Batting for gender parity in the armed forces, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who was chief guest at the combined graduation ceremony at Air Force Academy, Dundigal on the city outskirts, termed the event as a "milestone" as it also the first time that women have been given a combat role.

"It is a golden letter day...," he said, asserting that "step-by-step", "total gender parity" will be achieved in the armed forces in the coming years.

"There are technical and administrative difficulties which we are likely to face in certain areas, so, step by step we will see that this parity is achieved. Number will depend on how many we can accommodate depending on our infrastructure," Parrikar said.

Expressing happiness, the three women pilots, who successfully completed pre-commissioning training by the Flight Cadets of various branches of IAF, said they consider themselves "fortunate" and were excited to take on their duties.

The trio will go to Bidar in Karnataka for their stage-III training for a year on Hawk advanced jet trainers, before they get to fly supersonic warplanes.

Six female cadets were competing to become fighter pilots after the government, in a landmark move, approved an IAF plan in October to induct them as fighter pilots.

However, only three female trainees were selected for the fighter stream. Parrikar, who reviewed the passing out parade, conferred 'President's Commission' on behalf the President to 130 Flight Cadets, including 22 women trainees, who were commissioned as Flying Officers.

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