India’s first women fighter pilots were commissioned into the Indian Air Force last year. Women have always been an instrumental part of the armed forces, playing important roles, in the army, air force and the navy. The contribution of women in the armed forces have been exceptional and it has come at an essential time.
18 years ago from today, two women air force pilots went into war zone, during the Kargil War. They flied in an area where Pakistani soldiers fired bullets and missiles at pretty much anything they can spot flying. Flt Lt. Gunjan Saxena and Flt. Lt Srividya Rajan flew their Cheetah helicopter which was unarmed and could be an easy target for any air force as it was entirely defenceless against any enemy fire.
For any females in the forces back then, there was always a extra pressure which they had to tackle in order to match their male counterparts.
Both Gunjan and Srividya performed even better than what could be expected of any fighter pilot at that time. They had a task on their hand and it was to evacuate the casualties and spotting Pakistani positions in the Kargil region. Due to their nature of job, they have to fly very close to Pakistani positions, the flied at a height which they felt were beyond the range of Pakistan gunners. One day, Gunjan’s Cheetah came under direct attack while it was at Kargil airstrip. A Pakistani soldier had fired either a shoulder missile or a rocket directly at her aircraft. The weapon missed her chopper and hit the hillside behind her. Gunjan didn’t stop there, she continued her operations. According to her, she always carried an INSAS rifle and a revolver with her in any mission. If she crash lands close to Pakistani army positions, she would fight her way or would go down fighting. It will be interesting to note here that Gunjan’s brother was fighting in the Kargil war in the army. Gunjan did 10 sorties to supplying food and other important stuff in the Batalik and Drass sector.
In an interview to NDTV, Gunjan was quoted, “I think inducting women in the fighter stream is a very, very big and a positive step on part of the Air Force. Being a pioneer, I would say, it feels great and I would only say that I hope these women who’ve come into the fighter stream now give their 100 per cent and really, really touch the sky with glory.”
She told Outlook India, “There is no problem about gender as all of us get the same opportunities. Initially the people were a little stunned,” she recalls with a laugh, “but now they are used to it.”
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