Flight Lieutenant Gunjan Saxena is an Indian Air Force (IAF) officer & former helicopter pilot. In 1994, she joined Indian air force.
She is a 1999 Kargil war veteran. She was the only woman, who became a part of Kargil war. She was the first woman IAF officer who went to war & at the same time, she listed as “first women to fly in a combat zone”.
She entered war zone, flying Cheetah helicopter with Flight Lieutenant Srividya Rajan from IAF.
She along with Flight Lieutenant Srividya Rajan evacuated wounded from Kargil & transport supplies and assist in surveillance.
She went on to be part of operations to evacuate over 900 troops, both injured and deceased, from Kargil.
After serving as a pilot for eight years, her career as a helicopter pilot ended in 2004. During her time, permanent commissions for women were not available.
“Shaurya Veer Chakra” awarded her after Kargil from a civilian organisation in Uttar Pradesh. A Bollywood film Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl is inspired by her life in 2020.
In 1975, Saxena was born into an Army family. Her father, Lt Col Anup Kumar Saxena and Brother Lt. Col.
Anshuman served in the Indian Army. From Hansraj College, University of Delhi in New Delhi, she earned Bachelor of Science in Physics.
Indian Air Force service
In 1996, she was one of the six women who joined the Indian Air Force as a pilot. In Indian Air Force, this was the fourth batch of women trainees.
Among them, Flt. Lt. Srividya Rajan also go on to fly a Cheetah in a combat zone. As a part of the 132 Forward Area Control (FAC), her first posting was in Udhampur.
She had to face many gender-based challenges there. She was faster than male pilots were. She was 24 years old, when she flew during the Kargil war. She was stationed in Srinagar.
Gunjan was a part of Operation Vijay, apart from evacuating the wounded[a], she helped transport supplies to troops in the forward areas of Dras and Batalik.
She played a major role in mapping enemy positions. She was the only female pilot among all ten pilots, based in Srinagar that flew hundreds of sorties during the war, evacuating over 900 casualties, wounded and killed.
She had to deal with makeshift landing grounds at the height of 13,000 to 18,000 feet and enemy fire.
During Kargil war, she was the only women pilot to fly into war zones. As a helicopter pilot, her career ended after seven years in 2004. During her time permanent commission was not in service.
Saxena married to Wing Commander Gautam Narain. He is also an Indian Air Force pilot. He is the pilot of IAF Mi-17 Helicopter.
At the National Defence Academy, he served as an instructor that is the first tri-service academy in the world. The couple have a daughter. Named Pragya, she was born in 2004.
In popular culture A Bollywood film Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl was inspired by her life. That was released in 2020.
Actor Jhanvi Kapoor played the role of Gunjan Saxena. The film was been produced by Dharma Productions and Zee Studios. Pankaj Tripathi played the role of her father & Angad Bedi played as her brother in that film.
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