On the deck of a US Navy carrier in the first part of the movie ‘Top Gun’ Iceman utters the legendary words “You can be my wingman anytime” to his coursemate Maverick, at the end of an epic aerial battle sequence.
Having the trust of your fellow squadron mates that you have their back, no matter what, is the greatest honour that can be bestowed upon a fighter pilot. This legendary belief has become a reality for an IAF father-daughter duo, Flying Officer Ananya Sharma and Air Commodore Sanjay Sharma.
Commissioned as a Fighter Pilot in December 2021, and growing up, Ananya watched her father, a fighter pilot in the Indian Air Force (IAF), cultivate the same bond with the other pilots in his squadron. As a child, she had grown up as a member of the IAF and could not imagine becoming anything else. As the first women fighter pilots of the IAF entered service in 2016, Ananya saw that her lifelong dream was now a possibility. After completing her B Tech in Electronics and Communication, she was selected for training in the IAF’s flying branch.
Ananya’s father, Air Commodore Sanjay Sharma, was commissioned in 1989 as a fighter pilot in the Indian Air Force. He has had extensive experience in fighter operations, having commanded a Mig-21 Squadron, as well as a frontline fighter station.
On May 30 2022, father and daughter made history by flying in the same formation of Hawk-132 aircraft at the IAF’s Bidar Air Force Station, where Flying Officer Ananya Sharma is undergoing her training before graduating to faster and more advanced fighters. There has not been any previous instance in the IAF where a father and his daughter were part of the same fighter formation for a mission. It was the mission where Air Commodore Sanjay and Flying Officer Ananya were more than just father and daughter. They were comrades, who had full faith in each other as fellow wingmen would.