17 years ago during the Kargil War, the nation’s first women combat aviators went into a war zone. While the Flight Lieutenant Gunjan Saxena and Flight Lieutenant Srividya Rajan never flew fighter jets, they did fly through their tiny Cheetah helicopter in an area where Pakistani soldiers fired bullets and missiles at virtually any Indian helicopter or aircraft that they could spot.
At the time of conflict, both the women pilots were considered new in the Indian Air Force and carry along with them an overwhelming sense of need to work extra-hard to prove to be equal to their male counterparts.
Gunjan, in an interview 17 years ago in Udhampur said “I mean this was a very new thing for the Air Force – to see women pilots working with them, flying with them every day. So they used to see us to see if we would be able to cope with the conditions and the stresses that you face.”
Both Gunjan and Srividya performed the risky task of casualty evacuations and spotting Pakistani positions in the Kargil region, the two pilots often flew very close to Pakistani positions albeit at a height which they believed would be beyond the range of Pakistan gunners.
Today, 17 years later, Gunjan calls the risky missions handled by her during the conflict remained as her biggest motivation during Kargil.