On August 3, five officers of the Indian Navy’s INAS 314 based at Naval Air Enclave, Porbandar, created history by completing the first all-women independent maritime reconnaissance and surveillance mission in the North Arabian Sea onboard a Dornier 228 aircraft. The aircraft was captained by the Mission Commander, Lt Cdr Aanchal Sharma, with pilots, Lt Shivangi and Lt Apurva Gite, and Tactical and Sensor Officers, Lt Pooja Panda and SLt Pooja Shekhawat in her team. INAS 314 is a frontline Naval Air Squadron based at Porbandar, Gujarat and operates the state-of-the-art Dornier 228 maritime reconnaissance aircraft.
The squadron is commanded by Cdr S.K. Goyal, a Qualified Navigation Instructor. The women officers received months of ground training and comprehensive mission briefings in the run up to this historical sortie.
A press statement from the Navy said that the Indian Navy had been a front-runner in driving transformation in the armed forces. “It’s impressive and pioneering women empowerment initiatives include induction of women pilots, selection of women Air Operations Officers into the helicopter stream and conducting an all-women sailing circumnavigation expedition across the globe in 2018,” it stated.
The statement added that the first-of-its-kind military flying mission was unique and was expected to pave the way for women officers in the aviation cadre to assume greater responsibility and aspire for more challenging roles. “The Navy perhaps marks a unique achievement for the armed forces that a crew of only women officers undertook an independent operational mission in a multi-crew maritime surveillance aircraft,” it stated.
Lauding the team for its efforts, the statement added, “Many congratulations to these officers for successfully doing so and inspiring millions of women across India and the world to break free from all shackles and achieve their dreams.”