The pay and perks are some of the best in the country. More than that you get respect, pride and the unparalled experience of being a part of India’s foremost fighting unit.