Gunjan Saxena, salute the first Indian woman who flew in Kargil’s combat zone

During the Kargil war, Flight Officer Gunjan Saxena made history by becoming the first woman IAF officer to fly in a combat zone. She was later honoured with the Shurya Vir Award.


Saxena is among the few women pilots in the IAF. She guided her helicopter, dodging artillery shells through the steep valleys of Kargil as a Flying Officer in the Indian Air Force. She is the first ever woman lady pilot of Indian Air Force who proved her mettle in Operation Vijay, and is in IAF history books as the Kargil girl. She had flown her Cheetah helicopter in extremely hostile terrain to retrieve injured soldiers in the Kargil War.


“I could not wait to be called,” says Saxena told OutlookIndia back in 2006. Based in Udhampur, but currently stationed at the operational zone in Srinagar.


In the 10 sorties over one week, she air-dropped vital supplies to troops at higher points in the Dras and Batalik sectors. The Outlook reports highlights that she picked up the dead and wounded from jagged mountain edges where flying a chopper requires an inordinate amount of skill, all while escaping Pakistani gunfire and missiles from below.


“There is no problem about gender as all of us get the same opportunities. Initially the people were a little stunned,” she shares in the report, “but now they are used to it.”


Saxena was then 24 with three year of experience in the airforce. She studied at Delhi’s Hansraj College when she applied to join women pilots air force was recruiting. Saxena grew up in the armed forces with her father and brother also served the army. In 1994, she became one of the 25 young women comprising the first batch of women IAF trainee pilots.


Image Credit: DefenceLover