The Centre has decided to convert its “experimental scheme” of inducting women fighter pilots in the Indian Air Force into a permanent programme, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Tuesday.

“It is a testimony to the capability of India’s ‘Nari Shakti’ and our PM [prime minister] Narendra Modi’s commitment towards women empowerment,” the defence minister wrote in a tweet.

In 2015, the government had announced that the Indian Air Force will induct women fighter pilots for five years on an “experimental basis”. In 2016, the first batch of women fighter pilots was formally inducted into the air force during a graduation parade at the Air Force Academy in Hyderabad.

So far, at least 16 women fighter pilots have been commissioned in the air force, The Indian Express reported.

“Women are flying top-end fighter planes including the Rafales and Su-30s,” the Hindustan Times quoted retired Air Marshal Anil Chopra as saying. “The decision to convert the experimental scheme into a permanent one is an acknowledgement of their capabilities.”

The decision by the government comes months after the Supreme Court paved the way for admission of women into the National Defence Academy.

In October, Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Mukund Naravane had said that as women were being inducted into the National Defence Academy, he was sure that they would perform better than their male counterparts.

“At least 40 years down the line, they will be standing where I am standing,” Naravane had said in response to a question on the progression of the role of women in the armed forces in the future.

Last week, Shivangi Singh, India’s first woman pilot of the Rafale fighter jet was part of the Indian Air Force’s tableau at the Republic Day parade. She was the second woman fighter jet pilot to be part of the Indian Air Force’s tableaux after Bhawna Kanth, who had participated in last year’s Republic Day parade.